Monday, June 25, 2012
This Sunday was warm, sunny, and a bit muggy. The bees were bopping around in the back while we ate breakfast and started laundry. When I went outside around 11 to hang the first load, I heard the dreaded sound of a swarm—it’s loud! The sky around the hive was full of bees, all darting around in a huge cloud. I waited a few moments then went back to see which hazelnut branch they were settling on. Slowly, they gathered in a long, dripping formation down one of the small leafy center branches. There goes my queen, I thought, and turned into the house to call Rich, who loves to capture my swarms for his spare hives. He was gone, but his wife brought over a nuc (a small hive) and I placed it high on the ladder. Hopefully, the bees would just move in. This was all quite normal; the hive swarms every year and Rich captures them.
About an hour and a half later, I heard the sound again! Had they found a new home so quickly? I walked back to see where they were heading and more bees were pouring out of my hive. No way! I yelled for Mark and we stood, amazed, as they flowed out of the hive and took to the air. Ten minutes later, they were choosing another hazelnut branch. Mark headed back to the house. I stood watching as a second huge clump of bees began collected in the tree. “Where there any left in the hive?” I wondered. “How did they all fit in there?”
Just then, two college girls came riding bikes down the alley in bikinis. They screamed, swore, dropped their bikes, and ran down the gravel road in flip-flops. I could hear them shouting at their guys…”Oh My God!…Bees!…huge!…After us!…Our bikes!” One young guy came hustling over to see.
“It’s ok,” I heard him explain. “They’re just moving their queen. They won’t bother you.” He brought his girlfriend down with him and stood in the road, bare-chested. Bees flew all around him, bumped into him, and he smiled. “It’s so cool.” He proceeded to tell a tale of a swarm on his back porch last spring, and his friend who keeps bees, and how he was scared, but once he understood, he was really interested. “I like this kind of stuff,” he announced. “I used to keep unwanted reptiles.” We stood watching the swarm for ten minutes or so, transfixed by the motion of the bees. I explained that this was really weird—bees don’t usually swarm without a queen and I’d never heard of more than one queen per hive. (I checked in Sue Hubbell last night and she gave short mention of a secondary swarm possibility…)
The swarm formed another long clump on a hazelnut branch a few feet way and settled down for the evening. They considered Rich’s box, but did not move in. This morning, while I was hiking, Rich came by. He took one swarm and left the other in a temporary box in the back yard. Bees were moving in and out of both hives this afternoon in equal numbers while a few flew around the hazelnut, looking for their lost family. I guess I’ll be heading into the hive as soon as the sun comes out to see what’s going on….