Last Saturday, we had a drama unfolding in our backyard with a cast of thousands. Thousands of our neighbor’s honey bees, that is. According to bee literature available online, when a hive with its own queen becomes too crowded, the queen and her entourage decide they need a new palace. So, they swarm en masse into the air, and then alight, as a huge clump clinging to one another, in whatever temporary haven is convenient. In this case, one of the trees in our backyard. I have to say that I was terrified at the initial swarming – I was out in the garden doing some weeding, and all of a sudden the sky was full of bees circling in the air. But once the bees are safely in their huddle, only a few scouts fly here and there, searching for a proper new home. They then come back to transmit information to the rest of their hives mates, and they somehow all decide where to go next.
Needless to say, the beekeeper wants to entice them to come home to establish another hive in the backyard, not to find some dead tree in a nearby park or other cozy den. So, he arrived in his full bee regalia to try to make that happen. Having never done it before, he had a few false starts.
The process involved cutting down the branch with the bees, and trying to head them into the empty hive. (This is when watching from an upstairs window feels much safer than watching from outside, even from within the screened-in deck.)
Bees everywhere, some dutifully entering the empty hive box, but most regrouping into another tree clump in record time (seconds!). If you don’t get the queen into the box, the other bees are not buying it. Finally, our neighbor got the queen in and the other bees followed, and the drama came to an end. But, while it lasted, it was a fascinating glimpse into the Secret Life of Bees (which you should read, by the way, because it is a great book).