Monday, April 12, 2010

Swarm II

Well . . . when it rains bees, it pours! After all the excitement of yesterday's swarm and capture, I expected to relax today and have a peaceful and non-dramatic day in the beeyard. But it seems that was not what the bees had in mind.

I went outside about noon to put away my handy-dandy bamboo bucket bee-catcher, and happened to glance up in the tree where they'd swarmed to see if any stragglers were still hanging around. Guess what? On the branch just above the site of yesterday's swarm was ANOTHER one!! Now I'm sure there's something going on here that I don't yet know, because I'm thinking that it's just too much of a coincidence that another swarm would pick not only the same tree, but almost the same branch. Could it be that they were attracted to lingering pheremones from yesterday's event? Or could it be that this is just a really, really good tree to hang out in if you happen to be a swarm of bees? I'm hoping somebody at the bee club meeting on Tuesday will be able to shed some light on this mystery.

But, I digress. We continued to watch Swarm II all afternoon as it grew and settled in for the night. By dusk it was quite a bit larger than the one from yesterday. Several thoughts immediately came to mind: 1) Were these bees the remainder of my blue hive? 2) Did the green one swarm too when I wasn't looking? 3) Had the captured swarm left the nuc box and re-assembled on the tree? or 4) Were these bees from someone else's hive, or possibly a group of wild bees? Nos. 1, 2, and 3 seemed unlikely, since there seemed to still be plenty of bees coming and going from the blue, green, and nuc hives. But still . . . . I have to admit that it was really, really tempting to pop the lids on the blue and green hives just to see how many bees were left, but I resisted temptation and decided to let them (and me) have a day of rest and relaxation. Besides, I had the entire community coming to my house at 5 for the monthly community dinner and meeting, and it really wasn't a good time to get out the veil and smoker. Nothing like having a basketball-sized blog of bees hanging from a tree in the front yard when your whole neighborhood is at your house for dinner. So much for trying to be an inconspicuous beekeeper!

I woke up at dawn this morning and sneaked out in the yard to peek at the swarm. The size had changed pretty dramatically and had formed into a perfect heart shape - an unbelievably beautiful valentine of bees hanging in my favorite live oak tree, surrounded by resurrection fern and Spanish moss in the early morning dew. I hope that I never forget what a breath-taking sight this was.

By mid-morning we detected a bit of activity, with a few stray bees darting to and from the swarm and a few others orbiting a few inches around it, and by noon a small hole had opened up in the side and bees appeared to be climbing out of the hole and flying off. We figured a scout had come back with news of a good place to move, and that a decision had been made. Sure enough, we went out for about an hour and, when we came back about 1:30 the swarm was gone.

I may never know where these bees came from, and I'll definitely never know where they went - but I will go to sleep tonight feeling thankful that I had the chance to watch them for 24 hours, and for the lovely valentine they gave me before they departed.