bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Mating swarm or an aborted swarm?

At lunchtime today I was treated to a beautiful site. I have a little mating nucleus in the garden and as I was making lunch, I noticed a lot of activity at the entrance to the hive. I sat outside to watch it and as I did so the air filled with bees.

Getting ready for some action. Posted by Picasa

One elderly deaf cat oblivious to the excitement around her as the air filled with bees. Posted by Picasa

It looked just like a swarm developing, but they were taking a long time to settle -- first around a birch tree in the next door garden and then around a yew tree in my garden where they even formed a cluster. After about 20 minutes they all seemed to return to the hive.

Air thick with swarming bees. Posted by Picasa

It was a treat -- but I'm not sure if it was an aborted swarm headed by a virgin who somehow got lost, or whether this was a rare sighting of a mating swarm. The little cluster on the yew tree suggested the former, but I really don't know. It's the first time in eleven years' beekeeping that I've been able to watch the whole process.

Calling everyone back to the hive -- bums up waving their nasinov glands in the air. Posted by Picasa

But that wasn't the end of it. A blackbird flew into the top of the yew, but departed rapidly when she saw who else was there. I think she has a nest in the tree. And then I saw a tiny blackbird perched and shivering on the little compost bucket outside the kitchen. I think it had been frightened out of the yew by the bees. I think the little chap/ess eventually found his or her mother before my elderly cat found it. Truly a story of the birds and the bees.

The little evicted blackbird waiting for mummy. Posted by Picasa

UPDATE 28 June: It was a swarm. And they've gone. At 9.45am this morning, they started swarming again, but this time they left the garden and went several gardens away where I can't reach them. So it must be a caste swarm headed up by a virgin queen. I doubt if they will survive the season.

But that will teach me for saying just a couple of days ago that there were no swarms in this area this year because a certain beekeeper had given up!

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Blogger Cat said...

Excellent story and pix too!

10:28 pm  

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