On the afternoon before my purchased package honeybees were to arrive, other bees did. Feral ones, a swarm that landed in one of our orange trees in a dense, mellow clump.
What a gift.
I quickly enlisted my family’s help, and we set up the hive box intended for the package bees. Then we found a cardboard box and got to work. My son Henry, tall enough to reach them from the ladder, agreed he’d be the one to climb up and gently brush the bees into the cardboard box, while I enthusiastically coached from below.
“Get as many as you can at once.”
“Don’t hurt them!”
“The queen will be in the middle of the clump. Make sure you get her.”
He initially got most of them into the box, and we looked in, fascinated.All those bees, buzzing, yet so calm, intent on their duty to swarm — which is how they reproduce and expand the species. This was like holding a world all its own in our hands.
A few bees still buzzed around in the tree, still forming a clump. Maybe we didn’t get the queen. Henry went up again with another box. We tapped the additional bees in with the first catch and headed up to where we’d placed the hive.
At the hive box, in quickly fading daylight, we removed a few frames from the hive, and dumped in the bees. Once they began to crawl up the frames, we gently brushed some aside and replaced the frames we’d removed. On went the hive cover. A few bees remained in the cardboard box, so we set that near the front of the hive. Everything I’d read said the bees would find their way into the hive.
Later, with a flashlight in the dark, we discovered that the queen must have been one of the few bees left in the cardboard box. The rest of the bees were finding their way out of the hive and clumping in the box again.
This time, I was a bit more forceful, and firmly struck the outside of the box several times to make sure we got the queen this time. We did. By the next morning, the bees seemed settled, going to and from the hive with purpose. As I checked on them, the overnight service delivered my package bees….More excitement for later.