Just what we were waiting for. The air filled with bees, madly flying, thousands of them. We started running for the bee-suits. We had one of the boyos keep an eye on the swarm but they got away while he wasn't looking. Luckily, they swarmed to a nearby honeysuckle bush, only about 3.5' off the ground.
Let me go back a little to our last hive check. Both Bluebell (the yellow hive) and Buttercup (the blue hive) were just humming away. Close inspection showed larva, capped brood (bees becoming adults) and eggs galore along with hundreds of drones (male bees) and.. an essential item.. Queen Cells!
I've shared before that you can think of a hive as a single entity and the way a beehive reproduces itself is by swarming. To do that, the workers will produce a queen cell or actually, several queen cells. They look like peanuts hanging off the bottom of the frames and both hives had these cells. Bluebell's queen cells had been capped, meaning several baby queens were rapidly approaching adulthood. Buttercups cells had eggs but had not been capped, that hive is not as far along.
That let us know they were both getting ready to swarm. The old queen gathers up about half the workers and they fill up with honey and pollen in preparation of making a new hive. Scout bees are sent out to find a likely place and then she takes her new swarm off to find greener pastures and more room to keep making more bees. That's what we were watching for.
We've read a lot of books on bees but we are ending our first full year at beekeepers so there is always something to learn. We thought we knew the way of it and what to look for and we were spot on! Boyo #1 and Boyo #2 had been building a new topbar beehive and we were watching for swarming behavior from the hives. We were ready!
The bees did not disappoint us. The air was full of thousands of little bodies all gathering together in their desire to build a new hive. Once they had gathered on the honeysuckle, it was time for us to act! We ran for the bee-suits, the lure box and a white sheet. Roger removed the top from the box, I stepped up with it held chest high against me and I shook that bush hard.
The bees fell right into the box! I wasn't sure if we had gotten the queen or not but within just a minute or so, bees were holding their rears in the air and fanning their wings. This spreads the queen's smell around, saying "She's in here, come in here, this is the new hive." to all the other bees.
There was a small cluster of bees still left on the bush, so we spread the white sheet on the ground beneath and set the lure box on the very edge. We closed the box up to a smaller opening and then I shook that bush again and dropped all the remaining bees down onto the sheet.
The most amazing part of this whole thing then happened. The bees MARCHED into the box! It was so very cool! I had read about it, I had watched videos about it, but seeing our own bees doing it was quite the thrill. Darling Roger ran up to the house for the camera and we did get a shaky and excited video of the March of the Bees.
And now, we have a third hive of bees! This one will be named Honeysuckle, in honor of the bush they were in. I am always impressed by the ways of this insect. If you'd like to know more about bees and hives, please be sure to leave me a comment or send me an email.
Stay Strong - Stay Safe and remember - Windy Thistle is in this with you!