An early swarm becomes two
One of the things I like best about the west coast is the height of the trees. They grow quickly and they grow tall. But as a beekeeper, what a pain.
Yesterday was no exception. I was chatting on the phone with my sister-in-law when I happened to glance out the back window. The sky had begun to flicker and the odd sensation caught my attention. The light, it seems, was being tweaked by thousands of bees swarming past my window.
I hung up the phone and reached for my camera on the way out. Unfortunately, most of the action was over by the time I got outdoors. One side of my double-queen hive had swarmed. I thought it was about a month early for that, but since I don’t think bee, I got it wrong.
The chaos divides
Oddly, the swarm split into two parts. The large part, perhaps 70% of it, chose the young western hemlock near my garden. It is young—I can remember when it was a sapling—but it’s about 50 feet tall or more. I could see the swarm swirling around some of the upper limbs and settling in.
A much smaller portion opted for a kiwi vine about four feet off the ground. I don’t know why the swarm split. It was confusing because the swarm was all one big commotion at first, and then it seemed to divide. And it did. I’ve seen them split in two as they were landing a branch, settling mere inches from each other, but I’ve never seen them split while still in the air.
I prised apart the swarm on the kiwi because I suspected it didn’t have a queen. Indeed I couldn’t find one, so when I dropped it in a nuc box, I added a frame of open brood so they can build a queen if they need one.
This morning when I went outside to check on things, I found a few dozen bees that had resettled on the kiwi. They were stiff and immobile, but not dead, so I collected them all and put them in the nuc with the others.
I started off this spring thinking I wouldn’t have much swarming because my colonies were weak from the long winter and repeated cycles of warm and cold weather. But I was wrong about that too. Just when you think you understand the little critters, they prove you wrong once more.
Honey Bee Suite
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