Last week half the bees in the community garden hive decided to move house. Without a house to move to they took to the skies, flicked about on tiny wings, their wide orbit of the queen shortening as they made their final decision to group in a small tree a few meters from the hive they’d left – now a quiet village of bees doggedly rearing a new queen.
When half a hive swarms, the swarm can be caught. It’s hard to imagine catching a swarm unless you’ve witnessed it before. It was new to us but once the bees had settled – hung in a cone-shape – they didn’t fly but clung to one another and moved and dripped like honey. Now all that was needed was a box – only cardboard but with a structure that could hold some of the combs from the original hive. It was as simple as holding the box underneath the swarm and giving the branch one good hard shake. The bees fell into the box and splashed over the beekeepers. With the main bulk of the bees in the box with the queen, the stragglers turned and marched towards the hole in the front that served as an entrance.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as putting them in a new hive next to the original. If we did that the bees would become confused and return to the swarming-tree. Instead we have had to move them carefully one meter each day towards their final destination. A patient approach made difficult by the rain that now hoofs down on our bees with minimal shelter.
But fingers crossed, by the end of this week we’ll have two happy hive and hopefully more honey… though not quite for nothing!