"People who have found themselves in the midst of a mighty swarm or who have observed this incredible act from a distance cannot help but admit that the experience itself evokes rather indescribable thoughts and emotions. Swarming is a powerful and vibrant expression of a healthy, well-functioning bee colony. It is at once mysterious, lucid and transcendent. Swarming supersedes, by its very display and magnitude, all that is commonplace, 'status quo' and subdued in our everyday human activity. We may discover upon closer examination why swarming is so intrinsic to the bee's physical and spiritual health"
-Gunther Hauk, Toward Saving the Honeybee
A cluster of bees on a branch"A swarm!! A swarm!" Brenden bounds excitedly into our beeginner top bar class. 90% of the newbees rush off to the congregating area of the bees. A swarm is a hive's way of reproducing. Where there was once one hive there is now two. The old queen has laid an egg that will become the new queen and the old queen takes about 1/3rd of the workers of the hive and sets off to start a new colony. All at once the queen and thousands of bees take flight. They find a nearby spot to gather while scout bees venture off to find the perfect hollow vessel to start building comb in. Once a spot is agreed upon (through the waggle dance), the cluster of bees will disperse and fly off to their new home.
Bees taking off from a cluster
AS the student interest waned and they started heading back to class, someone noticed that a newly formed nearby nucleus colony was empty. This wasn't a swarm it was an absconding. The bees had just up and left. Bees will do that. Possibly because of the fire ant colony that the hive was inadvertently put on top of. Possible they were sick of being moved around, maybe they just felt that their new living quarters were just unacceptable. They had not invested much into their new home so they just left. Who knows why, only they do. Bess are like that.
The next day it was pretty obvious why they absconded. Sam had been called to do a bee removal from a soffit. Looked like a pretty easy job.
Sam feeling around inside the soffit to find out where the comb is
Notice the comb through the crack.
There is the colony with mango honey
Easy enough, dripping mango honey everywhere, new comb sloppily being banded into lang frames to take home, stings galore...but the queen, where was the queen? Sam is known for his queen finding abilities, but this day he just couldn't get her. After hours of trying he decided to pull out the bee vac.
Right after turning the vacuum off he spotted her (one does not want to vacuum the queen if one can avoid it as she may get hurt). He hesitated and reached for her. But in such cramped quarters
and the sneaky bug that she is, in that moment she and the rest of the bees (the bees with brood, comb and honey in the box along with all the bees in the house) took off. Took off is such an easy thing to say. Absconding is a word that folks use. But to describe the absolute palpability of that moment is beyond me. Sam and I just looked at each other KNOWING that something was happening but we didn't know what. Like the course of life had been altered for everyone in that moment. An excitement was in the air and maybe even a touch of sadness as they were leaving their babies and had to start all over again.
Bye Bye bees. Thanks for the magical experience!