Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Swarming Bees!!

Here I thought I was so cool yesterday, seeing a young Red Tail Hawk getting chased and pestered by a blackbird whilst working on the other side of the tunnel...  Wow, so much more interface with nature out here, I thought.  Then I got the phone call from my neighbor in Oakland- a swarm of honeybees had found themselves in her front yard.  (!!!)  I dashed home to witness the spectacle and sure enough, bigger and swarmier than I could ever have imagined. 
She found a beekeeper online that specialized in swarms and we prepared ourselves for an experience.

First he trimmed the vine to gain better access to the bees.  Apparently, this is the season for bees to swarm.  Basically, a new queen is born and the hive ain't big enough for the both of 'em.  The queen searches for a new home and her loyal subjects follow her and help keep her safe until the new location has been selected.  While Eileen and I thought it looked like the most gigantic colony ever, our new beekeeping friend said it was of average size.  Oh...

Next came a spritz or two of water to dampen the bees' wings to keep them from flying and to help them stick together a bit.  Then, into the box!  The swarm didn't quite get in there all in one shot, so he left the box for a few hours to give them all a chance to make their way inside.

I'm so happy to know that this beekeeper cares for his hives without the use of chemicals, like mite sprays.  Happy bees in their happy new home. How exciting- I was talking in exclamation points all evening! 

Our next natural order of operations included walking across the street into the liquor store to get all the background information on the swarm from Muhammad, the eyes and ears of Idora Park.  Talk about interface with nature!  There's a swarm of bees right next to the bus stop!  Yet another reason why I love Oakland.

A big, huge thanks is in order to Eileen, who graciously shared the experience with me.  Coolest ever!

I'm wondering if the way Steven, the beekeeper, captured the bees was the same way any other beekeeper would.  So much to learn!  Does anyone have swarming experience to share?


  1. Awesome post and photos. Honestly, just learning about bees myself and this was a great read. Thank you!

  2. What a great experience! So glad a beekeeper was contacted to take care of this, instead of an extermination company. We're not keeping European honey bees here yet, just Mason Bees, but it's my understanding that beekeepers are almost always happy to help with a swarm.

    Did you see the post on the Sicilian Sisters Grow Some Food blog earlier this month? They also 'hived' a swarm. I found the post again in case you missed it:

    Hopefully these bees will be most happy in their new home!

  3. So much to learn, Dirt Digger! I have a book called Backyard Beekeeping, but I was too excited to get any information out of it yesterday. I'll have to review it here sometime.
    Wow, a new blog to check out and a great post on bees! Thanks, Clare!

  4. I'm about to start beekeeping in Oakland. I keep hoping that one of the local beekeepers will let me assist on a "swarm call."

  5. dear christine
    I really like your blog. My aunt is your nieghbor eileen, and she showed me it.
    from kathryn age10 grade4
    p.s.I learned about pysanka eggs in third grade.

  6. So glad you like it, Kathryn! Pysanka eggs are totally my favorite- it's not Easter without breaking out the beeswax. Did you make eggs this year? I'd love to see what you've come up with!