If one day you have a nice conversation with your husband, and discuss the pros and cons of having one hive vs. two hives, and you decide that one hive suites you best; and if on that very same day, mother nature hands you a second hive, then you just shake your head and ask, “Where are we gonna put the second hive?”
Here’s what happened: I was getting ready to plant the peppers, and as I was swinging the hoe, I noticed there were a lot of bees around. I didn’t even have time to wonder about the increased number of bees when I heard them. I looked up and saw a 10 feet tall by 20 feet wide cloud of bees, and I was on the edge of it. Dropping the hoe, I ran as I called out, “Dale, something’s going on with the bees.” We watched from about 50 feet and wondered. We thought maybe they were just excited about the little tree in front of the mountain laurel. Was there some tiny flower that was bee crack, and they were having a rave? Was a new queen having her once-in-a-lifetime night of sex with all the boys? I went to get my camera, but it was out of batteries, and I’m sorry I didn’t grab my fancy phone. So my pictures start about an hour later when my camera was charged, the party was over and Dale went to investigate.
This is what he found. It’s hard to see through the mountain laurel, but they’re shaped like a bag of bees that’s two feet tall and one foot wide at the top.
Dale called bee-whisperer Phillip Garrison, and he said, “You’re a lucky man.” Normally when bees swarm, they land on a branch 30 feet up in a tree, and all a beekeeper can do is say good-bye. This swarm could be captured, and he told Dale how to do it. First, Dale sprayed them with sugar water. That kept them busy licking each other while he trimmed the mountain laurel.
Can you see the bee swarm? It’s just to the left of Dale’s head.
Then he put a half empty hive under the bag-o-bees.
Next was the big event. The goal is to shake the bees off the branch and into the hive. As long as the queen lands in the box, the other bees will follow, but if she’s still on the branch, the bees that fall into the box will ‘bounce’ back up to her. If that happens, you just wait until they settle back down and try again.
One last shot of sugar water.
Next Dale grabs the branch and gives it a big yank.
I took the picture on the left one minute after the shake, and I took the picture on the right four minutes after the shake.The number of bees in the box is increasing. The queen must be in the box. Success!!!
With the number of bees in the box increasing by the minute, Dale decides he needs to put the missing frames in the box before it’s even more crowded.
The beehive is designed to have the exact amount of space between the frames that the bees need. If you leave out a frame, you screw things up.
Dale uses the bee brush to gently move the bees out of his way.
He puts on the inner cover.
I don’t have a shot of him putting on the cover because one of the girls started buzzing around my head so I ran away. I should mention that Dale says the bees are their most docile when swarming. “When they’re aggressive it is because they’re guarding their home, but when they’re in a swarm, they don’t have a home.” He was right. No one got stung all day. Another interesting thing is that while all this was going on it was uncomfortable to be in the garage because it was full of beescouts looking for a good place to make a home. Later that evening the garage was clear, and most of the bees had entered the best home they could have wished for, all set up and move-in ready. The last step was to strap the hive together and move it to its permanent location.
In the last picture you can see how close everything is. The fence in the foreground is keeping my peppers safe – Yes, in-between picture taking, I got them planted. – and that mountain laurel is only about 30 feet from the hive.
We decided the new hive should sit right next to the other hive. They will undoubtedly fight a little, but just like my daughters, Monica and Leandra, they’ll just have to deal with it because at the end of the day they’re still sisters.