While finishing up a few tasks on Monday morning, Lille (one of the new Sustainable Ag interns at SAGE) and I noticed a cloud gathering over the hive in our Bee Garden. The buzzing could be heard from 50 feet away!
For a few minutes we stood on stumps and were immersed in a blizzard of thousands and thousands of bees. Suddenly, and all at once, they began funneling down into three distinct balls on the branches of a nearby tree. Within the hour they had formed one large swarm, with a second small swarm on a branch just a few feet away.
Local beekeeper Payse Smith, a friend of Lillie's and an experienced swarm catcher, was in the neighborhood and arrived on the scene. Over the course of a half hour he and I managed to manipulate all of the bees into the main swarm and secure several obstructive branches out of the way with cords. Payse climbed a ladder and prepared to shake the bees off their branch while I held up an empty deep super for them to land in.
On the count of three he gave the branch several hard shakes and I was showered with thousands of bees. A few stings and apologies were exchanged between the little ladies and I, fairly enough, and in the end they happily accept their new found home. I am proud and excited to report that SAGE bee garden has gained a colony!
Follow up: The next day Karessa and I inspected the new hive and found they had already begun drawing a significant amount of comb down from the inner cover into the empty deep super. After some discussion about our options, we made the decision to allow the bees to continue to draw comb naturally from the inner cover but to also leave another super (with frames) as its base so as to create a kind of hybrid hive - not quite a top bar, but not exactly a Langstroth either. It is a fun experiment and only time will tell how things will turn out. Come visit the garden any time to watch their progress!
(Garden Education Americorps Assistant)