Friday, January 27, 2012

The Bee Whisperer

I came home yesterday afternoon to discover my bedroom crawling with bees. They're gone now though and all that remains are a few bees on the floor with their toes curled up. 

Picture sourced from internet

When I wrote about extracting the first lot of honey from my dad’s hives I mentioned that if I ever kept bees, I would have to learn how to do various care-taker jobs such as capturing a swarm.  The people who keep bees along with my dad at the community garden have all had some experience in dealing with bees when they swarm and, when I heard the other afternoon that my dad’s bees had done just that, I was excited at the prospect of being involved in the capture! Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on which way you look at it), the bees had been magicked back into their box by the time we turned up the next morning.

But I needn't have worried about missing out on the action since it was brought right to me yesterday. We still don't know what happened to why they hopped back into the box on their own or why they randomly started dying in the air-conditioned comfort (we can spare the electricity bills for the bees only) of my room but hopefully our local beekeeper friend can sort it out for us. That's where all the [living] bees are now. 

*** Edit: Good intentions but negative impact - Dad actually froze the bees in the air-con  so, once they got out of the box, they couldn't move to warm themselves up enough to keep moving and consequently died... talk about a vicious positive feedback cycle. ***

According to the extremely reliable source of Wikipedia, swarming is how bee colonies reproduce in nature which usually occurs in the early summer, between September and December. It occurs when the old queen bee decides to take a whole lot of the bees (apparently about half) from the colony with her and bugger off. They then find a fence, tree or shrub nearby to hang onto until the worker bees find a permanent site for the swarm to move to and make their own new little colony. This effectively splits the original hive into two. 

... Apparently a swarm leaving the hive is a sight to behold, with thousands of bees buzzing as a cloud to drift away and reform again at their new temporary home. If they end up staying there, they’ll start building a new comb and attach to whatever the structure is onto which they are hanging.

Dad and his mate Fernando are actually going to register themselves as swarm-catchers (or something along those lines) so that they can help little old grannies who suddenly 'discover' year-old gigantic swarms in their backyard - true story. I'm not exactly sure what the attraction is when it comes to going out and angering a lot of bees but each to their own I suppose. I'll definitely be there to watch, though! 

Below, the first ever swarm-catching attempt by a couple of clueless idiots I unfortunately happen to be acquainted with. 

Trimming branches in order to access the swarm
Bringing the swarm down and putting them into the box

The swarm in their new home
(cartoon sourced from internet)
The cartoon probably isn't a very accurate representation of Dad and Fernando but, in my defence, they were stung a fair few times so they must have panicked somewhere along the line! 

- Matilda

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