Swarm, that’s what we had today and I’m not making some wisecrack remark about the heat. We had a swarm from one of our bee hives. Swarm, for those of you who might not be as bee proficient as others, is the natural means of reproduction of honey bee hives. A queen takes a bunch of the worker bees and pretty much up and leaves the existing hive in search of new and better quarters. We figure that this happened because the hive got too large.
In the prime swarm, which is what appeared to happen today, about 60% of the worker bees leave the hive with the old queen. A new queen and the remaining 30% of the worker bees stay put in the existing hive. As Tom was outside this morning watering the garden, he heard that distinct and very loud buzzing. He looked up to see a very large, very black, very buzzing cloud of bees over the goat shed (where the hives are located) and followed them across the field and into one of the pine trees. It is common that when honeybees swarm they only fly a short distance from the original hive and take up residence temporarily in a tree on a branch or in shrubbery. They cluster around the queen and send out scout bees to search out a new hive location. It may take a couple days for the bees to pick a new spot or as in our case, they can be captured into a hive and will usually make it their own. Since the bees do not have reserves of honey (which were stored in the hive that they left) they are very vulnerable and can die if a new hive cannot be located and honey production restarted.
Later this afternoon, he and a friend who is also a beekeeper, suited up and climbed a ladder into the tree where the bees took up residence. They cut out the branches and were able to recapture most of the bees and evidently the queen as well. The bees are now in a make-shift hive and seem content.
Looks like a trip to the bee guy over in New Hampshire is in the cards for this weekend to secure another hive set up. Also, we’re going to most likely extract the honey from last year’s hives (all the bees died off from them) and bottle it. Interested to see how much honey we end up with this year. Last year was 48 pounds or about 5 gallons of honey.