Sunday, April 30, 2017

Bee Swarm!

In the middle of the Friday morning we discovered that our one remaining bee hive was swarming!

You may recall, we stopped our bee operation when the GMO alfalfa went in near us, becasue we could not guarantee that the bees would stay out of the alfalfa field and the excessive  chemicals used on the GMO crop. That effectively shut down our bee operation and honey products for a few years. During that time, we had one very healthy hive that just hung in there... year after year. And this spring it is stronger than ever.  So.. as all hives do, it swarmed to make a new generation.

Here is the top bar hive that they came out of, under the larger tree on the left. Where the eventually ended up landing on the first day is the shrub you can see right in the middle of this pic, along the driveway. If you look closely you can see thousands of bees in the air. 

Here they are starting to gather up around the shrub. There is actually a 4x4 post right next to the shrub that the queen landed on, In this pic you can see the cloud of bees hovering around the bush. 

These are the guys that stayed behind to make a new queen and start a new generation. They clumped on the back of the hive for a few hours then went inside to get to work by nightfall. 
It was fascinating to be there to watch the entire process from start to finish. We were able to clearly see each stage as it happened:

  1. The bees clumped outside the hive, waiting for the queen to make her appearance from inside. 
  2. Once she emerged, she takes off flying and all the clumped bees joined her in the air, making a cloud of bees.
  3. The cloud expanded to maybe 100 feet as they sought the queen's direction. 
  4. The queen lands on the top of the post inside that bush, and the cloud followed her and condensed down to a clump of bees on the post.
  5. Most bees clumped to protect the queen, but a few scouts started flying around looking for a new home. 

The whole process only took about 4 hours start to finish.  They only move maybe a hundred feet, but it was a tightly choreographed operation!

Here is a video showing the start of the swarming.

And this video shows them landing on the post. Listen closely to the awesome sound of a swarm of bees!

Now the race was on to assemble a new hive and capture the swarm  so that we could keep them. We are reentering the honey production business this year, since the GMO alfalfa is now illegal in the county and must be removed. We are once again able to make the best raw honey possible!

IF... we can catch this swarm.

At first, we thought  the challenge would be removing the queen from the holes in the old post. But no. By the end of the day, the swarm had move from the top of the post to the BOTTOM!

Now that is a challenge! There seems no easy way to get them out from between the branches and the grass.  So, the only option was.. a bee vacuum! We don't have one, (although I always wanted a "real" bee vacuum) So we decided to build one. Not just any bee vacuum, but one specifically designed for this particular situation...

Check out the next post for the answer!

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