“A Swarm in May is worth a load of hay; a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon; but a swarm in July is not worth a fly” – weird old proverb
May just flew by! All sorts of fantastic things have been happening and I’ve had barely any time to write!
So what’s got me all abuzz? Swarm season.
For those of you who have no idea what I’m rambling about, here’s a quick bee-ology lesson:
During the Spring and Summer, most of the plants and animals of the world get down for some reproducing. Bees are no exception – except that bee colonies are a super organism. You can think of a super organism as functioning as a unit, even though it is comprised of many individual organisms. Like each bee is a cell in the body of the colony. So yeah, new bees are born and old ones die every day, but the colony itself can continue for a long time, but this is pretty limited reproduction. The real reproduction happens during a phenomena called swarming, where the colonies themselves split off and form baby colonies.
When a colony loves itself very much, the worker bees will make queen cups, which are funny little cup shaped cells, which will be built into queen cells once an egg is laid inside. When the little queens are capped and a few days from hatching, the old queen will pack up her stuff, along with all of her closest friends (approximately half of the colony) and flies off in search of a new home, leaving the unborn queens to hatch, fight each other to the death, and eventually the survivor will rule the colony.
SCIENCE FACT: The queen does not really pack up any stuff – she’s a bee, she doesn’t have any stuff. Though she may have a nice meal of honey before she goes.
When the old queen leaves with her entourage, they usually find a nice spot to hang out while they figure out where they are going. They form a cluster around the queen and wait while scouts go out and look for nice new homes. The scouts come home and basically have a dance off to decide where their new home should be. Once the dance off is won, they all fly off to their new digs.
So all this is well and good… but what happens when the queen and her posse choose a super inconvenient spot, like someone’s garage, or this guys face, to move to?
Well, often times people freak out. There’s no need for that though, because the world is filled with beekeepers like me, who will drop everything and rush over to catch a swarm of bees. This is a great set up, because I get more bees, the homeowners get less bees (which seems silly, but some people prefer it that way). And occasionally, I make a few bucks as well. Yay supporting your local beekeepers!
So over the last month, I’ve been doing as many of these call as I can. I’ve had several near misses, a few sticky ordeals and two very successful catches. The first was in early may, my partner and I caught a swarm in a tree from a lovely home is West Philly, (these bees are now my best colony!). In case you’re wondering how this works, you pretty much just take a cardboard box, hold it under the bees, and then shake them into the box. Like so:
The other successful removal was about two weeks ago, and required a full on cut-out, meaning the bees were living in a guy’s roof, so we had to cut a hole in his house and scoop them out, bees, comb, and all. This took several hours, and sadly, due to a damaged SD card I have no photographic evidence that it ever actually happened… but I do have a strong new colony with a beautiful young queen, so at least there’s that.
Oh, and remember how a few paragraphs ago I was all “my partner and I…” well that’s because I have a partner now. He’s a beekeeper and an amazing woodworker (and a total hottie), and you can check out all of his awesome work Here: TW Design Shop
Well what’s this partner for? You ask? It’s very exciting stuff. We are starting a proper apiary, which means a lot more bees, and eventually it means I will be a full-time beekeeper. Keep your fingers crossed for me! Oh, we are also trying to name the apiary, so far the only idea we have is “Honey Badger Bee Co.” but we’re totally wishy washy on that one. If anyone has better idea, there’s a jar of honey in it for you.