Tuesday, June 10, 2014
The Politics of Bees
We are learning to become less distressed when one of our hives swarms. We have had two swarms in the last week, one from each hive, and B has caught both and set up new colonies. Sunday as we were grafting trees, I looked over at the garden and said "Oh no honey, there's a swarm!" It looked like a tornado of bees. They were all flying in crazy eight fashion and if you can see the small dark ball in the left side of the photo above, they were all catching the scent of and making their way to the queen that they chose to stay with.
You see, swarms are rarely total and many times as a result of there being a strong competing queen that has hatched. The hive simply does not have the ability to handle these two strong women, so one vacates, and a portion of the population follows. Just a little hive politics.
This was our giant Perone colony, and we know there to have been at least one large queen cell in development...it is still intact by the way, so there may be another swarm in the near future. We were lucky this time, because the branch was not as high up as the previous swarm and she chose a rather flimsy one that B could cut easily, and place directly into a retrofitted bankers box.
As when leaving the hive, where the queen goes, the others follow and they all ended up nicely in the box within about half an hour.
Ironically, B had just installed two bate hives up in trees in our yard to either catch our own swarms or others looking for a home. This group had not gotten so far as a permanent residence though and we used our last hive boxes to give them new digs.
We have set up housing for our most recent two hives on a different area of the property from the original two, and we hope this little colony takes on the attributes of the master across the yard and grows quickly.
So the positive way to look at your hives swarming, is that in many instances you have given home to robust colonies that are expanding in the ecosystem. With both the importance of and danger to our honeybees, even if we do not catch a swarm, we have let something good off into our environment.