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Sunday, June 15, 2008

What to do when the bees swarm

John and I were working in the greenhouse when Maddie and Alyson start yelling out the window, "Mom! Your bees are freaking out!" This could mean any number of things, but we both ran up to the front yard to see what was happening. The entire front yard was one big swarm of bees.

I'm not sure if you can see it in this picture, but if you look closely, you can see bees everywhere. Possibly, if you click on the picture you will get a closer look at it.

The first thing I can think of is to call Kino. It didn't take him long to show up with all his bee gear.

By this time, the swarm had collected on a pine tree branch about 12 feet high. Our first hurdle was the ladder we had was only 8 feet tall. Kino did not see this as a hurdle. He was determined to get that swarm and didn't care that he was going to have to stand on top of an 8 foot ladder and reach up to the large bundle of hanging bees. John and I were eyeing each other, thinking, "how in the hell are we going to tell him we can't let him do this?" The man is in his 80's and having him fall off an 8 foot ladder was not my idea of a good time. It didn't take long for us to realize there was no talking Kino out of this - he was going up the ladder whether we liked it or not.

Here are a few photos of the process with a few cute ones of me in my bee hat thrown in just for fun. John thinks the bee suit is hot, so he always takes pictures of me in it. Yes, his definition of 'hot' is not quite the same as the rest of us.

The first step was to spray down the swarm with water. Kino told us, this makes the swarm think it is raining and keeps them from flying around due to the fact they are trying to keep the queen from getting wet. Their main mission is to protect the queen at all costs......kind of like with me at our house, uh-huh, right.

While he was spraying down the bees, we were instructed to paint the inside of the cardboard box with sugar syrup. This would attract the bees and hopefully make them want to stay inside the box. Kino heads up on the ladder and we all stand below and hold our breath not having any idea what to expect. Everyone had an escape route already scoped out, just in case.

More pictures of Kino doing the prep work.

Kino needed some kind of hook to pull down the branch the bees were on so he could give the branch a good shake and knock the bees into the cardboard box. Yes, I agree, this is insane, but he knows what he's doing, I guess, so we all just followed along like sheep in a herd. We didn't have a hook, but my trusty husband came up with a ski pole. Better than nothing, I guess and Kino didn't seem to mind using it. So, here we go.

There are no actual pictures of him shaking the swarm into the box, mainly because we were all freaking out and not thinking of taking pictures, just mostly thinking about how we weren't going to get stung.

In the last picture, hopefully you can see all the bees flying through the air, desperately looking for their beloved queen that we had trapped in a cardboard box.

You'll have to forgive the video quality. There is a lot of shaking around and again, due to the excitement, the actual shaking of the swarm caused us to jump around and not get a very good shot of it, but you will be able to tell that's what's going on and will be able to hear all the bees buzzing around us - so you'll get the idea.

Please forgive my big mouth in the video. I talk loudly, especially in high stress situations like my 80+ year old friend standing on top of an 8 foot ladder shaking a bee swarm into a cardboard box.

Bee Swarm from Angie on Vimeo.

The happy ending to the story is we saved the swarm and now we have 2 healthy bee hives happily making lots and lots of honey for us. What we learned from Kino through this whole process was worth every minute of the fear of getting stung. Doesn't everyone need someone like Kino in their lives? He is awesome.

**UPDATE - I neglected to say why the bees swarmed in the first place! When hives are healthy and do a great job of reproducing, they get too big for their hive. This is what happened to mine. Once the bees start to feel crowded, they start making a second queen. Once that new queen emerges, she will take off in search of a new hive and half the colony will follow her.

This was a beekeeping mistake on my part. I did not pay close enough attention to the hive to see they were getting crowded. If I had, I could have added a new deep hive body to the top of the hive and given them more space to move up in to.

Learning things the hard way seems to be the only way I know and this is just one more example!

Thanks for the comments and interest in our bees.


Erikka said...

what caused the bees to go crazy though?

what an adventure! are you prepared to do this yourself the next time? :)

Madeline said...

OMG! That was riveting. I didn't think you were as loud of a mouth as I would have been. I would indeed love to have a Kino in my life. This has given me some good new fodder for my bee novel. Off to write. Thank you Angie! I guess they swarmed because there were two queens, right?

Lynda said...

Sounds like Kino needs a lot of free, home-cooked dinners and special attention. You're right - we all need a Kino in our lives. Congrats on getting those bees settled!

Mrs. G. said...

John is right. You are one hawt bee keeper. I can't wait to go home and watch the video.

Sarah said...

I'm glad you were able to secure them!!

And I like to learn things the hard way too :D

Ang said...

WOW- seriously interesting and entertaining, not to mention scary!! Holy Cow! I don't mind bees but a swarm?? YIKES! Yay for Kino and that you guys were able to rescue and provide them a second hive! Great work!

jenny said...

holy moly! that is craziness! thanks for the post - it was entertaining (from this side of things)! :)

Kat said...

This was awesome! My kid & I just sat here and watched the video.
You said: "He probably wants me to just shut up." and your daughter said, "yeah, probably." That was so funny. Kino rocks! He sounds a little bit like Yoda too, which makes him even better. =)

Danielle said...

Oh my! I loved the video, and yes, you are too funny with all your fretting. I can't imagine having an 80 yo bee keeper up on a ladder like that! I'd be fretting right along with you!

Amy said...

This is probably why I shouldn't try my hand at beekeeping. I suspect my kids would be in a permanent state of freakout.

Country Girl said...

OMG...quite a story! Brave man Kino is!