Monday, May 11, 2009

Bees leave home

Back in mid-March we inspected our bees. We knew that one of our two hives we started last year did not make it through the winter. We believe it lacked the population of bees necessary to stay warm. The surviving hive, however, was teaming with bees. Our daughter Rhianna helped me find the queen....without her quick, sharp eyes, I never would have found the queen! Our dilemma was whether to split the hive and make two colonies, or to add hive space and attempt to grow the hive. We opted for growing the hive population in an attempt to get lots of honey this year....

However, the bees had other plans. They had been planning an exit for some time. They completely ignored the upper room addition I made for them in the form of a plush honey super. Yesterday they packed their bags and did something amazingly unique in the insect world...they swarmed. Swarming is where the queen ups and leaves her home with roughly half of the worker bees, who gorge themselves on honey first. They leave the other half of the colony to raise a new queen and carry on in the old home. You can see in the photo, that the swarm of probably 20,000 bees or more left the hive and ended up in a tree...unfortunately the branch was about 40 feet above us and out of reach. We feebly put out an empty hive with frames and wax, and dribbled honey around to try to coax them into one of our empty hive bodies...but alas they flew away. A cool thing was that the next day as I was finishing the raised bed in the previous post I heard a loud swarming sound about 100 feet was our bees! I followed the swarm down the road. The sound was very loud and it was one of those ancient phenomena of nature that you don't witness very often. Despite my attempts to tell them to come back and reside in a nice cozy wooden hive, they sped on over the western ridge and toward the next wooded valley. Hope they make it and pollinate many a flower and tree.

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