A swarm moved into our empty hive! After years of sending bee swarms off into the world—I even chased one six blocks to see where it was headed—we had one move in this week. So exciting!
We had a fairly empty hive box sitting on the Bee Bench. The hive died over the winter. I cleared out and strained the honey, but left the empty comb in the box. The plan was to go in again in the next few weeks, clear out the comb, and melt it down. Then I was ill for two weeks, it rained hard every day, and it was still sitting in the back yard when I noticed a few bees moving in and out. Just looking for honey scraps, I thought. The next day, there were a few more—a couple of dozen bees, poking around. A bit of old comb fell to the bottom of the box and was shoved out. Scouts?
On Wednesday, a warm and sunny day, I came home around five. When I walked through the back gate, something was different….there were hundreds of bees swarming around the hive box, feeling a little turfy. “Welcome,” I said and dropped down onto the hive viewing stump. What was up? Bees crowded around the entrance, butts in the air, madly fanning. Others crawled down the front. Some pushed dirty wax comb off the edge. Mark came home and saw a Bee Dance. I wanted to look inside, but they were clearly not welcoming. We wandered back to watch the hive all evening.
After dark, I goggled “bees with butts in the air” and learned that it was the way marker bees sent their scent into the world for the forager bees to find their way home. Home. They were setting up housekeeping. A pile of wax bits formed under the hive. I was not positive until Friday, when I spotted cream colored pollen moving in on bee haunches. By Saturday, the hive had settled down to deliberate hive actions. The flight paths were straight, not mazey. Pollen was coming in on most bees. The fanning was over. We had a hive. When I laid a piece of burlap over the bars on Saturday, they were all over the comb inside.
Saturday was also the day we picked up our new bees, because I had placed the order a month earlier, not know a swarm was on the way. After cobbling together a hive bottom from some old wood and a roof from an old langstrom hive we had around for decoration, we were able to use two of our stored boxes to create a second hive body. The bee installation went smoothly and all of the bees were inside a hive within two hours (I suspect some moved in next door) rather than the usual lingering clump for 48 hours. Within a day, both hives were operating separately, with clear flight paths up and out. I have not checked on either hive for egg laying; the queen was out of the purchased hive this afternoon and they were building comb.
I don’t know where this gift hive came from. As I have had and observed at least five swarms pass through my yard, I do know that there are wild hives in the neighborhood. One lived in the ancient and rotting willow next door, which lost a huge branch a few weeks ago. Although I had not seen any action there this spring, a small hive might have been disturbed and looking for a more stable home. I don’t know. I do know that the universe sent us a gift hive this spring, and I will do my best to keep it around.