Yesterday, we were planning to spend the afternoon sorting through kitchen cabinets – thrilling, I know.
We were in the kitchen and Mike looked out the window and saw an unusual number of bees flying around. Mike went out and discovered that one of our hives threw out a small swarm and they were landing on a redwood branch high above the garden.
It’s unusual for bees to swarm in August. Usually, if they’re going to swarm, they’ll do it in the late spring or earlier in the summer so they have time to build up a new hive before winter. We don’t really know why they swarm. Mike suspects that the hive made a new queen to go into winter, and the old queen swarmed with a small group of bees. But, we can never know for sure.
So, we frantically set about figuring out how to catch the swarm. Our friend, Summer, was here with some of his tree-pruning tools. We thought we might be able to lower the branch down low enough to shake the swarm into a box.
But, the branch was too high and we didn’t think we could bend it down far enough without risking it snapping.
So, we didn’t know what to do. All of our deliberating right underneath where the swarm was trying to congregate agitated it and it flew away. We thought we lost the swarm, which was sad. But, on the flip side, it was a very small cluster of bees that we would have had to feed constantly to get it built up and through the winter. We were kind of resigned to letting it fly off to it’s own fate.
But then, I was putting things away in the shed and heard very loud buzzing. I looked around and discovered the swarm had landed on a different tree, down lower where we could more easily try to catch it. I ran to find Mike and the ladder and we re-grouped. We set up a box to collect them and Mike tried to scoop the bees into the box with his hands. He was on a ladder and I was holding the box above my head – this is why there are no pictures of our swarm-catching adventure! That wasn’t working and the bees kept trying to fly back to their swarm cluster on the branch. We put the box on the ground and Mike sawed off the branch that the bees collected on. Having the bees and the box on the ground made it easier for us to get the majority of the cluster in the box.
We left the branch with the bees on the ground in front of the box so the stragglers could make their way back into the cluster.
After sunset, when all of the bees that were going to go into the box had gone in, we sealed it up so we could move it to the bee garden. We left it sealed up until morning because they were likely agitated after we moved the box and we didn’t want them flying out after sunset. Not to mention, we didn’t want to be stung by a swarm of agitated bees!
Early this morning, Mike checked them and found the small cluster inside of the box. He opened up the box and we put the branch that they landed on outside of the hive entrance to hopefully encourage the stragglers to go in. Now, we’ll leave them alone and wait and see what happens. Mike thinks we’re this swarm’s best shot of going through the winter because we’ll feed it after all of the bee forage is gone for the year.
Whew. We certainly didn’t expect to spend our afternoon chasing after a swarm of bees. We drove down to Capitola for a beer and dinner at Discretion. We looked at each other and laughed about how we don’t have a normal, modern life. Most of the time, I’m totally OK with that and enjoy the adventures of living in a funky old house in such an amazing place. But, I do sometimes dream about living in a hermetically-sealed condo.
In other news, tiny tree frogs have been invading our bathroom for the past few weeks. We don’t know how they’re getting in, but we suspect they’re somehow getting in through the plumbing. We catch them and put them back outside. Mike says we should start marking them to see exactly how many different frogs are coming in.
The garden continues to grow. It’s a much more well-controlled jungle this year. We’re getting a small, steady harvest of cherry tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers.
There are a lot of green tomatoes on the vines. Fingers crossed we have so many tomatoes we don’t know what to do with them come the end of the month.