Swarm

With half the family at a late afternoon birthday party, my son and I took a walk on the nature trail after playing on the playlet. Actually I carried him because he was tired but it was such nice afternoon I wanted to take a walk before we went back inside.

It was a nice walk. The baby river birch are looking good as is the wild flora along the meandering trail. As we approached the bee hives in the north meadow, the corner of my eye caught something unusual in the brush.

A big cluster of bees.

Honey bees.

About thirty yards from our hives was a swarm of bees, clustered in a ball on the branch of a tree. This is the first time I’d ever seen a swarm in person.

There are any number of reasons for a hive to swarm. I’ll won’t go into it in detail at this time (mostly because I’m tired and just want to go have a beer). Suffice to say the queen leaves the hive and takes half the hive with her. If I had to guess I’d say there were 20,000 bees on that branch, but I can’t say for sure.

I looked at our three hives and all three still had a lot of bees coming and going. Hive No. 1 did have a couple of yellow jackets that our bees were actively defending against, but when I took the lid off that hive, and the others, they all look relatively full of bees.

It was too late in the day to do a full inspection.

So the swarm was either one of ours or a neighbors bee hive. Likely ours because of the proximity to our hives.

I called the wife immediately because I know you’re supposed to do something, but not sure what it is you do in this situation. She was almost home so I gathered our bee suits and gazed a little at our bee keeping book to see what to do.

Long story short what you really need is an empty hive to put the bees into. Essentially you’d be splitting one of the hives. We don’t have any extra equipment so all we could do was either leave the swarm do its own thing or call a bee keeper to come and get the hive.

Apparently swarms after July 1st are worthless because if you get them in a new hive they won’t have time to build up enough and survive our winter. But I called around anyway, our local bee keepers association has a “swarm list” of people who are more than happy to take away your swarm of honey bees away for free. After a few calls, and after learning a lot more about bees and swarms, we got a call back from a beekeeper who was interested in our swarm. She was out and about and was at our house within 15 minutes.

She and Christine walked back and inspected the swarm; trying to spot the queen. After a couple minutes they cut down the swarm and deposited it into a large box (slightly bigger than a paper box) and taped it up.

Swarm removed.

Our swarm will then be used to bolster other hives and presumably the queen used for whatever you do with queens, maybe be sold off. I don’t know. Much that has to do with queens and swarms is advanced bee keeping that goes beyond my knowledge base.

Now we’ll inspect our hives the next nice weather day we get to see what’s going on. And if it was hive No. 1 (or any of them for that matter) that swarmed we’ll keep an eye out to make sure they re-queen themselves.

It’s always something, I say. And it never happens on a week day. Although in this case the swarm had been there a few days because they had already started making a new hive, with honeycomb on the bush branch. It being Saturday night we couldn’t just go out and get an extra hive. Plus where would we have put it anyway.

Always a new adventure out here, all the time.

I guess that’s living. Here are pictures from today’s festivities.

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