Saturday, April 16, 2011

Scouting bees

Swarm season is nearly upon us. The earliest I've seen a swarm in previous years was May 3, but that doesn't mean there aren't any earlier than that. I went out walking today to scout out the neighborhood bee trees. I found eight trees with bees in them. Six appeared to be active hives. A couple had a little traffic, but I suspect they were dead hives being cleaned out by scavengers.
Lots of trees are in bloom. If you stand under them, you can hear that they are covered with hundreds of bees. They sound like a swarm. I'm not very good at identifying such trees. Could this be a crab apple? It smells good.
The grape hyacinth are just beginning to open up, too. If you wait with your camera pointed at any flower, pretty soon a girl will come along so you can take her picture.
This one has been filling her baskets with pollen. See that round yellow lump on her leg? It's not really a basket, but a concavity in the leg with a spiky hair in the middle, like a spindle. The bee mixes the pollen with spit and packs it around the spindle to carry it back to the hive.

I scout bee trees for a few reasons. I like knowing they're there, and they might cast a swarm. It is also a form of self-defense. If a neighbor complains about bees and points to my hive, I can point right back at the three bee trees on my block alone.

This actually happened today. A woman I didn't know walked by and asked about my hive, which she'd seen through the fence. I told her the bees had died, and she seemed surprised. "I assumed it was your bees mobbing my fountain!" Guess what? There are bees everywhere.


  1. I thought of you several times on Friday because I know you're eager to get your hands on a swarm. Here in the DC area Friday was a warm sunny dry (for a change) day, after a long string of colder wet days. A bunch of folks in my bee group -- about 100 beekeepers -- reported swarms and I learned that in this mid-Atlantic area mid-April is the classic swarm time. Can't get more mid-April than April 15!

    I love your neighbor story. Hoping to hear soon that a new family has moved into your hive.

  2. Lovely pictures. A friend in France had a huge lime tree and when it was in bloom the scent was amazing but also the sound of all the bees who loved it too

  3. There were tons out in my garden today :)