For swarm prevention, I had done everything by the book. I had reversed brood boxes, re-queened, cut swarm cells, split hives, and provided extra supers. Still, since I had come through winter with large populations of clamorous bees, I was expecting swarms.
But bees were not on my mind Monday morning when I headed outside to trim some branches. Halfway through the door I stopped short: the air was full of bees. A full-blown swarm commanded the entire front yard—darting, swirling and dashing in every direction.
To my left I could see the top-bar hive belching bees like a steam locomotive. Clouds of bees spewed through the holes as if they were under pressure. Less than three weeks earlier I had split this hive and taken the queen, assuming they would recover on their own. Apparently, they had.
Mesmerized, I dropped the pruners and walked into the swarm. Bees bounced off my face and arms, thumped into my shirt, and grazed my hair. Like bumper cars, they crashed and changed course. No retribution. No stings. Swarming bees are so damn lovable.
The air was heavy with their bodies. I could smell the humidness of them. Like a kid playing in snowflakes, I extended my arms to the side, looked to the sky and twirled in a circle, flying with the bees. Up to the heavens, down to the ground, the whole compass around, bees were everywhere. Although no one wants to lose a swarm, once it’s airborne, you may as well enjoy it.
Suddenly, the swarm did something I’d never seen before. It split. Like the Red Sea, it parted in two. As in an intricate dance where the Corps de Ballet suddenly sorts itself out, each bee seemed to know exactly where to go. With choreographic precision, one group headed back to the hive. The other hovered around a tall Leyland cypress next to the driveway.
I could tell they would coalesce in the cypress, but it was several minutes before I saw a knot forming on one of the highest branches. First the size of a walnut, it soon grew into a baseball, and then a loaf of bread. What had been a frenzy only moments before was now an orderly structure, each bee hanging on another, the whole gently swaying on the summer breeze.
My camera, I remembered, was in the shed, so I corned the house to get it. But as I entered the backyard I heard an all-too-familiar sound. I couldn’t believe it. Two swarms within five minutes? Really? But there could be no doubt. I followed the cacophony up the hill.
To be continued . . .