Tuesday May 17th. After the incident with the raccoons (?) on Friday, I decided to visit the apiary every day, just to make sure no other unexpected things happened while I wasn't looking. Sunday and Monday everything was fine, Tuesday I made up some sugar syrup and took it out to feed the bees. I was getting ready to open up the small hive (most recent one) when I happened to glance up.... and there at exactly the same spot as last week was another swarm, hanging on the same fork in the tree! Really? Another one?? When was this going to end?
And again, I had noticed a bunch of bees exploring the empty hives in the garage all afternoon, so I should have suspected as much! But I had talked myself into thinking that last week's swarm was the only one I would need to deal with (for some reason), so I didn't pay them much attention. When I went in and told Norman, he wasn't surprised. "Well, I thought as much - bees in the garage again..."
"Well, maybe I will give the beekeeper Adam recommended a call", I thought, halfheartedly. I was already resigned to losing these bees too. I left a message, and then went on with my bee duties, ignoring the swarm, pretending it wasn't there. To my surprise, he called back and asked for details, and said he could come right over as he had a spare half hour. Really? That would be fantastic!
Allen, who used to be the official bee inspector for CT at one time, arrived with a veil and saw, and nothing else (no gloves). He took a look at the scene and began to hack down branches. Norman came down to watch too. We were kind of amazed that as Allen sawed away and pulled out branches, the hanging mass of bees wobbled and bounced up and down, and didn't seem to mind.
After pulling out long thin branches of autumn olive and a wild rose (both invasive species, oops - Allen is an arborist too), he was able to get to the base of the branch the swarm was on. Norman and I pulled out branches, and then Allen suggested I go get the empty hive box I had waiting. We placed it under the branch with the swarm, and he bent the branch down, down, down, until it was about 2 feet above the box. Then with one swift motion, he knocked the branch hard, and the mass of bees flopped down onto the hive box in a loud "WHOOFBZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz"
After a lot of exclaiming in excitement, I asked, "So what happens now? What if they decide they don't actually like this home? Will they swarm somewhere else?" "Not usually", said Allen. "In fact you can see they are already finding it to their liking. See how they are sticking their abdomen up in the air and wagging it? They are giving off 'come hither' pheremones. This tells any other bees flying around that were part of the swarm that the have found a suitable home". Sure enough, I looked closely, and they did have their buts in the air while vibrating their wings. If you look closely at the above picture, you may be able to see some of them doing that. If you are not sure, look along the front edge of the top of the hive where they are easier to see.
"You can now move it to where you want it to be", Allen said. I picked the spot between the two big hives, and Adam carried it over.
After we moved it, there were still some bees flying around where the swarm had been hanging, looking like they were wondering where their colony had gone. Then Allen pointed out that there were a few starting to attach to the same part of the branch again. "Should I move the hive box under there so they can find it?" "Oh, no, they'll figure it out" he said, totally unconcerned.
I asked him how it happened that this swarm went to exactly the same spot. He said they could probably smell that bees had been there previously, and there may even have been wax laid down, and that would be attractive to bees away from home.
I couldn't help thinking how you never know what's going to happen. I used to have 2 hives a couple of months ago, I ordered two more packages of bees from Adam, to come in May or June so I could have four hives, and now I already had four hives! And the packages I ordered? I'm going to end up with 6!!! Help!
At the end of last week's blog, I mentioned that I was full of questions about my other hives, and wished I could ask an experienced beekeeper. I had in fact called Allen the day before the swarm to ask if he could come out and look through my hives with me and let me know how I was doing and if everything was okay. He very kindly offered to come on Wednesday. His coming today, Tuesday, was not originally the plan. In any case, he only had a short time today, so we kept the plan for him to come round the following day and go through the hives with me. We agreed on 10:00 am. This was absolutely fantastic! Can't wait to tell you what he says!