Monday, September 7, 2009

Bee Swarms

Not one bee swarm, but two!

Before you shake your head or shed a tear at my bad luck I must tell you that these swarms were not my bees!

(Huge sigh of relief and click to see a close-up of these swarms).

While at Clovermead on Saturday for Harvest Day, I went over to Henry's house to check out his large pond.

Henry had several hives in his back yard and I could hear the bees buzzing around and I could see the bees too.

I noticed a smallish tree in the middle of his yard that had a lot of bees flying around it. I'm very happy with myself because my instincts told me this wasn't normal activity. What I detected as abnormal was that the bees weren't coming and going or zig zagging in front of the hive like when they do orientation flights. Instead they were doing big loops and circles and going every which way in front of the hive.

And I was right. They were swarming.

Hanging about 2 1/2 feet from the ground were two small swarms. The hive they came from sat at the base of the tree (see photo).

It's hard to tell from the photos but in size they were about 10" long and 3 to 4 inches thick.

Of course I had to take advantage with a photo op. The bees were certainly cooperative about that.

I confess I never thought that my first few months (since June this year) of beekeeping that I'd be exposed to so much so soon! I certainly have tons of material for my book and great photographs to use for my watercolours. I've written and illustrated a children's novel about honey bees which I'm trying to get published.

Henry had told me a couple weeks back that one of his backyard hives kept swarming. He put them in a hive on two occasions.

But they would not stay. They ended up flying off. He knew that they would not survive this late in the season. So this was yet another hive that had decided to do a late season swarm and it's not swarm season for bees.

The next photo (below) was taken from underneath the swarm. Click to enlarge - this photo turned out really well and the close-up of the swarm is really cool.

This hive had two small swarms which Henry said indicates that there's probably two small queens which the bees have gathered around.

He said he'd put them in a box later in the day and see what he could do.

I hope they stay.

The swarm was calm and they showed no aggression. I've also read that when before bees swarm they gorge on honey to take with them.

That's so that they can regurgitate it into the combs of their new home. Also, because they're stomach is engorged, they can't bend their bodies to sting.

We all agree that this is unusual behaviour for bees to swarm so late in the season.

I hope Henry is able to convince these swarms to stick around. Maybe he can somehow trick the bees. Let's hope that he can.
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