Thursday, June 26, 2014

Exciting Things in Nature, Part II

Sunday afternoon, when I got home from dropping E and Z at a friend's house, C met me at my car asking, "Did you get my message?" But my phone had died while I was at M's baseball game the night before and I hadn't bothered to bring it inside, let along plug it in to charge (I like to be left alone on the weekends--okay, all the time).

"Come check this out." He led me through the grass he had been cutting with the scythe, to our upper garden where the peas and asparagus grow, and there in a balsam fir growing next to Blueberry Tree, we beheld this:

A swarm of bees.

C, not a fan of stinging things, had noticed a lot of buzzing while he scythed and looked up to see a basketball-sized clump of bees hanging in the branches.

We wondered if they had escaped from a beekeeper nearby and if we should call someone to come get them. I remembered seeing on a nature program that bees are less aggressive when swarming. Or was it more aggressive?

Fortunately, C's phone was charged and he looked it up online and found out that:

-Bees are less aggressive when swarming, because they have no broods to protect (but if you do anything to piss them off, they'll give off the attack pheromone and you'll have 1000s of angry bees after you).

-Bees swarm very near their original hive (swarming is how colonies reproduce--the old queen leaves with a whole bunch of workers to start a new hive, leaving behind a larval or virgin queen to take over the old hive), which means we have a wild honeybee colony somewhere in our woods nearby.

-Between 20 and 50 scouts will fly out from the swarm, up to a kilometer away in search of a new hive location. When they return to the swarm, they do a dance, trying to convince the other bees of the superiority of their choice. When 80% of the scouts agree on a new site, the whole swarm will fly there and establish the new colony.

-The swarm will have moved to its new site from within a few hours to two or three days. If they don't establish a new colony in that time, they will have used up the honey they gorged on before they left and die.

Because the weather was projected to be nice as far as we could see into the future, and because we think it's really cool that we have wild bees surviving here, when so many domestic bees are in trouble, we decided to let nature take its course. C checked the swarm Monday morning, and the swarm was still there, but smaller (all huddled up to stay warm, perhaps?), but it was gone by the time he got home from work, with just a few dozen straggler bees in the area. I hope our bees found a nice, dry, ant-free hollow log somewhere not too far and are on their way to a healthy colony.


  1. I hope so, too. I love bees, but we do have to be careful here, because we have so many aggressive bees from the whole killer bee debacle. Do they reach as far as where you are?

  2. How fun! Often local beekeepers will be happy to come take a swarm off of your hands, too. At the beekeeping class I went to this winter, the teachers were like, "Call us anytime, day or night!" I think they really like free bees!

  3. Lone Star Ma--I haven't heard of killer bees around here. These ones seemed pretty mellow...just focused on staying alive and finding their new home.

    Meryl--We thought about calling a beekeeper, but we decided we liked the idea of wild bees. They weren't moving into our house or anything, and we're pretty far away from other people, so they weren't a nuisance. I hope none of our beekeeping friends will be mad at us!


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