Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Swarm

On Saturday, a swarm appeared on our trampoline. The kids went down to jump and suddenly had a bunch of pissed off bees flying around. Not a good day to jump.:)

On Sunday, I went into my hives and they looked just fine. No worries. I decide the swarm can't be from my hives (which made no sense anyway, as they still have plenty of room). I decide to call K&K on Monday if the swarm is still there.

Monday arrives and all hell breaks loose. Bleu is outside working when suddenly what-seems-like-five-million bees are around my hives. It stays crazy for a while then the blob of what-seems-like-five-million-bees moves back over to the trampoline and makes our yard practically unusable.

I'm a bit freaked out now. My hives seem to have little or no activity and I really don't understand what is going on or what to do about it. I leave messages at K&K and another hive inspectors voicemail, no answers though. I call throughout the day at work, can't get anybody!

So I call Jessica, just up the road. Yes, she has a five gallon bucket. Yes, they'll come over after I get off work and help me remove them in the dark. "It's like the blind leading the blind" says she. I laugh casually in agreement, hiding the fact that my knees are shaking now.

The going theory is that the swarm had decided to try and move in on one of my hives and failed in their first attempt.

The swarm was quite happy up there under the trampoline. My kids weren't so happy about them taking that location. It's tempting to try and hive them, but two hives are quite enough for this year. Jessica felt the same. So this swarm was freedom bound.

We donned our equipment.
Headed out with an entourage of nervously excited children and one curiously amused husband (hers...mine was hiding out in his office).

The conversations when facing the swarm were something like;
"ok, do you want to hold the bucket or knock them in?" (neither job seemed entirely safe)
"Should I smack the top of the trampoline or just lift and drop it?"

A range of opinions fly forth from the entourage.

Then there's that lovely thought that they could be Africanized bees and all may not go well. Oh, the things you think up at just-the-right moment.

It went something like this...
The main group of bees had the bucket held under them by Jessica, I lift the trampoline about a foot off the ground and drop it. Big blob of bees falls into bucket while a smaller nearby blob falls onto the ground. We brush as many of them up as possible. At some point we decide we've pushed our luck far enough and leave the rest to fend for themselves.

Not one sting.
We're mildly cocky at this point,having captured our first wild swarm without any experts. "The blind leading the blind" thing came off without a hitch.

There were a couple of pissed off bees following us for a few minutes. They got squashed...I did want to take that veil off!

So there's the bucket-o-bees.
Capturing a swarm at night was a great idea.:)

Jessica and family took the bees home with them for release on their property. I got an update this morning:

~~Ren, I walked the bucket o bees out to the pasture and placed it at the base of a dead locust tree. It is perfect if they use it, it has a large split that opens into the tree's center without opening all the way up, so they would actually have a "ceiling" if they use it. I wanted to just sit and watch, but the day called. I'll go back later and check on them. It was a neat feeling holding that pail with the vibrations of their buzz going through my hands. Jess~~

Thanks for calming my fears and coming over in the dark to help me out. You guys rock!

Saturday, April 12, 2008


We've not only been getting more garden in this last week, but also collecting a few wild edibles.
The violets seemed to carpet the hill almost overnight...

we took advantage and sprinkled some onto salad. My favorite way to use violets is by glazing them with egg whites, sprinkling sugar on and drying. They save in the freezer and look amazing atop cakes and in salads.

Don't these look luscious?
Sierra helped...
A couple days ago we were all about the dandelions. Chopped greens in salad and I even harvested some root for future use.

My girl also helped plant the onions, garlic and potatoes this week, she's one of my constant gardeners.:)

We had some passerby friends, a wee butterfly..

..a garden kitty named Bella. She loves to follow me and rub against my backside while I'm digging in earth.

This wee caterpillar was saved while cleaning brush. I think it makes an amazingly graceful circle, cradled gently on a leaf.

There are many of these willing helpers...

..yeah, we grow 'em big in Tennessee! Happy digging everyone...spring is grand.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

She hives the bees...and gets stung

It goes something like this...

Put the newly purchased veil and gloves on, pretending like you know how it all works. Other than not knowing how to adjust the hat inside the veil (thank you for that tip Jessica) I did ok.

Remove the top cover, still pretending (fake it till you make it right?) that you can handle this without fear. Fear that you will go through all of the cost and time and worry and still have no bees because you screwed it up so badly they all leave, or die, or....


Open the top.

Remove the queen cage, remove their can of syrup feed, replace lid temporarily.
Yep, the queen really is bigger than the other bees. When they said she would be marked they really meant it. She has a big, white spot painted on her backside.

Place the queen cage inside two frames in the middle of the hive.
Oh, so carefully.
Because she is the success of the hive.

Then not-so-carefully you literally dump three pounds of pissed off bees over the frames. They are a living blob, buzzing and confused. Two of them manage to sting through the clothing. Beginning to re-think whether that suit is worth the money....

Call Kelly Lovejoy after hiving the first package to find out if you can go ahead and hive the second one with what seems like five million bees flying all over the yard and your head and the other hive. Yes, she assures me...they'll sort themselves out in the end, keep going.

So I do.
And it's ok.
Silently thank Kelly.

Wake up early every morning, nervous about whether you will have bees or just an empty hive body, nervous about whether you're feeding them enough and just how long do they need the syrup anyway? Read more on the internet. Read more in the books. Decide you've done everything ok after all.

You sit watching these amazing creatures, flying in and out, feeding on your carefully prepared syrup and fetching brightly colored pollen and you suddenly realize...

I. am. a. BEEKEEPER.

For real. And it feels great.