I checked my email to make certain I was at the right park at the right time for baseball practice. And there it was -- "Easy swarm available now." I fired off a response (who knew a smart phone was going to be this kind of useful?) and dropped off the baseball player.
A quick toss of materials into the car, and off I went. The original beekeeper whose hive had spawned this swarm had helpfully put a plastic storage box with a couple of frames in it near their location, and by the time I got there, it was 98% hived. The homeowner seemed impressed that I knew what to do, and it struck me -- this skill has grown without me even paying attention. I have a front row seat to all of my knowledge gaps and inadequacies, so I don't see competence and ease, but this guy did. And I do know how to get swarms, of all kinds, and how to protect them, and how to cut out hives. Doing really has meant learning. Slowly, and without seeing it happen. Pretty neat.
Some stragglers were under the cute little model train track running all around the back yard of the swarmee -- HO maybe? and I scooped them up. A few more drawn frames in the storage box so they wouldn't bang back and forth in the car was all it took.The sheet that comes along to burrito-wrap the swarms was superflous, which was nice. I don't love driving in a van with free-flying bees.
At home, I set the new hive base up, with the new hive body, and started lifting the frames out of the storage box. Since there was no particular hurry -- having dinner already made and in the oven sure helps -- I decided to do more watching. After all of the frames that would fit were snugly in, I stood up the spare one, covered in bees, and watched them march into the hive.
Try as I might, I couldn't see how it was happening. Their activity was kind of random, fanning, feeding each other, moving around, but the mass of bees kept incrementally moving down. I figured if watched closely enough, I could see if there were little shepherd bees pushing the others, but no. Without obvious pattern, the signal "Get down in here" was clearly sent, and clearly received.
What else could I do but watch patiently?
Well, it turns out I could use a spare plastic foundation to chivvy them along, ever so slowly, and push them with my gloved finger tips. But I did resist the temptation to do the banging trick that I have done in the past, and they hived anyhow, without a lot of flying about. Close enough to a night cold enough to bring the sunning tomato babies in, I didn't want them outside of the hive.
Maybe I'll save that trick for warmer days.
Portraits in a Garden: Christopher Lee
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