left hanging

Sorry faithful blog readers! I got a little busy and left you hanging on the story of our bee swarm, and then a little blog snafu happened and Jess’ reflections on the swarm were posted first. My bad! But I still have lots of really cool photos to share.

So, you probably know the end result already, but we’ll continue where we left off. We had borrowed a handy swarm catching tool from a bee club friend. The next step was pretty straight forward. Place the bucket over the giant clump of bees, knock it around to make them fall into the bucket, and put the lid back on the bucket. Mentally prepare yourself for a whole lot of pictures:

Look how well Duane’s catcher worked here! She pulled the string, and zoom! The lid popped back on.

At this point Jess is pulling down the bucket and getting the lid all the way on. During that moment, she says to Levi and I something along the lines of, “Crap, I didn’t get very many!”

She had a totally different view of the whole event, and we both were like, “Umm, no! I’m pretty sure you have a TON of bees inside that bucket.”

No kidding, she really did. Good job, babe! We were expecting it to take more than one catch due to all of Jess’ prior research and some advice from Duane.

The next step is to dump the bees into the hive we borrowed. Jess set it all up with a few frames out of the middle to give them some space as they go in. I already got to see tens of thousands of bees getting dumped in a big clump once before, and it will never get old. It is just so incredible. And on swarm day, with all the excitement and adrenaline and the “did we catch the queen?” question mark made it all the more dramatic. There was a lot more mayhem with bees filling the air all around us.

Somehow the charger to our camera with video capability hasn’t been seen since we went to New York (oops). So I created you a handy animated .gif of the BEE DUMP. It may take a second to load:

And if you want to see some of those images in all their giant splendor visit the swarm Flickr set. There are a lot more photos there, so if you’re really interested you should check it out. I will still be adding more photos as there are some that ended up on Jess’ computer that I haven’t even seen yet. But only a couple more for this post.

Here’s what was left in the tree after our first catch. Yep, we did the whole process one more time.

Levi and Jess display the second catch. After that, we decided to let the stragglers find their way home. After all, the bees we had put in the hive appeared to be doing their job. We were pretty confident that the queen was inside even though we never saw her.

Not only were these guys staying put…

But they appeared to be doing the textbook “fanning” Jess had read about, wafting the queen’s phermones to lead the other bees to her.

And as soon as we got everything all settled and cleaned up IT PROMPTLY STARTED TO RAIN. I could not believe it. It wasn’t just sprinkling. It was a genuine chilly, drippy Washington rain. I was pretty sure that if things hadn’t fallen into place the way they so serendipitously had, our swarm would not have survived. Although, the next morning I did find a fist sized ball of bees still in the tree dripping dry, alive and well.

And just like that, we have two hives. The most amazing thing to me about this whole thing is that our bee swarm appears to be bigger than the original 3 lb. bee package we started out with in April! And our old hive is still full of bees. Levi checks it daily for the sounds of rattling and piping from new baby queens.

And one last funny thing: before we had the chance to return the swarm catcher to Duane, he called Jess and had to rush over to borrow it back because his bees were swarming too. During this whole process, we learned a saying:

A swarm in May is worth a load of hay; a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon; but a swarm in July is not worth a fly.

We got the silver spoon! And only two stings to report so far. Jess was stung once during the bee dump and again when she checked on the new hive without gloves. They may be a little testy. Well, and that is not counting our Chihuahua, who still doesn’t quite seem to understand the concept of leaving the bees alone.



Filed under bees, family

14 responses to “left hanging

  1. Emma

    why is the July one so worthless? ALSO: good work ladies (and man-child)!!

    • jess s

      I wish you had been there! Although it was more intimidating in person than I expected, honestly.

      I think that July swarms are worthless because they are too late in the year – not enough nectar left to produce honey, and not a good chance of them making it through the winter. Why bother hiving them? If we had a July swarm, I would probably try to capture it, kill the queen, and combine it with my weakest hive. But a hive in June is worth a lot – the nectar flow is just beginning, and a swam is more apt to take advantage of it than a package of bees. Swarms are famous/notorious for building up huge colonies quite fast.

  2. caitlin

    I have totally wondered about the stinging! Like, how many times Jess has been stung total.

    Also whoa that sixth picture down, holy crap.

    And, I can’t believe you & Levi don’t have bee suits or veils (you don’t right?) and you get so close!

    • jess s

      I have been stung three times total. Once on the hand, once in the thigh, and once in the arm pit. They aren’t terribly painful, although the one on my hand was a doozie – she was quite angry with me. Our dog has been stung twice (that we know of). She antagonizes them almost as much as I do.

      Krista and Levi will get veils in the future, we haven’t bought them yet. I tried, once, but the lady I visited was out of the drawstring veils. I don’t have a bee suit, either, but I do intend to get one “some day.” Most of the time, the bees are totally calm and ignore people. I mean, it is remarkable how much they do not care about human activity. When they start to get hot, we send Levi closer to the house and Krista backs up. It’s just, you know, common sense.

      • misterkrista

        Oh, and I did have one attempt to sting my hand during the swarm. I was wearing my work gloves that are very thick. It did sting, but it only got my glove. I pulled a stinger out. You can tell the difference between a bee that is upset and most of the others that are not. This guy would not get off my hand. We plan to get veils for me and Levi and try two totally different ones from what Jess has. Bee veil review to come.

    • misterkrista

      Yeah, the main thing is that Jess is all up in their bizness more than Levi or I get. If there are bees surrounding me, I back off. Although this whole swarm day was the only time I’ve let them land all over me. Baby steps.

      Honestly, our hoodies have done a better job in a lot of ways than her veil. Somehow the bees have gotten up inside her veil a few times and I’ve had to remove them while she worked. Swarm night was the only night I had a bee try to get under my hood, and my thick pompadour of hair in the front protected me. It was actually a pretty funny moment that was left out of the blog.

      • jess s

        omg i cant believe you left that out! i hope that moment gets it’s own entry sometime. i just cracked up thinking about that.

  3. Ugh this is so gross and fascinating at the same time. Go, Bees, Go!

  4. Hillary

    P.S. I feel like I’m going to know so much more about bees when/if we get them next spring!

    • jess s

      perhaps this is our secret agenda: to convert everyone to beekeeping. c’mon, we already fucked everything up. you will inevitably be better!

      • Hillary

        Aw, I’m sure it was nerve-wracking, but you all are doing great! I think reading about problem-solving makes it seem that much more doable!

  5. Karen D.

    The 9th picture down, with the bees on Jess’ veil, may be the cutest thing ever!

  6. We started keeping bees this spring, having caught two swarms. I just *love* that bucket-rig.

    The bees are fascianting, aren’t they?

    • jess s

      They are certainly different from what we expected, but fascinating nonetheless. Swarms are really intense. I love them (she says, holding an ice pack over her eye that is swollen shut from a beesting). Got any remedies for bee sting swelling? :)

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