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!


rupestur said...

Jess was telling me about this today. Wild! You guys are brave! And you get the job done :D

Jessica said...

Bee Update - around 3pm, they were flying around checking out the general vicinity, around 8pm they were all back in the bucket and very calm. I have a super that has some honey my gals didn't finish, I am going to set it in the tree by the bucket to try to make the tree home look a little more favorable. Blue might call this adding curb appeal!

Snavleys said...

And the adventure begins.............

Melissa said...

oh em gee.

I'm not a BIG fraidy cat about bees, but that's way more than I would want to handle. Thanks for sharing the story, your pedestal just got higher though, be careful on the edges.


Linda said...

Wow, so cool! (I would have been shaking in my boots)

Linda said...

Wow, so cool! (I would have been shaking in my boots)

Ren said...

I WAS shaking a bit as I recall...;)
shaking in my combat boots to be exact. I figured they'd protect the bottom half of my legs anyway.

As it turns out, everything I read about swarming bees being veeerrrryyy calm is utterly true.

I didn't totally believe Kelly when she told me this either. 'Tis true though. I'll still wear the veil and the boots if there is a next time.:)

Deanne said...

Wow! You guys are brave. Just the term "swarm" sends shivers up my spine. :O

Pam Genant said...

OK now I want bees. will have to wait until next year though.

LeaAnn said...

You have way too much excitement. I would have hid in the house with Bleu. Brave souls, you are.

Jessica said...

I went out yesterday and was amazed at the loud buzz of bees coming from the woods. We went to our bee hives and they looked normal, but the sound was like the static of a radio turned up as loud as it could go! I cupped my ears to figure out where it was coming from and looking up at the tree tops I saw the swarm. They were in a busy frantic flight. I thought maybe my new queen was out having her eggs fertilized, although it didn't look like love to me. We went to the bucket that stills sits at the base of the locust and it had about 50 bees in it in a huddle spot they have been in for many days (the queen and her helpers?). After about an hour of the buzzing it died down and I walked back out under the tree and looked up, they are all nestled together again about 50 ft off the ground in a tulip poplar. Maybe they will get the queen and move her today? I wonder if they will make this tree home? What in the world would they use to make the home? Do you think they will try to move in on my gals?

Danielle said...

Wow, crazy!

How are your hives doing?

Christi Krug said...

Exciting story! I am amazed how you pulled that off. The pictures were awesome too, as always. I eagerly await your next post.

Zenmomma said...

Wow I don't read here for awhile and this is the kind of stuff I miss. You are WAY COOL woman!

Ren said...

And a two-year-later update....the bees did eventually absorb into one of Jess's hives. We also figured out that it probably was a swarm from one of my hives as I lost a hive within months of that adventure. Turns out I should have tried to put them back...ah well, live and learn. Beekeeping is a complicated business. :)