Monday, May 31, 2010

The Calm Beekeeper's Swarm

It's a muggy, heady day. There are all sorts of sweet blossoms out there. I cut some phacelia from the city hall school garden and put in a vase on our dinner table. I hadn't realized it was so fragrant. The roses are starting to bloom, the mock orange with its intense jasmine perfume and the sweet purple rocket. I gave our small hive a peek just to see if they were getting crowded, but they still have room. Our neighbor's hive decided they needed a more spacious condo. When I returned her phone call she sounded incredibly calm and had the situation under control. When I arrive to take a look she offers me a cup of tea. The bees had swarmed right in front of her (funny how they do that) and landed in a cedar tree in the neighbor's yard to the south, 30 feet in the air. So now what do you do? You phone Cal, the swarm man, get an extra hive box, fill it with a few frames sprinkled with sugar water and put it on the roof of a shed directly under the cedar tree and you wait.

This is a huge swarm. It looks like a warm knitted sweater hanging from the tree. The calm beekeeper went to tell the neighbor he had a swarm in his yard and when I heard laughter I knew everything was going to be okay. C came back smiling holding a nice looking raspberry bush he'd given her. Another neighbor came over to take a look and offered to help as he has had experience with bees in South Africa. J came bearing a gift of sugar water and C sprinkled it on the outside of the hive and closed up the box about 3/4 of the way because in our experience the bees prefer a dark space to move into.

It was a strange day for a swarm being very wet and cool this morning, but the bees saw a window of opportunity and they were right. It's been a dry, sunny evening, even though at one point we did hear a rumble of thunder. C thinks she will leave the box there over night and collect it in the morning. Now that I see from the photos it's a dadant I hope it's big enough for all those bees.

On the way home I see bumble bees scrummaging like mad over the California lilac. I've got to get some of that in my back yard. It must be one of the best bumble bee plants that grows in Vancouver.


  1. Remind me again, why is it bees swarm? Is it because they're upset or they're looking for something? Or is it that something in the hive shifts, like the queen goes out.

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  3. In a nutshell, swarming is the natural way a colony reproduces and create a new colony. Once they have become crowded in the hive a percentage of the bees decamps with the old queen. The swarm lands in a ball and sends out scouts to find a new place to live. The scouts come back and dance the directions to a good location and the best dancer(s) win. There's a more detailed explanation in Wikipedia.