As upset as I’d been about the loss of my first two bee colonies, I’d come to accept the empty hives as a trade-off for the arrival of my new dog Court in my life. I put a few drops of lemongrass oil in them on the off-chance a passing swarm would consider it a good incentive for moving in, but I didn’t have great hopes, especially this late in the season. In fact, I realized that two frogs were actually the ones who’d taken me up on my offer of free lodging and moved into one of the hives.
My friend Barb called me last Sunday. “Do you want a swarm?” she asked. “Because I’ve got one if you do.”
Sure enough, there was a giant clump of bees sitting on a conveniently small branch located at a conveniently reachable distance from the ground.
A snip of the pruners, a bemused buzzing as the colony landed in my Rubbermaid storage bin, and I was once again a beekeeper.
Paul and I dumped the whole population, branch and all, into a top bar hive. We waited a few days, then removed the branch. The colony was huge—much bigger than my first two—and bees were boiling up everywhere. I was terrified of accidentally squishing one, especially the queen, when I put the bars back, but if I can judge by their current vigor, they seem none the worse for the wear.
A few tentative scouts developed hummingbird aspirations yesterday when they found the feeder, and they spread the word; today the feeder was surrounded by a cloud of bees, much to the annoyance of the actual hummingbirds.
I figured I’d try to draw the bees off by putting out a bee feeder, in theory leaving the bird feeder to the birds, and I realized exactly how voracious this new colony is: They’ve already consumed almost two quarts in the space of a few hours.
I feel as guilty about feeding my bees sugar as I do when I feed it to my child, but on the other hand, an experienced beekeeper had recommended doing so in order to help the colony build their initial comb. They’d already gotten a good start when we opened the hive on Thursday—two large and a small comb of their own making, plus expansion on the previous bees’ comb. If they keep going at this rate, it won’t take them long to fill the hive.
As enthusiastic as these bees are, they ARE getting a late start—and they seem to know it, so desperately are they building—so I don’t know what their long term prospects are. Even so, I feel like my cup runneth over, with the Best Dog Ever, four chicks that all grew up to be hens rather than roosters, and a hive full of bees.
I’ll savor my Doctor Doolittle moments while I can.