hammock of honeybees
hanging from a honey locust
branch -- ignoring thorns
On my way to town, I spot my neighbor Alitza in her white beekeeping outfit, standing near her hives. I wave and she waves back, but with a "come here" kind of gesture, so I back up and stop by her black pickup truck. She says she's got a swarm in a honey locust tree. Do I have time to watch her capture it? Of course! I race back to the house for my Canon, attach the 70-300mm lens and change into white pants and shirt.
The swarm on the branch is fairly docile, but lots of bees are milling all around, so I stand back out of the way. Alitza sets up a stepladder under the branch and climbs up to inspect the swarm.
Then she sets the swarm capture box near the hive where this swarm came from. The bees in this hive were new, but she doesn't know why they swarmed. She's been feeding them with sugar water because there aren't enough flowers for foraging yet. But something made some of them unhappy. Maybe they thought there was honey in the honey locust tree. There are still many bees in the old hive, so the ones who swarmed must have a new queen. Luckily they didn't swarm very far.
Slowly, carefully, Alitza trims away some of the branches from around the swarm. The bucket is to catch the swarm once the main branch is cut. At one point she has to stop to remove the long, sharp thorns that have gotten stuck in her veil and shirt. With my telephoto lens, I can see the bees piling up in a cone around one of the stiletto thorns sticking up from the middle of the swarm.
Finally she makes the last cut through the branch that holds the swarm.
The bucket was to catch the swarm once the branch was cut, but she doesn't have to use it. Holding the end of the branch with the swarm intact, she slowly descends the ladder.
And carries the swarm over to the swarm box.
It's a bit of a squeeze to get the branch into the box.
Gently she shakes the branch to dislodge the remaining bees. She hopes she got the queen.
Next she inserts four frames into the swarm box so the bees will have something to settle onto.
The covered swarm box, showing the hole where the bees can go in and out, sits on top of the old hive, which also has many bees congregating around its door.
After the bees in the swarm box have settled down, she transfers the four frames into a new hive, already loaded with more frames. The new hive sits a little ways away from the other hives, on the east side of a cedar tree. It's an easy way to get a new hive, she says. Hopefully, they'll stay put.