May news, dreadfully behind on posting as usual…
Now you see them, now you don’t
Well, not exactly. Their way of telling me in early April that it’s time to remove the barriers and welcome in spring. This is the shredded remains of what I had wrapped the fondant from March in. Unlike the hive at the bottom of the garden (I call them the ‘swarm hive’ now as they are a swarm that replaced starved bees from last spring), the garage bees were better provisioned on their own so didn’t make much use of their fondant.
Luckily, both the hives made it through the winter, the bad weather and the early spring starving times. The swarm hive went into the winter a smaller colony and so caused me a bit more concern. The garage bees were a much bigger colony, so I had been keeping an eye out, especially during the last few weeks of really warm weather for swarming from them.
Yes, there was swarming but not as I expected.
Even though my garden is going through its purple phase right now (mid-May). But a week or so back, this was the site of a resting swarm. I had been doing some yard work and went inside for no more than five minutes. When I came out the yard outside the conservatory was filled with bees. Now, I know the signs of a hive that is preparing to swarm; usually the bees cover the outside of the hive in preparation. After all, imagine every single one of them trying to get out of that tiny opening at once. Because, once the signal for swarming goes out, or rather once the queen leaves, it’s as if a switch has been flipped. Then the rumbling sound and bees pouring into the air. Just that brief second that differentiates between milling about and swarming is fascinating by itself, never mind everything that comes afterwards.
But that day, none of these signs were in evidence, especially not from the garage bees who would be the likely suspects. The swarm hive based on location seemed the likely source and yet no sign that anything had happened. So, were these foreign bees? Could have been. At any rate, they didn’t stay for long. In the time it took me to search out a box and sheet, and then to get my suit on, they were gone to land high up in a tree on the next property over.
I’m still not sure whether the swarm was my bees or not. True, the swarm hive seems a bit more subdued than previously. But a lot of pollen is still being brought in. I’m giving them a bit of time before I go in to see what evidence I can find.
But that wasn’t the end, of course. A week later, just as my friend Kitty and I are about to go out to dinner, I heard them. This time they landed in a bush at about eye level. So, there was really no excuse not to collect them. Dinner could wait. I kept them in the cardboard overnight, and by the next morning after putting out the call to some of the local beekeeping associations on Facebook, I had these two likely characters come and collect them:
There and back again
It seemed that as soon as Kitty, Danny, and Skyler left, the bees were off again. This time I knew it was from the garage bees. What was mystifying is that it seemed big enough to be a prime swarm which suggested to me that this was the first attempt at swarming from the bigger and better established hive. Which would mean the other swarms had come from the smaller one? Just not sure about this.
At any rate, they got themselves into a really awkward place, up a tree on the trunk instead of a branch. So I put out the call again, anyone who wanted them could have them if they could get them. I had an immediate response from someone in the next village, who tried valiantly to just get at them (at the expense of a few branches of my holly tree) but couldn’t in the end. Just as he left the drive to get additional equipment, they swarmed again, this time back into the hive. Stuart came back to nothing left to be done. So, he left a bait hive. And we waited.
Well, the bait hive is still there (June). They swarmed again the next day, but again returned to the hive. Since then, there has been some interest in the bait hive, but between being out for work and bad weather, I haven’t noticed any more swarming activity. So, I don’t know: did they or didn’t they?
And that seems to be the end of the swarming season.
What would it be like to not have cameras do our seeing for us?
You all know what a dab hand at a camera I am. It’s probably the reason why I am so interested in botanical drawings. The Queen’s Gallery in London is currently showing Maria Merian’s Butterflies. Merian was a German-Swiss naturalist and illustrator who is best known for her Suriname artwork. According to her Wikipedia entry, David Attenborough rates her as a ‘significant contributor’ to entymology.
While I was looking up information about Merian, I came across this wonderful illustration and learned about Anna Botsford Compton who worked for the USDA as an entomologist. She wrote a number of books in her life time, one of them being How to Keep Bees.
Wonder what the web would be like if people posted drawings of wildlife instead of photos…
Well, I couldn’t very well eat all of it by myself…
Turns out it had a few of the most favorite things of someone else. I was forced to share!