Friday, May 04, 2007

Swarms of Bees

Sunday, minutes before Princess and I were scheduled to leave for Jackson, Pink Panther came inside and said he heard bees in the front yard. He didn't mean a few working bees, he meant a swarm. They were settling in the top of a cedar tree. Timing and location are not always perfect.

I built a hive top, the only piece missing for a complete hive, while my husband went to borrow a scissor lift. Princess and I had to skedaddle or risk missing the show. Mr. W had never hived a swarm, much less one that was hanging in the top of a tree. He called once everything was ready and I talked him through the basics.

Before we got to Jackson, the swarm was hived and the equipment was returned. Before we got home the bees had moved again. We have a weak hive, not because of the bee collapse syndrome but because of a weak queen. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to get a new Mississippi raised queen because of the increased demand caused by the collapse. My regular bee man doesn't answer the phone, another said he was filling an order for 600 queens, and yet another is completely out. There are queen chambers in the hive, so supersession will occur, but since the children help with the beekeeping I don't really want to take chances with a hive produced queen who could turn out to be a dragon lady producing dragon babies. Anyway, the swarm moved over to this weak hive. I wasn't there to see it, but it had to have happened, because when I got home the weak colony was bursting at the seams and the new colony was empty.

I was alright with the move, yet there just didn't seem to be enough room for everyone. I like hives full of bees because you get lots of honey, but this was ridiculous. The bees thought so too! They swarmed again! As I mentioned before, you can't choose time or place.

This time the bees chose lunch time and my one year old plum tree. Obviously, the usual technique of capturing a swarm would not work. I would not allow the top of my plum tree to be "pruned." So, Mr. W. who is excited about hiving swarms came up with another plan. He got a bucket of water, doused the bees so they couldn't fly, and shook the little plum tree until the bees fell into the hive. My poor little plum tree. The poor bees. He didn't get them all.

The rest flew to the next plum tree. After Mr. W. went to work, I had to lop a branch of my plum tree to get the bees to the hive. Now two of my plum trees have been misshapen - one by pruning and the other by bending and shaking. But, we have a new enormous colony that seems to be staying put. We will keep the entrance reducer in for a few days to protect them and then begin to feed them sugar water, not high fructose corn syrup.

I suppose that by showing this immediately following my sustainability sermon yesterday, I wanted to say that there is hope. Healthy bees are still around. They just need to be nurtured and their environment needs to nurtured. They need to be appreciated rather than swatted.

One more picture? This is a hive with two honey supers. Do I dare to go higher or start the sticky work of harvest?

All photo credits for this post go to The Pink Panther.


Angela,MotherCrone said...

I seems Mother Nature heard your thoughts and rewarded you! How exciting to see. Thanks for sharing with this city girl!

wisteria said...

You are a country girl at heart! I do feel rewarded with expanding colonies, but also by the chance to talk to people about how fabulous bees really are. People in town who have heard about the collapse have all been curious. "How are your bees?" they ask. I get to spout. I try not to go on too long, so they won't stop listening, but it is difficult.