Saturday offered a ton of work. We had bushes to plant, fences to move, potatoes to mound, weeds to pull, and branches to prune. The day was overcast, unseasonably humid, and we kept noticing bees all over the place, many more than usual. I got stung just for peeking in the mating nuc.
Late in the afternoon we were lugging garden tools up the steep path that runs past the swarm traps. A few bees were poking around the openings, but I’d seen bees examining the traps all week. I didn’t think more about it until I noticed one trap was attracting quite a following: a dozen or more bees were inspecting the real estate. Seriously, they carried little tape measures, clipboards, and paint swatches.
My husband suggested we check the hives to see if everything looked normal. As we walked I explained that if anyone was going to swarm, it would be the colony I was prepping for the glass-jar honey super. I’d already taken two splits to keep it from swarming, but nothing seemed to dissuade that bunch.
“Can you tell if they swarmed by looking?” he asked as we approached the hives.
“Probably not,” I said, “but if there is a swarm nearby I will hear it.”
I had barely finished that thought when I knew.
“Listen! Listen!” I said, turning in a circle and trying to pinpoint the sound. Sure enough, as soon as I knew where to look, I saw the bees. They were not hanging from a tree as I expected, but airborne, a mist floating toward the trap.
I ran back to the trap via a short-cut path through the woods. When I got there, I was alone, and for a moment I was unsure. Could I be wrong? Damn. I couldn’t be wrong.
Sure enough, they began to arrive. First just a few, then a dozen . . . a hundred . . . a thousand. The slow-moving column of bees, about 35 feet high and eight feet wide, began to condense on the trap like moisture on an icy glass.
I swear, there is nothing more exciting than a swarm of bees following your plan. The bees alighted on the trap until it was coated with them, dripping with them. Then, like water down a drain, they spiraled around the entrance hole and disappeared, slurped into darkness. Within a few minutes, every last bee was sucked down a hole in a paper mache flower pot hanging from an alder tree. How strange is that?
Stranger still is how they all fit. You could stand right under that trap and never know someone was insidelet alone thousands of someones. Honestly, honey bee magic never fades. Every single time I watch a swarm, it’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. Bar none.
But was that swarm the highlight of my beekeeping weekend? Not even close. . . .