Can there be a more delightful sight than a swarm of bees hanging from a suburban clothes line? Perhaps only the sight of your newly-captured swarm making a happy home in a handmade hive. Alex and I agree we could watch the bees fly in and out of the hive entrance all day long, and imagine what they are doing, discussing and debating inside its walls.
Yesterday I accompanied local beekeeping (and swarm-removing) enthusiast, Rei, in the safe recovery of a swarm that was hanging from a lady’s washing line – on her brand-new blue sweatpants no less. Rei showed me how to assemble a simple cardboard box with a frame of pure wax foundation inside to contain the swarm as it’s moved to another location. We rested the box on a garbage bin beneath the swarm and proceeded to “shake” the swarm into the box. Swarming bees are at their most docile (least likely to sting you) and quite happy to accept a new home. We left them in the box with a couple of entrances for the rest of the swarm to fly in. Then at sunset Alex and I returned to secure the box and drive back to the farm where our Warré hives are set up and ready. We used smoke to coax the last of the bees inside the box and taped all the entrances up (with plenty of breathing holes) before driving our with our boot-y of bees!
It was dark when we arrived at the hives. We worked in car headlights more clumsily than we would of liked – opening and tipping the cardboard bee box on the top of our hive using a spare comb box as a funnel for the bees to crawl down between the frames. In hindsight we should have prepared our smoker, and in a panic I got stung about five times on the hands because I was wearing gardening gloves instead of my leather ones and the bees were agitated at being shaken out into darkness. I haven’t been stung since I was a child and it was painful – like an intense swipe from a stinging nettle. Thankfully we got the stressed bees into the hive quickly and covered them overnight with a cotton cloth.
Alex returned the following morning (with the smoker lit) to check the swarm had accepted their new home and secure the quilt box and roof on top of the hive. He caught these beautiful photos.We will leave them undisturbed for two weeks before we check again – in the meantime we’ll enjoy the sight of our first farm animals – busy honey bees – flying in and out of their new home and happily “piping” their wings…