I wasn’t surprised when I looked out our basement window a few days ago and saw little dark objects swirling around our apple tree. At first, it was just a few, but soon the air was teeming with madly circling flecks.
My eyesight wasn’t keen enough identify them visually, but I knew what they were.
The older colony, the one I hadn’t thought would survive the winter, had grown so robust that their old queen was leading half her subjects out to find a new home. The bees had been telling me of their intentions for several days–the sides of the hive were coated with bees biding their time until they received their marching orders–but I hadn’t listened to them. After all, Paul and I had removed several combs of honey, so there was more building space in the hive for them. Surely, that would satisfy them and surely, the bees were just loitering outside the hive to partake of the cool evening air.
I cursed myself for being willfully ignorant. I didn’t have a third hive to house them, and I was worried about their prospects in the wild. While it was very considerate of the bees to wait until my day off to go swarming away, not to mention to settle in a fairly low branch, now I had to figure out what to do with them.
Hoping against hope, I called Barb, a fellow beekeeper. She was the one who had given me this colony of bees last year–they had been a swarm thrown from one of her colonies. I didn’t know if she would be interested in taking on another colony, or if she would have a hive available to house them, but I figured it would be worth a try.
I was in luck. She and her family were home that day, and she’d recently purchased several bee boxes from a retired beekeeper. She came with her family, plopped the bees into a Rubbermaid tote–just as Paul and I had done last year when we were the ones coming to pick up her swarm–and voila: The bees had a home. (Thanks, Barb!)
I wondered if the queen at the center of that pulsing mass of bees was the same one who’d led the original swarm out and come to live with me; after all, when a colony swarms, a new queen emerges to take over, and the old queen leaves with the migrant bees.
I didn’t see her, so I can’t know for sure, but I like to think that the queen has come full circle.