Sunday, May 9, 2010

Capturing a swarm

I was at work Monday morning when one of our groundskeepers, Scott,  knocked on my door.  "A swarm has just landed in a tree!  You were the first person I thought of!"  

I followed him out of the building and towards a nearby tree.  

In the middle of the photo there's the cluster of bees.  This is a young redwood tree.  Not knowing how long the swarm would stay, I knew we needed to act quickly.  M does not have a cell phone (argh!), but he had mentioned that he'd be going to check on Erato.  Perfect!  C does, I called him, M was there, and he promised to be at the campus in an hour.  I said I'd look for a ladder and a box for the swarm to go in.  I'm glad most of my co-workers know I am a train / bike or train / walk commuter and did not ask why I didn't have my jacket.  ;) 

The great thing about working on a college campus is the Facilities group.  They have the good toys.  We arranged to meet up in an hour, and I was impressed by what they brought - a lift machine!  

M gave directions to Scooter on the ground.  Scooter was a pro at this - he got M to the swarm exactly without damaging the tree.  Later M would tell me that he wants that lift.  Ha!  It would make life easy! 

I was super proud of the other Facilities members that bravely hung out.  They were under the swarm at several times.  Overall, they were excited and thought it was "cool!"  

The smoker is up there with him.  The lift is fine!  

"Do you have another box?"  Uhoh.  He wasn't completely sure the queen was in the first box, so there was a mad scramble to find a second box.  Monday is a bad day for this - all of our cardboard recycling has been removed.  

We did manage to find a second box, thrown to us from the second floor of the campus center.  By now, we had attracted a fair amount of attention.  Most of it was oblivious, folks were confused by the path between two buildings being closed by the lift.  I keep thinking there's a perception filter with regards to bees:  folks choose not to see them.  (Happily, not a single sting was reported.) 

Done!  The boxes each have a frame of honey in them (thank you Urania 2!) to feed the girls.  I heard later that they were very contentedly sipping up the honey.  I imagine they were tired from their flight and happy to have a taste of home, where ever that home was.  It ended up the first box (the red one) did capture the queen, the boxes were left next to each other Monday afternoon and all of the bees found a way to escape the brown box and a way into the red one.  Such loyalty!  

This was more work than the first swarm we captured.  I still think it's a pretty great example of how good a swarm capture can be.  I'm thrilled Scott told me about the swarm (we gave him a jar of honey as thanks, a finders fee).  I'm grateful I work with folks that are willing to lend a hand to see insects saved.  I'm glad no one thought the best thing was a can of insecticide.  Knowing how overworked and in demand our facilities guys are, I'm grateful for their support.  Really glad I was able to find M and give these bees a hopefully happier story.  And to the bees, yay!  Welcome, hive #21!!!

(And Happy Mother's Day to all of those Queens, mother to so many productive and gorgeous golden bees!  Happy Mother's Day to all beekeepers, who provide food, shelter, and love.  Happy Mother's Day to all beings everywhere that nurture anything!) 

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