My husband and I used to be beekeepers. About 5 years ago we decided to hang it up for a while. As a two business household, we found ourselves increasingly busy, and knew we were going to have to choose to let a few things go. A man made us a good offer for all of our equipment, so we decided to take him up on it and sold it all except for a bee suit and a smoker. For some reason, my husband couldn’t part with the suit and smoker.
This spring a colony of bees set up housekeeping in a burn pile on the edge of our property. Because of the drought this summer, we haven’t been able to burn the pile. My husband figured he would get into it this winter and remove the honey before we burned the pile in the spring. It’s one of those locations that doesn’t offer a way to save the hive.
Today we were treated to a sight that had us yearning for our beekeeping days. The colony in the burn pile decided to swarm and settled on a branch in a nearby mulberry tree.
Normally, swarm season here in Indiana is during May and June. We were a little surprised to see a young, newly formed colony swarming in July, especially considering the drought and how little forage has been available. I called another beekeeper I know to see if he wanted to come catch the swarm, but he wasn’t available, so the swarm is most likely going to fly away over the next few days and set up housekeeping elsewhere.
I guess this is going to make my husband’s job of removing the honey from the burn pile a little easier. Swarming is basically a part of bee sex, and one of the ways they propagate. For a number of reasons a hive will decide it needs to form a new colony, so it will raise a few new queens. Prior to swarming, a bunch of worker bees will gorge themselves on honey to take with them to their new home. Once gorged on honey they will leave the hive, usually settling somewhere nearby while they wait for scouts to direct them to their new location.
This swarm may leave right away, they may stay on this branch for a couple of days, and in rare cases they may even begin building comb right there on the branch. One of the reasons it was so easy to get in close to take these pictures is due to the bees being gorged on honey. In this gorged state, their flight is slow and lazy, and they are very mild mannered. They are incredibly intent on the task at hand, very non-aggressive, and not inclined to sting.