Seeing how I’m planning on picking up 2 packages (that would be “colonies” to you, ahem, non apiarists 😉 of bees this coming Saturday, I thought it’d be a good thing to take Mr. Carrier’s “Beekeeping for Beginners” class that was being held last Saturday. (Btw, of course you remember that his website – http://www.carriersbees – is the cat’s meow for Silicon Valley Beekeepers, right?)
Anyway, I showed up at his place at the crack of 10AM and joined another 8 or so folks in his living room to talk about the lives and caretaking of the little buggers. Not long in to our discussion, it was time to watch a PBS-produced video on bees. Not too long in to the video, there appeared to be a swarm of bees forming in Mr. C’s front yard… so we put the video on hold and watched him head out front to check things out.
Sure enough, there were a bajillion bees flying in the yard… and a HUGE ball of them formed around several branches of his almond tree. So what’s Mr. C do? He places a “bee box” (cardboard box with the bottom duct-taped to prevent bees from escaping) under the huge ball of bees on the branch, then grabs a 3-pronged hoe and violently yanks the bee-branch down hard several times. This causes many of the bees to fall – WHUMP! – to the ground, in and around the box.
Bees – by the tens of thousands (!!!) – crawling and flying around so thick if you opened your mouth you’d probably swallow a handful in a second.
As if that wasn’t enough, Mr. C repeats the process 3 or 4 times in rapid succession… pretty soon, he’s got a pretty good box ‘o bees going.
By now, most of us brave souls have put on our bee-jammies and gone outside to watch the action up close. Now, to be clear, when honeybees swarm, they’re actually migrating to a new location. To survive such an excursion, nature has told them to gorge on honey before leaving their hive / home… so by the time they form up on the tree (which is their way of protecting their Queen and the only reason they exist), they’re just stuffed and want to rest… in other words, they’re extremely passive to humans and other living things.
Anyway, after watching the swarm begin to settle in to the box, we head back in to watch a bit more video; eventually we suit up and head out to his hives to have him walk us through basic hive / brood / colony maintenance. As we’re wrapping up that session, what should happen but yet another swarm began to form in his front yard. (Man, what’saguygottadotogetabreak aroundhere,anyway?) So we got another box while he yanked them down from the tree / branch (same tree, same branch, btw). In 10 minutes they’d all settled into the box, so Mr. C removed the (now empty) observation hive from his “showroom” and repopulated it with the new, “wild” swarm bees.
With 2 swarms in-hand and the class winding down, we called it a day and left Mr. C to populate a new hive with the 1st swarm of the day… the pics you see here are of that swarm. It’s just a guess on my part, but I’m betting there are somewhere between 80-100k bees in that box – notice how their weight is causing the side / top to collapse.
Everyone loved the class and especially enjoyed the multiple swarm activities.