Saturday, June 04, 2011

Deb & Erik get their bees

Deb has been helping me document my experience with bees since nearly the beginning. She came along on my second swarm capture and was wowed by it. She also helped me with hive inspections and honey harvest. Now she's got her urban homestead with greenhouse and chickens. Of course she wanted bees, too!
She and her honey, Erik, had just finished up their beekeeping class with the folks when I called them with news of a swarm at the community gardens where a couple of friends have plots. Yay friends! We arranged to meet there at 6 a.m. – Deb and Erik with their brand-new bee jackets and me with my swarm gear.
The bees were clustered on a tree branch about 6 feet off the ground. Because it was early and cool, they were in a nice tight bunch.
The 6-foot ladder we had was a little too tall to hold the box with enough room for branch-shaking, and the 4-footer too short, so Deb opted to hold the box as Erik shook the branch.
And shook it some more.
Things started to go south after Deb set the box down and discovered that some bees had gotten into her sleeves and under her pants cuffs. She started to panic a little (can you blame her?), and got stung a couple of times on her ankle.

She and I walked far enough away that she could get the bees out, while Erik stayed and tried to herd more bees into the box, which he put on the taller ladder. But it wasn't strapped down. You can guess what happened.

When Deb and I got back, there were bees all over the sheets we'd laid out, but still quite a few in the box.
It seemed best to go have breakfast and let the bees sort themselves out. Which they did.

When we returned, the queen was in the box with the bulk of her court.
Erik gently wrapped the box in sheets and carried it to the car.
At home Erik shook the bees into their waiting hive. Now, nearly two weeks later, Deb reports that the bees have a goodly amount of comb built out and are active and happy.

I have video of the whole thing, but it's quite long, so Deb or I will need to edit it down, and I'll let them decide if they want to post it. (To Erik's credit, he did not swear when the box fell. At least not audibly!)


  1. Fascinating I'm getting hooked on this virtual beekeeping

  2. Yay! Congrats, Deb and Erik! I hope to get to taste some honey from your hives in a few months!

  3. Beautiful swarm! And an exciting story with a good ending. Congratulations to all involved. I can totally relate to the panic that happens when something goes wrong. This story makes me feel so much better about my decision to give away my hive last month. It reminds me that as fascinating as beekeeping can be, it does have its stressful side. But just today I contacted a nearby Franciscan Monastery where they have beehives. I'm hoping they can use some volunteer help. [By the way, my bees always went for the ankles too.]

  4. I just read this article on Gawker:

    and wanted to ask, do bees swarm in any available space?

    Like commenter Breezy, I am totally getting hooked on "virtual beekeeping." P.S. How are your most recent bees?

  5. Thanks, Breezy. Glad you like it!

    I hope so too, Manisha!

    Thanks, Pam. I'm really sorry about your bees, but constant stinging is no fun. I hope your monks come through!

    Steph, I just posted about the new bees. They seem to be doing OK so far.

    That mailbox swarm sure got a lot of attention! When bees swarm, the queen flies out of the hive and lands somewhere nearby, and all the departing workers land around her. But her choice of landing spot can seem pretty random. In any case, it's only a temporary spot, as the whole swarm will fly off once the scouts find a suitable place to live.