To wrap up the bee saga (and then I promise I'll write about other things) we had another swarm the day after the last time I wrote, but this one actually took off and disappeared after landing high up in the same oak tree again. (They tend to go back to the same spots because the bees are attracted to the swarming chemical called Nasnoff they let off). I've since learned that 70% of swarms die.
I went in the hive that night to find out what on earth was going on in there, and to gather questions for a class I had just signed up for (quite timely) the day all this swarming business started. I made about a million embarassing mistakes, one being that the pit zips of the rain jacket I use as part of my bee suit were wide open. I had just started opening up the hive, and it sounded riled up and angry (I should have taken this sign to back away and not attempt an inspection right then, but no, with another another beginner's mistake, I blundered on). Sure enough, right after I realized there were gaping, unzipped holes underneath my arms, I felt the familiar vibration of bee stuck in fabric. I managed, after walking away, to get everything off without squashing any bees or getting stung.
There didn't appear to be a queen present because of a lack of eggs, but there were tons of queen cells (larger peanut looking things hanging onto the side and edges of the comb) which means the hive was raising a new queen and the old one probably took off in the first swarm. Ironically the night ended with a sting in the armpit after running around the courtyard in the dark shedding jacket, veil and finally my shirt too.
The hive was very full of comb and surplus honey so I ended up harvesting 2 bars of capped honey comb, which after being pressed and drained through a sieve, was about 2 quarts of honey. I was ready after this rather difficult hive visit to spend some time learning from an experienced beekeeper, and I greatly enjoyed the class this weekend with Alan Hawkins, where I did indeed learn tons.