Archives for posts with tag: swarm

The morning after placing my hive, I spoke with my friend the beekeeper. There was activity in and out of the hive and she recommended that I carefully remove one side of the entrance reducer we had fashioned out of cardboard the night before. I cautiously slid it out only to find that bees were hiding in the flaps. I tried to encourage them gently out of the way, but apparently I wasn’t as gentle as I’d thought. As I’m on the phone with my friend, I suddenly experienced an extreme burning sensation in my lower arm and called out, “It’s stinging me; it’s stinging me” like a lunatic only to look down to see a bee attempting to escape while some of its innards remain in my arm. I was only wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants, not appropriately garbed for working my bees, and was surprised to be stung because didn’t they know I was trying to help them. Well, of course they didn’t know that; the bee that stung only knew that I was disturbing them and they were likely already plenty upset over being moved the night before.

I could see the tiny venom sac lodged in my arm and removed it, although not correctly and made the mistake of squeezing it in the process. The proper way is to lightly scrape it from the base of the skin so as not to further squeeze the venom into the wound. I’ve been stung three other times, but I think this was the only time where I received the full sting experience. My first sting was when sometime before adolescence, when rolling down a grassy hill was one of the most fun things one could do. It was also a great way to get stung by a bee in clover. My second and third stings were in preparation for the Vineman half Ironman and they were just glancing stings, over very quickly and not terribly painful. But I did stop wearing that purple bike helmet shortly thereafter.

The burning sensation died down after a few minutes, but it itched over the following few days and ultimately even bruised a little. I tend to have an over-reactive immune system that swells and reacts significantly over any small bite. My husband found the entire event amusing when I recounted it to him. His sage wisdom, “Leave the bees alone and they won’t sting you.”

First morning after collection from the valve box

Earlier this month while on a survey for California gnatcatchers with my co-worker beekeeper friend, we received a text from another colleague regarding some bees that had taken up residence on a part of her fence. I had put off trying to start a colony again because we have been re-configuring the backyard and the landscaping won’t be done until this Fall, when it’s easier to keep new transplants alive than through the heat of summer. But I leapt at the opportunity to collect a swarm and try again to get a colony started.

We went to our colleague’s home that night where most of the bees had moved into a valve box, but a cluster remained on the ground surrounding a dead bee. We hypothesized that this was the queen because: 1) she was larger in size than the other bees and 2) when we scooped up the dead bee and moved it for a closer examination, the other surrounding bees flew around but when we put her back on the ground they all clustered around her again. We tested this a couple times to be sure that the clustering was related to the dead bee. So we placed the presumed dead queen into my hive and scooped as many of the bees as possible in there with her. Once we had most of them, we drove the hive to my house and set it in the backyard, ready to see what happened next.

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