Four Swarms

There really was too much going on the last couple of days for me to deal with FOUR swarms. And of course bee man Jim was GONE every time the bees swarmed. I swear they wait until he leaves the property to swarm!

Whatever were the bees thinking? Every time another swarm happened, all of us in the office would be alerted to the latest swarm activity because the very air of our building would take on a deep resonant bee buzz noise. Then we would look out to see another 10,000 plus bees take off in a cloud of whirling glory.

Have I said this clearly enough? I love bees, but I really do not understand why they do what they do. I love being around them. Even standing in the middle of a swarm makes me happy, but I have absolutely no intellectual understanding of what makes them tick. Or why they would leave a spacious hive full of honey as well as new empty frames for the wilds of a new home with no honey waiting.

When I asked them why they were swarming, the gist of their answer was “Because we feel like it.” This was a wonderfully sassy response, but not terribly edifying.

One thing I do know about swarms is that a swarm takes off from a hive with a new queen bee in its midst. It will then temporarily settle in a nearby branch in a big pulsing mass of bees, all protecting this new queen bee. Scouts from the swarm then go out to seek a new home. When they find a spot to move the new colony, the whole mass of bees takes off, quite fast I might add, for the new home.

This temporary rest before moving to the new home is the time I can try and get a swarm into one of our empty hive boxes and thus get a new hive for the farm. The first two swarms in this latest go round happened within minutes of each other. While both swarms were in flight, I asked the Angels how to proceed. The Angels told me not to try and put these swarms in new hives.

Because I get some nutty ideas like “I really CAN carry an empty hive up a step ladder and toss a mass of bees into a waiting hive box, it was an excellent thing the Angels clarified that I was NOT to try and collect these first two swarms. Both hives settled on a branch twenty feet up in the air, a location perfect for me to balance on a step ladder while holding a hive and then making a free fall dive with or without accompanying bees.

I want to take GOOD care of the bees here. This means I might have tried some foolish maneuver on a step ladder. The Angels, over the years, have learned to be VERY CLEAR with me when they want to kibosh one my overly optimistic ideas. I am most grateful for their sensible guidance. Jim too, I imagine.

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Here’s a view of the first two swarms. Notice, no step ladder in sight.
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Here’s what the air looks like when the bees are on the go.

Swarm three and four were a different matter. They settled about six feet off the ground on the branches of our big oak tree. I was given the Angelic thumbs up to collect these swarms. Jim, of course, had just left the farm when these swarms happened. Without injury to self or bees, I managed to get both swarms into new hives.

When trying this maneuver, the key is moving the queen. If I can get her settled into the new hive, the rest of the bees will stay. I do this with such finesse. I grab big handfuls of bees until the branches are stripped bare and hope the queen in amongst those in the bottom of the new hive box. I love scooping live bees into an empty hive. It is unlike any other experience I can think of.

I did NOT appreciate the fact that I had to go out to the barn and build a box and assemble the beeswax frames for inside the hive when swarm number four happened. It was already hot and bothered by dealing with swarm three in that attractive insulating bee suit wear. I had to build the frames as fast as possible because I didn’t know how long I had before the scout bee found a new home. My hammer skills were not great with the itsy bitsy nails needed to build the frames. I actually asked the Angel of Bees to help me and that seemed to do the trick. I got everything built before this fourth swarm took off and as of this morning, the two new hives were humming away with bees coming and going to the late summer Flowers like Goldenrod.

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Note that I am standing on some random chair with the new hive perched precariously on another chair. I have a knack for doing stuff with the most half baked equipment.

The symbolism of all these swarms doesn’t escape me. Two of our children are moving into their own apartments off the farm TOMORROW! Hence the two swarms on the go and Angelic directives to LET THEM GO. Mercifully our other two children will be with us awhile longer. Hence the two swarms I could put in new spacious boxes right next to our two parental sized original hives.

I know, I know. All this swarming means more room for the original queen bee in her hive ( and fewer dirty dishes) but GULP! It will feel really weird not to have so many bodies around! Ben is moving to a faculty apartment in a dorm at Kimball Union Academy and Elizabeth to an apartment in Bennington, Vermont. TOMORROW! Did I say that already? Only wish we could move all the stuff needed for two empty apartments as easily as those bees got moved!

On another topic, the peaches have ripened without the hail storm I probably deserved after my counting my peaches before they ripened.

Or maybe I got what I deserved. Each evening this week, I have been peeling, cutting and/or canning them up. We canned them without sugar to meet the needs of some in my group who live sugar free ( this would not include me). Since there really is an enormous crop, later this week, I will can more in a light sugar syrup to meet the needs of others in our group who prefer sugar on everything. Then we will move onto the pear crop which also looks to be substantial.

In the meantime, at every meal we eat the peaches in complete amazement that these luscious fruits could actually grow here at the arctic circle. Peach pies have also been featured. Here’s one in progress

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Don’t you just love May May sitting there underfoot, just hoping I will lose interest in all this frenzied activity at the stove and get back to the really important stuff like throwing a ball for her.

As I finished this, Vicki called out from the next room that the bees seem to be on the go again…. and then Jim came in to say its going to be very cold tonight, maybe in the 30’s. I don’t know which to do first, put on my bee suit or go to the barn to get the sprinkler organized for tonight’s low temperatures. The Red Shiso may need to be kept warm with this sprinkler come five am tomorrow morning!

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