Friday, September 9, 2011

You Will Bee Amazed

I love honey bees.  Someday when I'm too old to wrestle with sheep I'll have a few hives, like Sara and Stella.  (Not that they are too old to wrestle sheep...well, Sara isn't anyway...)  In the meantime I enjoy them vicariously through friends.  Sometimes a swarm will come through our place and settle to rest where we can see it.  We call our bee friend, Nick, and he comes to collect them and start a new hive at his place.

He got this great big swarm 2 years ago.

Hey, are we lost?  Or just resting, or what?  What's the TomTom say?

OK, everybody into the pushing.... plenty of room...

That hive is still doing well at his place.

So last Sunday when I was away at the State Fair and called home, Andy told me to be careful when I came in as there was a small swarm of bees who had found a crack at the base of the old locust tree right by our front door and had moved in.  It was after dark when I got home, so they weren't visible and then it rained most of the week and I forgot to look for them.  Then today we had sun!  And there were the little group of bees going in and out, doing what bees do.

Dum-de-dum.  Home sweet home.

What fun, a little hive of bees in our tree.

Then, after lunch while we were deciding what the next highest priority job should get out attention, we heard a hum.  Then a buzz.  Then a roar.  If you've ever heard a swarm of bees passing by, you know the sound.  We looked out and saw this coming over the house from somewhere west of us.

Click to biggify

Roll out the welcome mat - the rest of the family just got here

They kept coming and coming - a truly huge swarm....and went straight to the tree and started going inside.  Clearly the little group had been scouts who liked the tree.  Maybe they couldn't get back to the hive for a few days because of the horrible wet weather.  Whatever the case, these guys came in with a purpose.

We're hoooo - oooommme!

While this is amazingly cool and we feel honored that they chose US to live with...the fact that they are literally 5 feet from our front door is a huge problem.  One allergic visitor, one naive dog, one collective crabby mood on the part of the bees, and we are in a world of hurt.  But what to do?  We will NOT do anything harmful to them, so the only option is to get them to move.  Enter Nick to the rescue.  Tomorrow he will come over very early, before the bees wake up, and make them an offer they can't refuse.  First he's going to install a one-way door on the tree - the bees will come out but they won't be able to get back in.  Next he's going to fit a nice new hive in the space between the porch railing and the tree so the hive opening is literally a few inches from the tree hole.  He's going to put some honeycomb and bee brood (unhatched bee babies) in the hive to help convince the bees that THIS is a great place to live with a built-in family to tend.  Theoretically, since the bees have only been in the tree for a few hours they should be willing to move into the hive box.  It might take a few weeks before they all abandon the tree and accept the hive box as home, but it should work.  The queen may or may not give up the tree.  It would be sad if she chose to stay there and dies, but if the whole rest of the swarm can be captured Nick will give them a new queen and they will continue on. 

Stay tuned for bee updates!  And if you come by to visit you might want to use the side door.  Just sayin'.


  1. Stella and I would LOVE a tree swarm. Well, maybe not right by the door, but I guess that *could* come in handy ;-). And for the record, Stella can still wrangle sheep too. She just used cookies to get the job done :-D.

  2. Uses, not used. Will be a long time before we have to say used!

  3. I think bees are very interesting. My in-laws have hives. But, don't tell anyone, they kinda creep me out too.