We were sitting in the kitchen having lunch when Stu saw it.
He was staring out of the side window, squinting his eyes.
“Cath, what’s that?”, he asked, still staring outside.
I walked to the closed window and peered out.
Through the glass I saw a strange black cloud that stretched high into the sky. The cloud was rolling and moving with frantic activity.
“I don’t know”, I replied, eyebrows drawn together.
The black mass moved across to the front of the house.
We moved with it, across to the other side of the kitchen.
The front window was open so we stood behind the wire insect screen through which we could hear an excited organized buzzing emanating from the cloud.
“Oh wow!”, I screamed, “It’s a swarm!”
I jumped up and down.
I danced around in circles.
I punched the air.
It was truly a thing of beauty. When some of the bees flew higher, the black cloud changed shape and flew higher. When the bees approached a tree, the black cloud seemed to dissolve into and through the tree.
I was excited for several reasons:
– I love nature. Being given an opportunity to share such a incredible event at such close proximity was a. precious experience for me.
– I love bees. I appreciate how critical they are to our existence and I have watched them in my garden for years and over time I have become inscreasingly active in “Save the Bee” campaigns.
– We want to keep our own bees. Indeed, we have been studying bees for a few months now as we want to establish our own hives next Spring. A couple of months ago, we visited a local bee keeper for some initial exposure to hives and the lives of bees. He helped us to identify a local equipment supplier as well as a local bee-keeper from whom we could get a queen. We also purchased a ‘how to’ bee book.
When the swarm passed our house, I had just finished reading the bee book and was fully informed on all things bee.
I had learned that a swarm is simply an entire hive of bees moving house. A hive swarms if it is crowded or unhappy for whatever reason. Once a hive has decided to swarm, the bees gorge themselves on honey so that they have the strength to travel. Then they send several worker bees out to identify possible new hive locations. Chimneys are often attractive spots. When potential new locations are found, the worker bees return to the hive to announce their finds and they all leave.
En mass. Every single one of them. Together.
They can land anywhere, create a temporary hive and stay a few days to rest before they move on to their permanent location. These temporary hives can be found in trees, under picnic tables or in doorways.
About an hour after we’d seen the swarm, I found 2 exhausted dopey bees in one of our loungeroom windows. I put them into a plastic container and set them free outside.
I wondered if they were two worker bees that had been sent out to identify a new hive location…or if they had somehow become lost from the swarm.
As I watched them tentatively take flight I wished fervently that they would make it back to the swarm. Bees need a queen to function on all levels and these two were already struggling.
We have but one regret:
If we had already purchased our equipment and our empty hive had been sitting down in our designated area in paddock 4, we might have found ourselves with an instant supply of bees!