My one and only beehive survived the winter. Ecstatic with joy and disbelief, I want to shout it from my housetop, but have a feeling those pollinators are planning to swarm.
My favorite beekeepers, heroes who know honeybee behavior, say swarming is a sign of a healthy hive– the goal of every beekeeper.
But it’s like babysitting. You have to watch their every move and catch the swarm before they fly a quarter mile or more from the parent colony. The last thing I want is my bees invading a neighbor’s attic.
These bee mentors make moving a swarm sound like a picnic. I’ve watched YouTube demos to prepare myself for the inevitable, and can’t believe the ubiquitous short sleeves and bare hands from coast to coast.
One southern guy picked up a drone from a swarm he guided toward an empty box to accept the nucleus colony, AKA nuc. That’s why a smart beekeeper wants a hive to swarm. A healthy hive multiplies.
Worker bees produce cells for daughter queens to inherit the hive, then many follow the mother queen when she exits her home to wherever she goes.
Although my affection for beekeeping is genetic from my mother’s side, I’m sorely detached from the experience and intuition of my former McCoy honeybee masters.
Considering this, why did my bees live to emerge from their hive for cleansing flights the past several days above 40 degrees?
Well, let’s begin with this premise: they’re not my bees in terms of my grandfather’s bees, or my uncle’s. They propagated and swapped their queens and colonies amongst their fellows like every beekeeper of their generation. They never bought a bee in their life.
After the varroa mite swept through Appalachia in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the last McCoy beekeeper burned his hives and much later handed me his smoker.
“I never heard of a mite until my bees died. It took out ever’body’s bees along Peter Creek,” my uncle said.
As many modern beekeepers, I adopted my nuc last spring from an apiarist for $150. I’m very thankful for this business of selling nucs installed within my bee equipment, ready to inhabit my backyard.
I don’t ever have to shake another bee package into a brood box and release the queen. I’ll never again accidentally kill a queen in the dark and inclement weather.
After fourteen years handling frames crawling with worker bees and drones, I still cannot identify the queen. Perhaps it’s my progressive lens eyeglasses and opaque veil. Unlike the pros, I suit up for bee inspections and feedings.
Thus, in spite of my handicaps, my bees live! I had my doubts throughout the winter when I found dead bees on the ground below the entrance.
“Drones,” said a honeybee hero. “The worker bees kick them out.”
“Smart creatures,” I replied.
Dear Reader, today’s too windy and cold for a swarm, so I read and write. Tomorrow’s forecast is a different story.
Feeding and babysitting my one and only honeybee hive.
Contact Iris at firstname.lastname@example.org.