I got my local beekeeping club newsletter in my email, this very morning. It said, “After an extended period of rain, there’s a good chance of a swarm on this first sunny warm day.” Also, we recently re-queened our weakest hive. Even though we removed the reigning queen, the hive must have contained queen cells. Two queens can’t live in one hive, so the hive splits and it’s a swarm!
Which is what we got today!
Pretty exciting, in restrospect…
I had just returned home from doing some errands. Bill called asking me to hurry down to the farm with the bee suits and gloves, so I grabbed them and the camera and drove over. I was pulling on my bee coat and hood and gloves as I ran up to the beehives. When I got there, Michael was already up a large step ladder in the middle of a grove of small cedars. The swarm was tens of thousands of bees dripping from a branch high up above the top of the ladder, balled around the queen. He had a saw and some loppers, and on the ground nearby, he and Bill had prepared a box with frames to put the swarm in.
So, I’m dressed in shorts but I’m wearing my full bee jacket and hood, with gloves, holding the ladder on decidedly sloped ground so Michael won’t tip over. I can just picture me and my son in a heap under a swarm of angry bees so I yell “hang on! I’ll get help!” I let go and ran for more hands. Bill and Rich came out and Rich helped me hold the ladder.
Meanwhile, Michael sawed away at a bee-covered branch right over our heads as Rich joked about getting hit by a bee bomb. Michael needed three hands, and asked me to climb up the ladder to help. I started up. Then, he said he wanted me to climb out into the branches of the tree next to him to hold the branch. This is when I hit my limit. “No! There’s no way! I don’t have the courage to do that! I clambered back down the ladder. Bill stepped in, no bee gear on, and climbed the ladder. Rich and I held on to keep him steady. Michael cut the branch and slowly lowered it onto the top of the ladder. He clipped a side branch which was also laden with bees, and at first the branch was held to the rest of the swarm just by the mass of bees. Finally, it broke free, and suddenly, bees rained down on Rich’s bare head like Rice Krispies. He’s saying, “Oh God, they’re all over my head! They’re all over me!” But he stayed cool long enough for Michael to hand the bee-dripping branch off to Bill who balanced it there. Michael crashed down from his perch in the tree and came around the ladder and gracefully took the branch from his father. He swung it around toward the box as Rich ran off to take off his shirt where bees had taken refuge. I recovered my camera from where I put it under the tree.
I got no pictures of the actual swarm in the tree, there was no good angle on it. Not to mention I was holding the ladder, but I took this shot afterward to give you an idea of where it was. The swarm was a good six feet higher than the top of this step ladder.
I got some shots of Michael shaking the branch over the box. The bees seemed to realize that this was shelter. The rest of the swarm began flying toward the box where they smelled their queen. They put a temporary cover on the box, propped up with a sticks. Bees were swarming everywhere!