A "BEE"sy Day Swarming with Adventure! (A Bee In Her Bonnet)

Photo courtesy of this link

Yesterday started out just like any other Sunday.  I rolled out of bed a few minutes late (after all, it is suppose to be a day of rest) and headed for the barnyard to milk.  When the chores were finished I showered and got ready for the day.  Our typical Sunday includes services at our church, hanging around afterwards to visit with friends we have not seen all week, and then out to eat.  (Mike usually takes me out to eat on Sundays giving me a break from the kitchen for one day.)  We had included plans to drive to a friend's house (who lives in the next county over the mountain) to borrow a "kicker" to use on Shar while we milk her for a few days until she gets back into the routine.  (I didn't milk her much last year as a first calf heifer, choosing rather to leave her calf on her for an extended period to nurse.  Since she didn't have a lot of milk, this was not an issue to her udder health.  However, she has a good bit of milk now and her calf is not taking it all and we need to get her milked out on a regular basis, thus the need for the kicker until she starts behaving herself.) 

After church we were on our way to the restaurant when Mike received a call on his cell phone.  From my perspective sitting next to him and hearing only Mike's part of the conversation, it went something like this:

"Well, we don't actually own bees.  There are some abandoned boxes left at the farm from early years when someone had bees there and let them die out because they took all the honey and then didn't feed them."

"My wife has been wanting to get bees, but I don't know.  I will have to talk to her."

"OK, I will call you back if she is interested.  Let me talk to her."

After Mike ended the call, he told me that a man in the subdivision down the road from the farm had a swarm of bees in the elderly neighbors yard.  The neighbors are frequently away and the man phoning us keeps the place for them while they are away.  The bees were a concern and they wanted to know if we would come and get them.

 I have been wanting bees for a number of years now but I simply have not had the time to invest in learning how to care for them.  I even ordered a book but have not yet had a chance to read it.  I checked into classes at one time, but couldn't find any classes in the area that were being offered (although I have since learned that the community college does offer bee keeping classes from time to time).  To say that I am totally ignorant of bee keeping is absolutely correct.  I know nothing about bees other than the fact I enjoy honey tremendously!

We ordered and ate lunch and during that time I posted on my personal facebook page about the swarm of bees and asked for friends who were beekeepers to give me advice on catching the swarm.  A Facebook crash course in catching a swarm of bees began. When Mike and I  finished lunch, we headed on over to get the kicker, fully aware that by the time we returned, the swarm might have moved on. 

While chatting with our friends in Nelson County and discussing some very simple basics in bee care, my friend Marion offered to let me borrow her bee suit for protection in case we decided to catch the swarm.  I declined at first but when she insisted it would be fine, I went ahead a borrowed the suit.  I was sure by the time we got back to our county, the bees would be gone.

Instead of going home first, we headed down to the subdivision where the bees were swarming and I took a photo of them hanging on the branches of a cedar tree.  They were eally impressive and I knew then I wanted to try to get them, but was a bit unsure how to do it as we only had one bee suit and we really needed two people to accomplish the job.

There were three men with me and all three adamantly said they were not getting anywhere near the bees and they joked about video taping the incident so they could submit it to America's Funniest Home Videos anticipating I would make a complete fool of myself trying to capture the bees.  Someone remarked that "chivalry" was dead and we all laughed. 

I still kind of held back when we went to the farm to clean up a box as  a home for the bees once they were captured.  I was thinking about how to capture the bees by myself and Mike was trying to think of a way to lure the bees to a box without actually capturing the hive.  I was afraid the "luring" would never work and I wanted that swarm, so I decided to go for it no matter what.  I had to go home and change out of my denim skirt and put on a pair of pants and some shoes (other than sandals).  Then, I grabbed the bee suit, a cardboard box, and some tape.  I met all the men back at the cedar tree where the swarm remained waiting for me. 

I was going to attempt to climb a ladder, hold the box while cutting the limbs and catch the swarm when it dropped.  However, Mike soon felt sorry for me, convinced that I would fall off the ladder while trying to hold the box and cut the limb. He decided that he would help.  (Chivalry is not dead!)  He put on borrowed Carhartts and a straw hat.  If we weren't a sight in our "costumes" getting ready to capture the swarm!

Mike and I don't always communicate well what steps we are going to take once we get involved in a project.  Often that leaves me scrambling to try to figure out what we are going to do next, something I didn't think we could chance with this venture, so I started telling him how we were going to do this.  ( I am the oldest of four siblings and can be the bossy take charge type when need be, although I don't like that role at all.)  I instructed that we would cut the smaller branches under the swarm first giving me an area to hold the box directly under the bees.  Then, Mike would cut the two branches allowing the swarm to drop into the cardboard box.  At this point, Mike would move out of the "danger zone" and allow me to close the top to the box and seal it with duct tape. 

Before we quite got started, I realized that we would also need to actually trim the end of the branch on which the bees had swarmed in order for it to fit into the box I would be holding.  Mike was an absolute trooper!  His face and hands were exposed but he went in and cut the end off the branch with the swarm and then trimmed the branches underneath.  He hesitated at this point and I remember saying, "Come on!  Let's do this!"


The swarm was now hanging on one branch.


The second branch was cut and the swarm of bees fell right into my hands, and lay in the bottom of the cardboard box.

What an exhilarating feeling to hold that swarm in that box but I didn't have time to contemplate what had just happened because I had to get the box closed and the tape on the box before the bees escaped, or worse, became agitated and angry.

I walked away from the tree with bees buzzing around my face and body and set the box down lightly on the ground.  I realized then the branch was still too big and the top would not shut.   I asked Mike to hand me the pruning shears but instead he stepped in and cut the branch himself and then stepped back.  I shoved the branch down in the box and closed the lid (with bees flying around me) and taped it shut.  I then took my box of bees and put them in the back of the truck and headed back to the farm with them.

We let the bees set for a few minutes under a shade tree in the back of the truck while Mike helped me put the bee box back together and while two of my beekeeping friends coached me by phone.  After the bees had settled and the box was in position with sugar water in place for the bees to eat, I put the bee suit on again and dumped the swarm into their new home putting the lid firmly on the hive!

We have no guarantees that the bees will stay or that they will survive, but we are hoping the bees like their new home and do well.  The whole experience was fascinating and I am thankful for the opportunity for the Sweet Sunday blessing !  (My husband is the best!  I couldn't have done it without him!)

Hard to see but a huge swarm in the tree.  Photo taken with my phone.

Bees new home!


Unknown said...

What a great story, Tammy! You and Mike were quite the team!

Anonymous said...

I think that is an amazing Sunday adventure! Yay to everyone!

WeldrBrat said...

Oh, my gosh! This has been my week for Bee stories! We've found a swarm inside a dead tree by our driveway. Had a Beekeeper come by on Saturday. Plan is cutting down the tree to get the swarm, and I'll try getting photos. But I am sooo hoping your first experience turns out to have a really great survival! You worked hard enough to earn that, at the very least! Amazing!!!

Hannah said...

How interesting! It seems I'm seeing something about bees everywhere nowadays, as my brother has just gotten into beekeeping as well. We are looking forward to the honey from his hives!

Deb said...

Oh my, Galen would LOVE to have some bees...maybe on our next farm. I however, would not be brave enough to have done what you did! LOL