Saving the Bees

Excerpt From Jane's World

Buzz buzz buzz buzz buzzzzzzz. There are bees everywhere. The noise is deafening. It looks like a scene from the Hitchcock movie The Birds, only with bees—our bees.

I run inside the house to phone Dane. He explains to me our bees have swarmed! By the time he gets here, the bees are all clinging to a branch in my crabapple tree, 15 feet above the ground, surrounding their old queen. There are thousands of them.

In order to manage their colony size and growth, bees will often swarm in spring and early summer. They head out, tens of thousands of bees (half or more of the colony) and look for a new home. Before they leave the hive, they fill up on honey like an athlete carb-loading before a big event. Once the bees are outside of the hive, the sky turns black with their presence. They will settle down in a nearby tree within minutes of swarming.

I’ve never witnessed a swarming or even known what it was. While we wait for our friend Devorah to come with a ladder and a new box for the bees, Dane explains that it means the old queen has left the hive with a large group of worker bees to form a new colony. This was the first winter our bees survived, after three attempts. It’s now apparent they not only survived the winter but they thrived.

Devorah arrives with the ladder and we devise a plan. My neighbor Tom brings over a hand-held saw. Dane goes up the ladder with a large pruning shears and starts cutting smaller branches off the tree and throwing them down. He clears the area around the swarm, leaving it exposed and easier to get to. The bees are so calm that he doesn’t wear any protective gear.

While the bees are resting in the tree, they are surrounding the queen for protection and warmth. A swarm can be as small as a big fist or as big as your thigh. Scout bees will go search for a new home in a hollow tree, a corner of a barn, or wherever they see fit. Sometimes this can take days and sometimes only a few hours.

Read the rest of the story in the Crawford County Independent & Kickapoo Scout.

Originally Published June 1st, 2017 in the Crawford County Independent & Kickapoo Scout