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Assorted Wildlife, Beekeeping, Honey Bees

Swarm 2015: I knew it!

They were way too well-behaved.

Swarm 4 May 2015

It was a nice day, beautiful in fact,  but… I have been having my seasonal allergies, plus I think I’ve done something to my back, and well my husband persuaded me to attempt to watch our first box set in one sitting (we failed, well, because we are adults and do have some shame–apologies to all you adults without shame out there). These are my excuses and I am sticking to them. And yes, I am among those lazy beekeepers mentioned recently in the press.

While we were inside indulging in our indolence, the bees took the opportunity to cook up a bit of mischief on their own. I had looked at them earlier in the day (I swear I did!) and they looked no busier than they usually are. A few hours later (well, maybe more than a few), I looked at them again, and they seemed to be very quiet, which I thought was a little suspicious. Guess I was right because my husband came inside immediately after: “I think there’s a swarm!” I actually questioned whether it was one of ours and replied, “I just looked at them. I didn’t seem like anything was going on…” That’s because I was looking at the aftermath. What we saw at the end of the driveway was the eventual fly-off to their new home. They had initially swarmed, while we were all unaware inside, to their usual spot in one of our trees at the end of the driveway. When we eventually emerged outside, they decided to make their move to their new destination. As is their usual want when they set up initially in that tree, they regrouped in the air, and made their way slowly across the field to some destination in the village.  It is with some sense of awe that I watch them do this, a tornado-like cloud moving over the field.

But that wasn’t all

Swarm 2 15 May

Swarm 2, where they pick the most hazardous spot to land. You might just about be able to see them tucked into the tree...

Swarm 2, where they pick the most hazardous spot to land. You might just about be able to see them tucked into the tree…

This one was interesting, as I was standing in front of the hive watching them and thinking about opening them up to see the aftermath of the first swarm. They were calmly going in and out of the box, buzzing, but not so as to imply anything was afoot.  When all of a sudden it was as if a switch had been flicked, and their little bodies started to vibrate and the buzzing grew into a roar…

It was not only not possible for us to collect them, because of the height, but also quite dangerous as they were right on a busy road just beyond a blind corner.

At this point we were kind of despairing of replacing the hive we lost over the winter.

Third time lucky

Swarm 3, everyone single file into the box, please

Swarm 3, everyone single file into the box, please

As luck would have it, a second cast decided to make its move about an hour before we were expecting dinner guests. This time, they were much more accommodating, settling into a fir in our front yard, not too high up, although dispersed among a few branches. We elected they biggest clump as the one likely to have the queen, and started sawing branches and dropping them into a box, the quickly moving them into a nuc which we placed on top of a nearby car.

The signs were not that encouraging that we actually had the queen, so we sawed off a few more clumps. This seemed to make them a bit grumpy, so we left them to it checking periodically to see whether they were heading into the nuc or back into the tree.  After waving our guests off, we checked again. It was pretty obvious that they had all headed back into the tree, the single bee left in the nuc being the give away. It was getting pretty late, almost dark. I was for letting things be, as it was also getting colder and rain had been forecasted for the next few days. However, my husband wanted one last try at it. Success at last!

We now had a box full of bees. The next day was rainy and cold, so we didn’t dare try to transfer them into the nuc. But even though yesterday wasn’t much better, we decided to make the best of the little sunshine we had, and get them into the nuc. The results: bees happily in their new (for now) home. Which is where they had best stay if they know what’s good for them…

As I don’t want them showing me up…

In the headline recently:

Yes, bad beekeeping is to blame for unwanted urban swarms

This article in the Guardian has created a bit of a buzz (see what I did there?) among the beekeeping community, as one might imagine. (see the British Beekeeping Association’s Facebook page for an example). I’m saying nothing.

Another article caught my eye which maintained that bees are ‘doing democracy the right way‘. Interesting until I came across this:

Seeley himself has found in the collective decision-making of the bees a metaphor and inspiration for democracy. Yet the bee system is far from the simple one-individual, one-vote set-up so popular among humans. If it were, there would be no way for Bee X who has discovered a particularly attractive source of pollen to convince fellow bees that his source truly deserves extra attention. Thus, it is the total passion of the bees, not simply numbers alone (one mandible, one vote) that ultimately carries the day.


Exit, pursued by a bee…..


15 thoughts on “Swarm 2015: I knew it!

  1. Aaa….argh, indeed! Bees. What are ya gonna do? I was so vigilant in checking my hives earlier in the season (we’re warmer than you), that I think I rolled both of my queens. I placed an emergency order for two queens, they came, I installed and all seems well. I’m glad you were able to corral some of the gals. Wishing you a calm bee-keeping season. I liked the article….

    Posted by Tina | May 20, 2015, 3:17 pm
  2. If one watches the media, one can easily spot the trend. Bees are at risk because of environmental issues–largely chemicals and climate change. The makers of the chemicals are the ones with the money in this picture, and the media follows the money. A great many regular people have decided to do their bit to save the bees, by becoming bekeepers. (Myself included, plus there’s pollination and honey in the mix.) So now I’ve seen a number of articles claiming that the “bee crisis” is caused by beekeepers. It’s a moving target, but I note that the chemical industry isn’t targeted in these articles.

    Posted by avwalters | May 20, 2015, 3:19 pm
  3. If all three swarms left in the same day isn’t it likely that they were all cast swarms. Usually casts occur due to the emergence of multiple new queens some 8-9 days after the prime swarm leaves.

    Posted by deweysanchez | May 20, 2015, 4:51 pm
    • As indicated in the post, the primary swarm was on 4 May and the first secondary cast was on 15 May. I didn’t identify the date of the second cast, which was 17 May. So, I think that it is safe to assume that there has been a primary and successive casts….

      Posted by mylatinnotebook | May 21, 2015, 1:51 pm
  4. One of our hives swarmed last summer just as I was pouring a cup of coffee. I looked out the window and said, “Boy the bees are busy this morning” and then a few minutes later, “Wow, look at all of them” and then even still later, “Oh! I think they’re swarming!” We did recapture, but it meant canceling our plans for the day and renting a lift!

    I read the article you linked about swarms being the “fault” of new beekeepers and, while I do agree you can take steps to prevent, I’ve always understood that some bees just get it in their little heads to swarm, and they do, no matter what. The author suggests you are lazy if you do not check your hives every week at the same time! Yikes, count me as one of the lazy ones I guess. 🙂

    Posted by AndreaV | May 20, 2015, 5:11 pm
    • You and me both–lazy I mean (er, although I wouldn’t presume to call you lazy!). And what you say is correct, beekeepers can take all the necessary precautions and a hive will still swarm. They are wild things, after all….

      Posted by mylatinnotebook | May 21, 2015, 1:53 pm
  5. Glad you managed to save one! It’s a busy time of the year for us beekeepers.

    Posted by Emily Scott | May 20, 2015, 9:58 pm
    • Not just for the lazy ones! Any separation anxiety with the hives you’ve given away? Although, am I right that they are still in the same apiary?

      Posted by mylatinnotebook | May 21, 2015, 1:55 pm
      • It is hard letting go, but yes one of the colonies is still in the apiary. With the other one, I have spoken to their new owners a couple of times and they tell me they’re doing well 🙂

        Posted by Emily | May 21, 2015, 7:47 pm
  6. I had no idea..I read the article which seemed a bit harsh toward bee keepers. I don’t think I would be cut out to be a bee keeper as they really do need a lot of attention and I would worry and worry.. This is so interesting to follow and the fact that you keep bees at all should be applauded.. We need people like you…Michelle

    Posted by Rambling Woods | May 23, 2015, 7:00 pm
  7. At least you caught one of the swarm. It’s still early in the season they have plenty of time to build the colony back.

    Posted by P&B | June 2, 2015, 11:56 pm

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