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Trying to take care of my little piece of the planet

Bees – Yes. Beekeeper – No.

All day I’ve felt like Chuck Connors after they cup his epaulets off in the opening scenes of each episode of ‘Branded’. Not worthy of the title. Well, OK, over the top. But I flunked ‘Beekeeping 101’ today. Twice.

I mentioned earlier that I intended to split my colony of bees into two hives last weekend but the weather was too grumpy. I should have anyway. I took today off for that express purpose, despite a busy day job schedule, because the weather finally looked better and there was a gap in the work stuff. Apparently the bees agreed that the weather was fine. As I was walking to the hive with all the gear, I thought: ‘they’re certainly louder than usual’.

Well, duh. That’s because 20,000 of them are heading to that watermelon-sized cluster eight feet up in the pine tree……

Yeah. A swarm.

So, I flunk basic beekeeping once – preempting the swarm is pretty rudimentary stuff and I blew it. But now I have a chance to really earn my beekeeping merit badge by capturing the swarm in the hive body I had prepared to split the colony. So I scramble around, calling in to some experienced beekeepers for advice and re-reading the ‘capturing the swarm’ section.

Then I hustle back out a full ten minutes later, ready for my trial by fire, to find….an empty branch.

After an hour of searching, no sign of the swarm.

Yeah, I still have a colony of bees in the original hive that may re-queen and survive. But they clearly don’t have a beekeeper. Just some guy who plays at keeping bees.

6 Responses to “Bees – Yes. Beekeeper – No.”

  1. WOW!!!!! You are a better and braver man than I. Love honey, but bees scare the crud out of me.


  2. Did you ever find them? Where would they go/

  3. Alan,

    Thanks for the compliment but neither apply. I admit that working with bees makes me nervous, and is a major factor in why I’m such a poor beekeeper. (The other factor is that bees for me are just a part of the package – pollinators and honey-providers, rather than an end in themselves.) But were I more comfortable in handling them, then I’d probably spend more time with them. As for the swarm itself, I trust the real beekeepers who maintain that the bees are in their most docile state when swarming. It was true this time.

    I just wish that I had moved faster, before they moved from their very temporary location. Despite an hour of looking, I failed to find where the scouts had suggested they move to. I feel bad for the girls since the temp dropped twenty degrees and the wind has blown pretty hard the last couple of nights. I hope they’re OK.

  4. […] 15Apr08 As if a bee swarm itself weren’t enough to turn a day bad, Jack from the Self-Sufficient Steward experienced a double-whammy this week. So, I flunk basic beekeeping once – preempting the swarm is […]

  5. When I was young my father tried his hand at bee keeping for a few years. He eventually gave it up due to not having enough time to manage the hive.

    One day he saw that the hive was swarming, with a huge clump of bees around a limb like in your picture. While my dad waited on the ground with a gunny sack to capture the bulk of the swarm, and more importantly the new queen bee, it was my job to climb the tree and cut off the small limb. My father had told me that bees don’t sting when they are swarming, and he was right – I didn’t get any stings though they were all around and on me. Unfortunately my sawing on the limb shook apart the swarm, and my father wasn’t able to capture a bulk of the bees and the queen before the swarm headed off to places unknown.

    So I can emphasize with your missed opportunity. Hopefully you have some great crops in your area whose pollen will create some wonderfully tasty honey.

  6. Many thanks for the best wishes and the story. Despite the loss of the swarm, the colony seems healthy and we have more bees pollinating our clover, squash, tomatoes, sunflowers, etc. than I remember seeing in past years.

    I do need to get back in the hive and collect honey, etc.

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