Friday, March 21, 2008


Wednesday, during school, because we were completely unprepared for spring beekeeping since we have had such strange weather, K and I noticed a swarm developing outside of our rough and tumble hive number two. Though timing wasn't perfect because of wind and impending thunderstorms, having a hive swarm in the spring is not a bad thing. In fact, spring swarming has even been recognized as a good thing in the children's picture book, Beekeepers by Linda Oatman High, with this nice ditty:
A swarm in May
Is worth a load of hay.
A swarm in June
Is worth a silver spoon.
A swarm in July
Isn't worth a fly.

As is usual our seasons are not the same as depicted in most books, so perhaps a swarm in March is worth, let's see. . . What rhymes with March that is as good as a silver spoon???

Having a husband who will come and climb the shaky ladder with gigantic pruners, hang onto the branch loaded with bees with one hand while bracing the loppers against his body to make the cut, maintain control when the ladder starts sinking into the wet hill, and then successfully hive the swarm is priceless.

Anyway, because the wind was blowing so hard, K and I had to wait and chase the swarm for a long time. As soon as they looked as if they were going to settle a huge gust of wind would blow, the bees would change their minds, and we would wait and watch, watch and wait, wait and watch.

Once they finally settled in a fir tree branch that was hanging over the edge of a hill, we called Mr. W. We share bee keeping duties, and since these bees came out of that persnickety hive that has given me trouble in the past, I decided this swarm was his. Wasn't that nice of me?

Before you think I'm mean, let me assure you that bees don't normally sting during swarming. I suppose they don't really have anything to protect. I took that first picture without a zoom lens and without a bee bonnet. K took the rest. We never donned our beekeepers suits.

While I did have a hive built and painted, it was no where close to being ready for bees since it was in the shed with no frames. While Mr. W captured the swarm, I got the box ready and decided where to put it. With a swarm from one of our hives, we need to make sure the new hive placement was not too close to the mother hive. I don't like drifting bees who jump from hive to hive, so I make sure to place the new hive well away so there is no confusion.

Once you set your location and get your hive placed, add about six frames (not all ten) so that you will have room for the bees. Sprinkle the bees with water so they won't fly, then shake them in the hive.
Close the hive, reduce the entrance.

Now all there is to do is to keep a close watch and provide sugar water until they build out the first level of wax foundation and start laying and putting aside honey.


mull-berry said...


Tara said...

Despite being somewhat terrified of bees, I know my son will find this interesting! Thanks for sharing this.

Angela said...

This is amazing, and wonderful. I will think of you and your fellow beekeepers everytime I add honey to my tea (which I get from an Amish family-organic!)

m~ said...

That's awesome. I'd love to try my husbands hand at bee keeping, but I'm just a tad bit afraid of bees.

Becky said...

Arch? (as in Arc de Triomphe?!)

Larch? We love our larch trees.

A good, rousing Sousa March?

ZILLA said...

A swarm in March
Is worth a lot of starch?

Not as good as a silver spoon, but maybe it'll be a good year for potatoes and corn?

Fascinating stuff. Beautiful dress, gorgeous sweater!

Saving my questions for when I'm really back online :-)

Kate in NJ said...

Wow! I also think of you when I use my "local honey". I so enjoy the
day to day things you share!
Loved the dress and sweater by the way!