Monday, June 20, 2011

Bee swarm

On Saturday afternoon TM and I were in the kitchen when he calls my attention to the bee hive.  I go and look and see bees pouring out of it and flying in a huge mass that looked to be four stories tall.  B. happened to walk by at that point so I asked him if the bees should be doing that.  His response?  "I think they're swarming."  When I asked what one does about that, he replies, "I don't know."  We find the number of a person who collects swarms and B. calls him and is giving a lot of helpful information.

Now, before I continue with my story, I feel I should add to your store of bee knowledge.  Bee hives have one queen who lays all the eggs.  If the colony starts to feel it is growing out of its living quarters, a new queen is allowed to be born and this queen leaves the hive, taking about half the population with her and they go in search of a new home.  This is what happens when bees swarm.  B. thought he had been providing enough room, but it turns out he should have been adding more room, more quickly.  Swarms are not dangerous, although they look a little menacing, mainly because they have no home to defend.

B. didn't want the swarm to just leave because 1) those are his bees 2)  those bees make honey and 3) it would be possible that they would decide to set-up house on someone elses house which would then most likely mean they would be exterminated.  (This is not good as there is a honey bee shortage.)  If at all possible he wanted to contain the swarm.

The bees settled on a branch of a tree in our yard.... it just happened to be 30 feet in the air:



What to do?  Well, step one was get the extension ladder.  It reached far enough to get B. to the branch below where the swarm had settled.  Here is B. heading up the ladder with the 5 gallon bucket that he is going to try to knock the swarm into:


You may not be able to see the pictures of B. in action.  I was shooting right into the sun... most inconvenient of the bees to settle that way.  If you look closely, the dark mass on the left is the swarm,  a ways below it is the orange bucket that B. is holding and B. is wearing a white shirt in the bottom right.  He had to stand on the ladder (24 feet in the air), hold the bucket with his left hand and grab small branches with his right while shaking the branch in the hope of having the swarm fall into the bucket.



He successfully managed to get half the swarm into the bucket, but couldn't be sure that the queen was with them.  Since the bucket was so heavy, he decided to come back down the ladder and try a new plan.


The bucket of bees:



Back up the ladder he went, but this time armed with a long pruning saw.  He managed to cut the branch containing the swarm off and lowered it down to J.

The branch with the rest of the swarm:


B. looking to see if he can find the queen:


J. helping out by carrying the bee laden branch to the back yard.  (The whole thing was made more exciting by the street festival which was happening a block away which meant the traffic on our street was very heavy both with cars and pedestrians.  I would say about half the passers-by noticed the bees... and there was more than a little concern from some.)  So, the back yard seemed the better place to continue the great queen hunt.

Currently the swarm is housed in a much-expanded hive and B. is hoping that by using his queen excluder, he will finally be able to manage to find the queen.  Why all the fuss about the queen?  Well, hives can only have one queen.  Since he doesn't have a second, empty hive, the queen population needs to be reduced by one if he wants to keep all the bees in residence.

I have a bracelet I sometimes wear that says, "Motherhood = Adventure".  Yup.

2 comments:

Jim said...

Wow.

LawMommy said...

Being married to a science teacher who is deeply, deeply concerned about the honey bee situation, I applaud B. and his devotion to those bees.

(I will concede that that many bees in one places would probably make me hyperventilate.)

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