Saturday, 22 June 2013

Oh No! Not another swarm

I remember last year toying with a pun between swarm and 's warm.
You can see why I didn't use it.

My point is, on the warmest day of the year in 2012, our bees decided to swarm, having been determinedly building queen cells for a couple of weeks beforehand. This meant that our hive's strength was halved and our queen had gone to pastures new.
We were relying on the bees to successfully make themselves a new queen and hoping that our efforts to intervene and prevent the swarm occurrence had not harmed their chances of holding a new coronation.

As it was, we managed to come out of it with two colonies, though one failed to make it through the winter.

Well, the queen cells appeared again this year. This is a normal process when the colony is doing well and bursting to the brim. Sue took all the preventative measures necessary, splitting the colony, taking out frames of brood and honey to give the bees space and to keep them busy.

So, on Wednesday  just gone, the warmest day of the year and incredibly muggy, yes, you've guessed...

I came round the corned from the stables at about half past nine to see a giant buzzing cloud hanging over the pathway which leads down to the animals. I wanted to run and get the camera, but needed to try to follow our bees. Sue had briefed me what to do if I could capture the swarm, but at the moment I would be needing a rather large net.

I quickly stopped Don from riding his mower and together we watched as the mass moved slowly over my veg patch and into his orchard. I was hoping they might settle here, preferably low down so I could box them up, but they began to move high and to speed up, across the road, high over Don's trees and across the Settlement Field.

I pursued them helplessly, with my eyes on a small copse in the middle of the field. By now they were moving so quickly that I could not pick them up in the sky.
I knew that they had passed the copse when the herd of cows beyond were clearly perturbed by the insect invasion of their airspace.

And that was it. Gone. Not even a wave goodbye.

Typically, this had all happened on a day when Sue was due to be going away on a conference for three days, but she managed to get back at lunchtime and have a quick look at what was left. 
The bees that were left were angry. They had no queen and someone had opened up their hive.
This made my job as official photographer rather tricky. I had to zoom in from about fifteen yards, and even then I had to leg it several times as guard bees buzzed me persistently.

Why can't we have the type of bees which settle in a mass close to the hive for a while before heading further afield? Ours just seem to up and go.

Not for the first time, our bees clearly haven't read the same books as us.

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