Swarm season has started in Valencia County, New Mexico, USA. Perhaps it is the warm weather. Perhaps it is the abundance of flowering trees and bushes. Bees are on the move.
A swarm starts when a bee colony feels overpopulated. Worker bees start rearing new queen larvae. Before they hatch, the old queen and about half the workers in the hive fill their stomachs with honey and fly off in a swarm. They seldom fly far before stopping to rest. Usually they find a branch of a tree to rest on, but it could be any surface. They hang from the branch in a large ball, about the size of a soccer ball. The queen is kept safe in the center. They seldom sting. They are too busy keeping together and protecting their queen.
I often wonder if they do not feel like the colonists felt as they headed off to the new world never to see Europe again.
Friday April, 10th, I was busy finishing my taxes when about 5 PM, my phone rang. A voice said, “I have a swarm of bees.” This homeowner had called the non-emergency number for our 911 emergency dispatcher to report the swarm in his yard. The dispatcher had told him to call me.
The problem is that I did not expect the first swarm for at least a week or more. My swarm collection box was still in storage. I had planned to get my swarm collection box organized after finishing my taxes (due April 15th). Usually the kit is ready for me to grab and go, but Friday I had to assemble things in a rush.
It was the simplest swarm I have ever collected. They were hanging from a low branch of a bush. I shook and brushed them into my swarm collection box. Once I was home with the bees, I installed them in a new hive box. Now there is a tenth hive of bees in my back yard, and they seem to be happy with their new accommodations.
If I had not captured the swarm, scouts from the swarm would have located a new home for the swarm. Perhaps a hollow tree, but far too often in our civilized society, swarms move into a hole in the wall of a building. They become pests.
Meanwhile, back at the old hive from which the swarm departed, the worker bees are waiting for a queen larva to hatch. The first queen to hatch destroys the unhatched larvae and ascends her throne. It will take 10 days to 2 weeks for strengthen her flying muscles, grow to her full size and mate. After that, her only task is to lay eggs, up to 2000 a day. The workers will feed her and groom her. Once the queen is laying eggs, the routine life of the hive goes on as they build up their numbers to full strength.
Bees do many things by instinct, but there are indications that much of their behavior is based on decisions. The bee colony is highly organized. Each bee has its assigned task, and they appear to work their way from one type of task to another.
I am inspired by the bees and will write an inspirational piece about them. I wonder if they think of the beekeeper as a god image. After all, the beekeeper gives them a secure hive, protects them, and treats their diseases. In the winter, he feeds them. Even in the summer, the beekeeper may put a feeder full of sugar water in the entry of a hive that is struggling. The swarm is comfortable in a new box with a feeder full of sugar water in the entrance while they get settled in.
The bees should worship their keeper, yet often they sting. That is the way some humans treat God, isn’t it. Good material for my essay.