Swarms of Excitement

by Elizabeth Wenger | Oct 14, 2021 | 0 comments

Swarm of honeybees
©Janis Maleckis/Dreamstime.com

Bethany could hear the excited voices of her brothers outside the window. It was noon, and lunch was almost ready. Now this?

“What’s going on?” she asked her sister Leah.

“Dad said a neighbor saw a swarm of bees in a tree close to the church house.”

“Seriously?” Without waiting for more details, Bethany rocketed out of the room and down the stairs. She burst out into the warm May sunshine. Her brothers were hastily donning bee suits.

“What shall I do?” she questioned as Justin attempted to strap a hive body onto his bike carrier.

“You bring the bottom board and hive top,” he ordered.

Bethany’s sisters joined her as she grabbed her bike and hurried out the lane.

Bees were still flying thick. “There it is! Look, there is the swarm!” exclaimed Carl. Sure enough, on a cedar branch hung the wiggling, beard-shaped mass of honeybees.

“How are we going to get them down?” was the foremost question. Someone fetched a ladder, along with a pair of clippers. Justin set up the stepladder directly under the swarm while Carl climbed the tree. Justin mounted the ladder and grasped the branch on each side of the bees as Carl pulled the branch down. After a few clips, Justin found himself holding several thousand bees. Ever so carefully, he descended the ladder, trying not to jar the branch.

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief as Justin reached the safety of solid ground. He gently lowered the bees into the waiting hive. Several frames had been removed to accommodate the branch. Carl slid on the heavy hive top, and the bees were caught! The entrance was blocked with tape and cardboard.

“It isn’t guaranteed that the bees will stay,” Justin warned. “The queen could decide she doesn’t like this hive—then they’ll leave.”

The hive was transferred to the shade. There were still a lot of bees flying around. “What will happen to those bees?” asked Elsie. “They can’t get in.”

“After lunch we’ll mix some sugar water and open the hive to remove the branch,” Justin told her. “Those bees will be able to enter the hive then.”

Adrenalin was still spiking when the family sat down to a one o’clock lunch. “I can’t believe how easy it was!” Carl exclaimed. “I have often read of capturing swarms, but I didn’t think we’d actually do it some day.”

“How did it feel to hold all those bees and know what they could do to you if they decided to sting?” Leah asked Justin.

“It gave me an adrenalin rush,” he replied. “I wasn’t worried about getting stung because I was fully suited. Besides, bees rarely sting when they are swarming.”

Bethany finished her lunch and prepared the sugar water. When it was cooled, she poured it into a squirt bottle. The sunshine was pretty warm as the siblings went out to the hive. It didn’t take long to open the hive and remove the branch. Carl liberally sprayed sugar water over the wax foundation in hopes of enticing the bees to start working right away. Justin peeled the tape off the entrance. “Tomorrow we’ll come out and move these to the rest of our hives,” he said.

Before dawn Justin and Carl resituated the new inhabitants. Then everyone went about the day’s work, still marveling at the events of the day before. Twelve o’clock found most of the family still out in the produce field, so Leah and Bethany started getting lunch ready.

Suddenly the boys came flying in the lane, dropping their bikes with a clatter. “The other hive is swarming!”
“Quick!” gasped Carl. “We need to assemble some frames.”

Dinner plates were pushed back as they got out the wax foundations and wooden frames. In their haste, they were all thumbs as they tried to assemble them. Finally the desired number were ready. Grabbing the rest of the paraphernalia, they rushed out to the pond behind the beehives. They had to fight their way through the underbrush to reach it.

Justin climbed up the tree until he was right underneath the swarm. This swarm was quite a bit larger than the previous one. There was nothing like climbing a ladder to retrieve these bees! Bethany situated the hive the best she could on the uneven terrain.

Carl climbed halfway up the tree, and as Justin clipped the branches, he handed them to Carl. The bees had settled on a few different branches, so the swarm was handed down in sections.

This time the girls tried shaking the bees off the branch into the hive. Quite a few of them landed outside the hive.

The boys came down as they were attempting to brush those in with the bee brush.

“Let me try it this way,” Justin said, using his bare hands to scoop up the bees. “It works as long as you don’t pinch them.” He scraped a stinger out of his finger.

Finally, the majority of the bees were in the hive. “Let’s leave the hive in the shade till later this afternoon,” suggested Leah. “We still need to get a hive stand ready.”

Once again lunch was late and punctuated with excited chattering. Two swarms in two days was enough to make anyone tired, they decided.

Later the boys moved the hive up to the others, positioning it beside yesterday’s swarm. Now, if only they stay!

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