Thursday, August 2, 2012

Home and Swarms

After a great trip to my hometown in Maine full of lots of family, friends, and sunshine, and a few days of Hadley and Finley with the grandparents on their own, we are finally all home.  I had grand visions of getting back in our routine today, foregoing getting anything done and just recouping.  Alas for well laid plans.  With at least one sick kiddo in the house, we're slowing things down a bit here in the house. 

 The real excitement however is happening outside in (or actually above) the bee garden.We recently patted ourselves on the back with our superb bee keeping skills.  Our bees didn't swarm during the spring, they seemed to be growing quickly, there was honey, there were eggs.

We have been humbled.

During these hot summer days, the bees have been grouping on the outside of the hive trying to keep cool.  Recently the bees hanging on to the hive have gotten more and more numerous each day.  On Tuesday there were an exceptional number of bees, but yesterday there were almost none - hmmmm, but I didn't see anything.

This morning I went out to look at the hive, and happened to glance up - voila - a swarm.  Can you see it in this picture?  It's directly above the hive about 40 feet in the air.

Of course I got out or books, booted up the computer, and called our local beekeeping group and tried to figure out what to do.  Here's a bit of what I learned:

Bees swarm mostly because they are overcrowded (or if there is a health problem - ie mites).  When this happens usually 60% - 70% of the hive decamps with an old or a new queen.  Hopefully the old queen leaves a new queen or queen eggs behind.  The swarm finds a place to camp out for a few hours to a few days and sends out scouts to look for a new home.  The scouts search and come back to the hive to dance out their findings.  The swarm then heads for a new home. 

This all usually happens in the spring.  A swarm in August - it just didn't seem quite right.    The beekeeping saying below doesn't even mention a swarm in August. 

A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay;
A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon;
A swarm of bees in July isn't worth a fly
The biggest concern with a late swarm is that the bees may not have enough time to build up a food supply for the winter, so even if we could catch the swarm, and had a place to put it, there was little we could do with it.  Even our local beekeeping guy didn't know what to tell us about why they swarmed.  A simple reminder that we are allowed to care for nature, but not control it.

 That said, I couldn't just leave the swarm up there and do nothing (even if the swarm is 40 feet off the ground).  So I set out some bee traps using some bee stuff we had around.  The recommendations I found said to use old comb and lemongrass oil to attract the scouts, but I improvised with some stalks of lemongrass from the garden.  I'm really not sure what I'll do if the swarm decides to move in to my trap, but it's worth a try, and if it doesn't, well, the world needs more feral honeybees.

The hive looks lonely today, but it is still reassuring to see bees still coming in and out.

For now we are glancing outside every few minutes in the hopes of seeing the swarm move.

1 comment:

  1. Oh so sorry about your bees. Fingers crossed the lemongrass does the trick...the bee keeper I did a workshop with a few weeks ago said that is the way to go if you want to attract bees to your hive.

    Hang in there.


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