Most of the winter, the bees stayed in their hives. But, on warm days we would see them out and about, looking for pollen. Unfortunately, there was nothing for them to eat during the winter. That all changed this spring when flowers started to appear and they became very active.
Our beekeeper told us there was a possibility a couple of the more active hives might produce swarms. This is where the hive produces a new queen and the old queen is forced out along with a good portion of the bees in the hive. When this happens, they normally fly to a nearby resting place where most of the swarming bees stay with the queen while scouts are sent out to find a new home.
We were, therefore, not surprised when we found this in one of the peach trees a short distance from the hives.
It was an amazing sight and we immediately called the beekeeper. Her first words were "Tell me you don't have a swarm!". Ha! Spring is a busy time for beekeepers as the hives come out of hibernation and become active. At any rate, she came right over and prepared a small temporary hive in which to put the bees.
The hive is a small rectangular box.
Inside the box are frames containing wax cells to give the bees a starting point for their new home.
Once the new hive was prepared, it was time to put the bees in it. Fortunately, the swarm was not very high off the ground and was within easy reach. The bees were so distracted that she could touch the swarm without getting stung.
She held the temporary hive under the swarm and gently shook the branch.
Most of the bees fell right into the box in one big blob.
She had to make sure the queen dropped into the box with the swarm. As it turns out, there are ways to tell if the queen is in the box, other than actually seeing her. The main way is to look and see if there are bees at the entrance to the hive fanning their wings with their bottoms pointed up, like this.
They are releasing a pheromone to tell the other bees that the queen is there. Fanning their wings disperses the pheromone into the surrounding air.
A few of the bees kept going back to the branch because some of the queen's scent was left behind. The beekeeper used a brush to brush them into a container and "pour" them in the hive.
After she had captured as many as she could, she set another box on top of the first one and added a container of sugar water to it so the bees would have some nourishment to get them started in their new home.
Then she put a lid on top and bound the 2 boxes together with a strap. She said it was best to leave the new hive in place for a couple of weeks to let the bees get settled. Once they are settled in and she is sure they are not going to fly off to look for new quarters, then she will put them in a permanent hive, like the ones shown in the first picture.
It has been such a fun experience having the bees on our farm. I've been mowing around wildflowers and clumps of clover to give them more pollen sources. And, once we have tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash and other crops blooming, I know they will pay us back by pollinating those and boosting the amount of fruit and veggies we get.