La donna e mobile

OK, let’s just say, I got stung on the butt today. Talk about a surprise! My uncle and I had been inspecting the hives for an hour or so, then we got out the feeders to give the ladies a tasty treat. Just as I was leaning over to fill up a bucket….zowie! Right through the jeans!

The Harpers have kept bees for several generations. This past spring I acquired my first swarm from a co-worker who called in the middle of the night to ask, “Hey, you want some bees?” (yeah, wasn’t expecting that at that hour!) The bees arrived at work the next day in a lovely box, and Mac helped my put them in a nuc. Et oila! My first hive. I had a great time watching them, but didn’t have a clue what to do with them. So I left them alone to do what bees do best. And boy did they do well!

In early summer, my father came running into the house. “Lisa! Lisa! Your bees are swarming! They’re like a tornado!” Well, what could be done? In the time it took to find some shoes, the swarm gathered in a bee-dripping cluster on a hive just next to their nuc. As luck would have it, the colony in that hive had mysteriously died the winter before, possibly from sudden colony collapse. We actually lost half of our hives last winter.

Now, I should tell you that before bees swarm, they drink as much honey as they possibly can, so they tend to be…well…punch-drunk with honey love. The old queen takes flight and half of the colony follows her, leaving behind the other half of the old colony to hopefully raise a new queen. It’s how honeybees multiply.

So here’s this ball of bees, dripping off the side of a fortuitously unoccupied hive. I just sort of reached my hand through the edge of the swarm, knocked out the little piece of wood blocking the entrance, and the bees just marched in as if that had been the plan all along!


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