Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What's the buzz?

It's not everyday you get to see this sight, and on your own property at that:

Yes, that brown clump is a swarm of bees! Here's a closer look:

There's thousands of bees all bunched together there:

Hubby was out doing some rotary hoeing on the farm, had ear muffs on of course, and told me he could hear "a very loud machine"........quickly realising that the 'machine' was in fact a whole lot of bees! They were flying in the air about 3-4 metres off the ground.

He came indoors and found a phone number for a local beekeeper, whom promptly came to retrieve the bees. By the time the beekeeper arrived, the bees had settled on one of our pohutukawa trees. The beekeeper said he'd been quite busy as there had been a few swarms around this year so far. Apparently they do this as a result of an abundance of flowers on the hawthorn and cabbage trees. And of course, being Cabbage Tree Farm.......we have lots of cabbage trees, and they are all in flower!

The beekeeper came equipped with his netted hat and brought a hive to collect the bees in. He did this by shaking the branch of the tree the swarm was on. It was quite exciting to watch, although we kept our distance during the event as we did not have any of the handy protective gear he had!

You can see the blue hive on top of the ladder (we had to put the ladder there so the box could be closer to the swarm). When the beekeeper shook the tree, the bulk of the bees dropped into the hive, some landed on the ground and some flew into the air. To collect the ones on the ground he put one of the frames from inside the hive onto the ground and on an angle like a wee ladder. It was amazing to watch the bees all going up the frame " ladder"! Almost like busy commuters on an escalator! To collect the remaining bees was just a matter of leaving the hive open for a few hours until later in the evening. The beekeeper came back and used his smoker to settle the bees before putting the lid on, blocking up their exit holes with some tissue and then put the hive into the back of his car. The hum of the bees once inside the hive and his car was something else!

Collecting the bees in the hive

I was a little sorry to see the bees go, but we don't feel ready to take on the challenge of bee keeping yet. It would take a lot of learning and a lot of time, which I don't have right now. The beekeeper said we had the perfect spot for bees and told us that as they improve pollination of fruit trees you could expect 75% more fruit than if you didn't have bees around! We also learned some other interesting facts about bees including the function of drones who apparently have a very cruisy life being pampered by the other bees unless things get tough in the hive (not enough food) and they get thrown out!; how aggressive the guard bees can be (can blind you in fact as they make a 'bee-line' for your eyes if you interfere with the hive incorrectly); and how the bees kill off a queen who starts laying less than perfect eggs by smothering her and overheating her.

We were very fortunate to be given a large bottle of honey from the beekeeper, which will keep us going for quite a few months! D loves honey so was very impressed.


Robin Piggott said...

Excellent story with lots of information for budding Bee Keepers.Here in Limerick we have just had the inaugural meeting of the Urban Bee Keeping Project an idea from in collaboration with the Beekeeper at Glenstal Abbey in Co.Limerick.(Br.Simon Sleeman)

BLD in MT said...

Wow. I bet that was really a sight to behold. I cannot imagine how loud it must have been with that many bees in one place! How fascinating! I am so glad you shared this little adventure with us and that the bees were safely collected by someone who can help care for them.

Cabbage Tree Farm said...

Hi Robin, thanks for your comment. The Urban Bee Keeping Project sounds great!
Best wishes, Bridget

Cabbage Tree Farm said...

Yes indeed. The funny things was the beekeeper was telling us how he had been trying to reduce his hive numbers (at the request of his wife!) and now he was back up to 10 again! I daresay she was less than pleased to see him turn up home with another hive!

ms lottie said...

Death by smotheration for being off your game....yikes! I learn something new every day.

Cabbage Tree Farm said...

Yes this was a pretty awesome ditty!

Ruth @ Camellia Rose said...

Wow! I would have been more than a little freaked out if a swarm landed on my property! Having said that we do have bumble bees nesting under the house, they don't seem particularly worried by us and they are busy all through the garden so I let them be. I do have a good crop of apples this year, maybe that's why...

Cabbage Tree Farm said...

Hi Ruth
Yes the bees sure do help the fruit trees. and I think I would definitely have been in a flap with the bee swarm had I been home alone!