An Unexpected Swarm

First, we got really preoccupied this winter because we made the possibly not-intelligent decision to go on a cruise. To be fair, we made that decision more than a year ago, and what was really unintelligent was relying on a federal government that had decided lying and concealing was a good approach to handling a global pandemic. Yeah, that's how we stopped SARS in its tracks. Good move, brainiacs.

Anyway, as the time of the trip approached it became really possible that we'd be away not just for a week on a boat, but possibly for two more weeks after that, either on the boat or in land quarantine. I might not have considered it if it had been a normal cruise, with regular people, but it was a charter full of pretty smart people who were willing to do things like, oh, I don't know, wash their hands, so actually the whole experience was cleaner and less anxiety provoking than being on land might have been. And the month or so I spent prepping our house, our pet sitters, and our lives for the possibility of not being home for three weeks rather than one was worth it.

Tropical paradise

Plus there was a pretty beach and swimming in the Caribbean.

Anyway, we got back a week ago and were told to quarantine for 14 days after we got home, so I canceled and rescheduled a bunch of stuff, and then our entire region was shut down, and now our entire state is shut down, so I'm feeling pretty good about the prep work I did before we left. For one thing, we have plenty of toilet paper. We both work from home most of the time already, so really our quarantined life isn't that much different from our regular life, except our friends can only talk to us from a distance.

Anyway, Wednesday afternoon I was out on the front porch picking up a package when my neighbor waved me down and told me there were quite a lot of bees all over the place and they'd scared the heck out of his daughter. And yep, it turned out the one bee hive I have, Hive B, had swarmed and there was a giant ball of bees in one of the apple trees.

Then followed a couple hours of slapstick beekeeping, in which I tried using an old veil and ended up with a veil full of bees (that was GREAT), then changed to a good veil but somehow still had a bee in my hair (WTF).

Anyway, Noel didn't get any of that on film but he did take these photos:

Swarm partially in the box

This is after I knocked the majority of the swarm into that blue tub to the side, then dumped them into the hive box below and slid the cover on. Then it looked like there were still quite a lot of the bees in the tree, so I went back to get more of them.

(You don't need to get all the bees; they follow the scent of the queen and will rejoin the rest if the queen is in the center of the ball. But you do want to make sure you got the queen into the hive or they'll just be back on the tree as soon as they figure it out.)

Burshing the rest of the swarm down

I couldn't shake the branch they were on well enough to knock them off, so I used a chair from the deck to stand on and wiped them off with a bee brush into my tub. Also, check out my old clawfoot tub that is going to turn into a fancy carnivorous plants bog this summer. Or maybe this weekend, depending on how industrious I feel and if it rains or not.

Me shaking off bees in the yard

I ended up just covered in bees, so went over in the lawn to kind of shake them off. Swarming bees mostly don't want to attack but they were kind of pissed from the bees-in-veil incident. I may have been cussing a lot in this photo, but I was trying to keep it PG because my neighbor's kid was outside.

Lid on, new hived swarm

Then I left them to calm down and settle in. The next day I looked out to see how they were and there were no bees left on the branch, and they were doing orienteering flights from the hive box, so there you go. I put the lid on all the way and set the roof on top to protect them from some possible rain this week, and we've got a new hive. Which means I really should go in and inspect and clean up the mother hive and make sure they have enough room for the honey flow. Fortunately, I have another week of quarantine to fill with something beside just sitting around worrying.

I'm going to give them a week to get used to this box, then we will start slowly moving it, a foot or two at a time, to the back of the yard and out of the way.

posted by ayse on 03/20/20

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