So, this happened two weekends ago. Our friend J, who keeps some of his hives here, tapped on the door and said, “Do you want to see the bees swarm?” Well, yes please! We rushed out (the children were with their grandparents at the time, so I didn’t need to worry about them being stung), and the orchard was buzzing with bees.
Pop back in half an hour, J said, they’ll have settled on a tree nearby. So we did – and there they were, covering part of the trunk and lower branch of an apple tree. Although they were pretty docile, it did look like a bit horror-movie as thousands of bees seethed up over the tree’s trunk and lower branches.
We then watched from a distance as J (fully suited and booted) used his smoker to encourage the bees to move slightly higher up the tree and away from the mesh rabbit-guard, where he could reach them more easily.
They steadily moved up the branch away from the smoke, to a spot that was easier to reach.
J spent a few moments looking for the queen, to see if he could catch her in a match-box, but no luck.
While he was waiting for the swarm to settle, J had been busy collecting a sheet and a cardboard box. He laid the sheet a few feet away from the tree, then gently brushed a clump of the bees into the cardboard box, and put it upside down on the sheet.
Then we watched – if the queen was in the box, the other bees would soon catch a whiff of her pheromones and flock to her.
It seems like she was in residence, as the bees started to drift more towards the box, than away from it – although I found it pretty hard to tell.
We had a cup of tea and sat in the sun for a bit. When we went back, the box was full of bees, and all was calm in the orchard.
J taped the box closed, then carefully wrapped it in the sheet, making sure there were no gaps. He wrapped tape around the top of the sheet, then lugged the box (thousands of bees are heavy!) to his car, to take them to their new home – an empty hive in one of his other apiaries.
J drove off carefully, still wearing his bee suit just in case any bees escaped in transit. I imagine that a car full of angry bees does not end well. (“Coming to a cinema near you, Bees in a Car, the low-budget British remake of action Hollywood adventure, Snakes on a Plane”.)
We felt so happy to have seen it all. It was just luck that J arrived just as bees swarmed, and that we happened to be there to watch it. Amazing.