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.


Anonymous said...

A great post, once again. What's happening with the bees is so scary.

Bee Magic Chronicles for Kids said...

Yes it is scary. I knew it would be difficult to start beekeeping now when bees are having a difficult time. But I hoped I could help the bees and I also wanted to learn from them too.

Lynn said...

I talked to a friend this morning who had a swarm on Saturday. She collected it this morning and put the bees in a nuc. She has 50 hives and was not really interested in anymore bees right now, but since they had hung around she decided to get ahead and hive the swarm.

Just out of curiousity, what kind of tree is that? It looks almost tropical. I'm always interested in vegetation in other parts of the world.

Cliff W said...

Gosh! That's amazing. You'll have seen it all before long. Re-queening, honey harvesting, swarming. You'll be selecting and rearing your own queens next! Roll up, roll up! Barbara's Queens for Sale in 2010...

Bee Magic Chronicles for Kids said...

Lynn - I have never seen a tree like this before so I don't know what it is. It wasn't an evergreen though. I'll ask Henry next time I talk to him.

Cliff - LOL! I certainly thought my experiences would be slower and more spread out and not so steamroller like!!! I do hope to take a queen rearing course, but not to rear queens, just so I can learn more for my research.

Anonymous said...

Hey Barbara! Greetings from the beach! I was just checking up on the blogs and love the swarming duo post. I have to admit, we've been through a lot in beekeeping since June, but two swarms on the same day and in the same tree, you've got me beat! Hope you're well and your girls are working hard. The beach is fine, rained all day today, but sunny tomorrow! Talk soon!