The bees swarm!

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.

Starting to swarm

Starting to swarm

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.

The swarm has landed

The swarm has landed

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.

Encouraging the bees up the tree

Encouraging the bees up the tree

They steadily moved up the branch away from the smoke, to a spot that was easier to reach.

Settled on a new branch

Settled on a new branch

J spent a few moments looking for the queen, to see if he could catch her in a match-box, but no luck.

Looking for the queen

Looking for the queen

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.

Gently brushing in some of the bees

Gently brushing in some of the bees

Box of bees

Box of bees

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.

Watching and waiting for the bees

Watching and waiting for the bees

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.

The tile is to stop the box blowing away...full of bees. Because that would be bad.

The tile is to stop the box blowing away…full of bees. Because that would be bad.

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.

Are they all in there yet?

Are they all in there yet?

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.

Wrapping the box

Wrapping the box

Job done!

Job done!

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.

10 responses to “The bees swarm!

    • Me too. I only been up close to the bees, in a bee suit, a couple of times – it was so fascinating, I didn’t find it scarey, but then I haven’t been stung yet!! As we watched J catch the swarm, I was very glad to be at a distance and not having to do anything more challenging than take a few photos…

    • That’s interesting, I’d never heard that one…I suppose catching a swarm (which emerge as the weather warms up in May) was lucky – it meant you had a chance of getting a good, valuable ‘crop’ of honey that year. Could a good-sized swarm have been worth, literally, the value of a load of hay…? I’m just guessing, tho – perhaps a proper bee-keeper will set me straight?!

  1. I like to watch bees from a DISTANCE whilst they are feeding on my flowering lavender hedge by my back door ….bees are so very precious for without them man would be in a great deal of strife.
    Thanks for a very descriptive and enlightening post . I would not have realized that bees are heavy en-mass.
    Alexa from Sydney, Australia
    http://www.Alexa-asimplelife.com

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