When is a swarm not a swarm?
When it is a false alarm swarm! But let me begin at the beginning, yesterday May 7 in fact.
Just before noon time when the sun was out for a bit, all was looking pleasant at the main hive where we have gone to brood and a half. Bees were out and about bringing back pollen. At one point I looked down at the hive and saw a cloud of bees directly over it. Got a bit concerned. When I next looked the cloud had gone. So, I opened the conservatory door and heard the tell-tale sound–a loud humming. I walked down to the hive, and there they were, about 50 feet above the hive, in a tree just over the border in the neighbor’s yard (thank god, the Manor House, so they were essentially in the wood that divides our properties, with the house itself, mostly unoccupied, a good few hundred feet away).
We have no equipment that would allow us to get that far up into a tree. But my husband gamely taped together some long poles, with a hook at one end to see if we could shake the branch of bees into a cardboard box. Although it was hanging in a beautful position from the tree, it was just over the fence, with all different trees, bushes, fencing, and stinging nettles patches in the way.
We put a frame with drawn out comb in the box, but we were not able to give the branch a firm enough shake to get any appreciable clump into the box. We only succeeded in getting them mad. A group did find its way into the box, but by this tme the weather had turned colder and it was startiing to rain. We left the box underneath, partially covered by a sheet to see if they may take refuge there.
We also checked our attic, for we now have at least one little lodger there whose parents had prised a slipped tile aside (see next bird post for stories and pics). We thought that the bees just might discover this and decide they would like to build a home there as well!
No sign of the bees. But, the rain had started in earnest, so all we could do was wait for what the bees would do. By around 5pm, they had totally disappeared, probably off across the fields While we were grateful that they did not swarm, like last year, in the opposite direction where there is a group of houses, we were still a bit sad and resentful it has to be said. After all we fed and raised them from babes, and this is the thanks we get! (sniff)
Incidentally, the photo above, not by us of course, is pretty much what they looked like. So far, so classic swarm behavior.
So, wait, they came back, right?
Wrong! Things seemed somewhat back to normal with the main hive this morning, although I have been waiting to see if they put out any casts.
No, the fire alarm went off at 2pm today, 8 May, at the smaller hive, the one we call ‘the swarm hive’ because it is the swarm with the old queen (about 4years old) we captured last June. I was working in the conservatory office, when I heard that familiar sound again. And, wouldn’t you know it, the swarm hive was swarming! I kept an eye on it to see where it would land, but they seemed to be going off in every direction, with one clump hovering over an adjacent tree and another on the side of the garage.
This was a bit confusing. Because the one clump I could see clearly, on the side of the garage, was not big at all. And then it happened.
All of a sudden, I was in the middle of major bee traffic, but all heading back to the hive! I couldn’t credit this at first. I had read about this happening, but it just didn’t seem possible. Sure enough, it was swarming, but in reverse with the bees all over the hive. I just stood in the middle of them, whizzing past me, and had to laugh. What is up in those little bee brains?
As of now, about 3pm things look pretty settled. A bit of flying around the hive, some bees still crawling over the front, but quiet. Although, there is still that small clump at the apex on the roof of the garage.
There are a few reasons why this can happen, and I know I might be in for another swarm. I will leave my musings for a follow-up post, tomorrow or the next day, along with other bee info I have been gathering.
Of course, it has clouded over now, and rain is predicted for the next few days, so God only knows what will happen….