Tuesday morning I got back from stretching and as I got out of the van I heard a loud buzzing noise. Odd; it's not unusual to hear insects on our farm, easpecially on sunny days when there are lots of flowers out like the chestnut trees. But this was really loud. I ommediately headed over to the apple orchard where we have a few hives. Danny called me over and sure enough we were witnessing a bee swarm
There wer lots of them and they were all sort of looking around for a place to hang out. We were having a swarm. When a bee hive gets fullish and the nectar flow is high then the bees will start to make queen cells. A good beekeeper can avoid swarms by regualarly checking their hives, say once a week, and destroying any queen cells that they find. They will also but on new supers so the bees won't feel so crowded and will focus instead on making more honey. We're not good beekeepers. I like having bees but it doesn't go much farther. Anyhow before we knew it the buzzing had settled down and there was a beachball of bees up about 15 feet in a spruce tree.
Bee swarms are amazing sights because suddenly you have a mass cluster of bees walking all over each other and you have no idea what you're looking at unless you look really hard. The naked eye has trouble believing what it's seeing.
Danny was anxious to capture the swarm and start another hive but it was up high in a tree. No one wanted to climb up the tree and try to put it in a bag or do anything to capture it. I pointed out that for a farmer who was stressed about all the things that aren't getting done in a timely fashion on our farm stopping to catch some bees was rather pointless; esopecially since one of our most important plant crops: grass is wind pollinated and doesn't require bees to pollinate. They're great for the garden, the orchard and the strawberries but they are small potatoes compared to the beef that we grow and need to be working on.
I felt I was successful in my arguements and proceeded to get ready to teach a 4H foods meeting later that afternoon.
While I was gone a friend of ours came by to check out the farm and the livestock. Danny told him about our swarm. Turns out our friend had been debating getting into bees himself.
At this point I need to apologize. I was not home and so no pictures were taken.
Apparently the guys decided to get that swarm. First they tried to get some brood from a hive because bees like to look after brood (babies). A good way to capture a swarm is to put some brood in a super, collect the bees, shake them into the hive and if you've got the queen in the hive with the rest of the swarm (not that hard) there's a good chance they'll decide to stay. No brood but Danny did get stung near his hive. I suspect that rather discouraged the brood attempt.
So our friend got in the front end loader ( I don't know if they used a pallet to make a platform or quite what the logistics were) and lifted our friend up up up to the swarm with a feed bag. The bees were shaken in to the bag. This probably isn't as hard as it sounds because in the early hours of a swarm the bees are actually quite docile. Our friend was then lowered and the bag shaken into the prepared super. It looked like they were accepting to super. There was a cluster of bees on the front of the super but most seemed to be inside. The guys were jubilant and our friend made plans to pick up the hive one evening soon.
The hive had initially been placed on a broken down mower that was near the tree. we tried adding some honey to sweeten the pot so to speak. When I came back home from my foods meeting I received a call from our friend explaing what they had done. I couldn't believe it but when Danny got back home he confirmed their foolhardiness.
Two nights later he came by for his bees. They ducktaped the joins in the hive so no bees would escaped and carried it over to his truck.
And the bees were taken to their new home. Or so we thought. This morning I received a phonecall saying the hive was empty when he went out to check on them. And then when I came home from running an errand in Middleton I opened the van to a now familiar buzzing noise. I went back out to the bee area but couldn't find the source of the buzzing. There were some in the air but I couldn't find the source. The sound started moving and then all of a sudden it was gone. The bees had decided on a new home and we hadn't been able to convince them to stay. I hope they've found a good home near all sorts of flowers and nectar. Farewell bees. I'll try to keep an eye on the rest of the hive that remained.
In the meantime be kind to each other. And to the bees.