Swarm Story

~ A swarm in May is worth a load of hay.  A swarm in June is worth a silver spoon. ~

My honeybees, rebels that they are, always swarm in late April.   What exactly is a swarm in April worth?  Pardon the lack of rhyme, but let’s just say “entertainment.”

The bees spilling out of the hive entrance and taking to the air. This is one time that I find honeybee behavior a little scary. I respected their space and took photos from a distance. Thankfully, this swarming-in-air behavior only lasts about 10 or 15 minutes.

The bees spilling out of the hive entrance and taking to the air. This is one time that I find honeybee behavior a little scary. I respected their space and took photos from a distance. Thankfully, this swarming-in-air behavior only lasts about 10 or 15 minutes.

I travel once a year and always on the last weekend in April.  I am always ridiculously busy getting ready to leave so the honeybees’ sense of both timing and humor is not appreciated.  Personally, I don’t mind a swarm – it is a natural phenomenon – but I’d like to be around to witness it.

This year the swarm left me feeling conflicted.  One the one hand, I was thrilled by the fact that this colony survived a brutally cold winter and was big enough to swarm by April.  But a part of me wanted to capture them and install them in my empty top-bar hive; a part of me really wasn’t ready to let them go to live as wild honeybees.

The swarm took their time about finding a home, too.

First stop:  an old tree snag on the edge of the woods.  If I hadn't seen them settle here I may have missed them entirely.  But obviously this was only a temporary spot...

First stop: an old tree snag on the edge of the woods. If I hadn’t seen them settle here I may have missed them entirely. But obviously this was only a temporary spot…

 

Moving right along:  a couple of days later the bees relocated to a blue spruce and nestled under the branches.

Moving right along: a couple of days later the bees relocated to a blue spruce and nestled under the branches.

The same swarm but I shot this photo with a flash.

The same swarm but I shot this photo with a flash.

Not a great photo - it was snapped with a dumbphone - but the bees relocated to a clematis vine near the house.  My husband expressed some concern about this location.

Not a great photo – it was snapped with a dumbphone – but the bees relocated to a clematis vine near the house. My husband expressed some concern about this location.

When the bees had settled in the blue spruce tree I thought I had a good chance to catch them, even though I was out of town for a few days.   Two days later my husband called me and mentioned that the swarm was on the move and was in the yard behind the house; now I thought my luck had run out.  The bees thankfully calmed and nestled in a clematis vine.  At this point I decided it would be easy to capture this band of roving bees by snipping the vine and placing the cluster in my empty top-bar hive.

I hurried home a little early fully prepared to move the cluster, but this colony of course had other plans and had left the clematis vine.  I still haven’t located them but I think they are living somewhere in the tangled little woods on the edge of our farm.  I hope so.  As much as I desire for my honeybees to live successfully in the wild I am also aware that a swarm is a frightening thing to most people.  It is my fear that others would fear a swarm and spray them with chemicals and kill them.

And what of this roving around every few days?  Is that normal behavior?  Do the bees really travel about for several days until they find a suitable location?  It was a fascinating thing to watch but I must admit it made me want to capture them for their own protection.

My hunch is that the bees finally found the old decaying maple tree that has been lying in the woods for over a decade.  Gosh, I hope so.

Here is a great post about swarms on Winged.

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