Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Swarm

First, somewhere in the world a butterfly sighs and flaps her wings.

Then, on the other side of the planet, a thunderstorm with high winds roars through our backyard, and a hollow tree comes crashing down.

We save a seven-foot length of the hollow tree, because it is beautiful and because it will make a good beehive. We position the hollow tree trunk in the middle of the field and CSB gets two pieces of glass cut to fit the top and the peephole/node where a branch once extended.

Then one of our hives upriver swarms and he brings the hive home in a nuc. The next day it swarms again onto the grape arbor.

CSB catches the swarm and installs it in the hollow tree. It’s not entirely clear if it will take to its new lodging.

It does not. A week later, this afternoon, the hive swarmed again. Such a peripatetic queen, such nomadic foragers. The bees clustered on a lower branch of the crabapple, conveniently for us, the swarm catchers. CSB carefully snipped off the branch and shook the bees into the nuc box. We noticed that, this third time around, the size of the swarm is yet smaller because they have not had a chance to settle down, lay some eggs and hatch new workers. So we sat on the damp grass and watched with rapt attention as the bees flew and walked into their new home. Some bees stood on the edge of the box and energetically beat their wings to broadcast the pheromones of their queen to all and sundry stray members of the hive, so that they should know where to come home to. It never ceases to amaze how well they know what to do, and how they do it, without a lot of discussion. (Discussion is what predominates chez nous.)
Now CSB has taken the nuc and its inhabitants to our apiary one town away, and then we will bring them back here in a week or so and try to install them – yet again – in the hollow trunk. We are nothing if not determined.

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