Yesterday while I was contemplating chicken coop designs in the backyard, the air was suddenly filled with bees, everywhere, making A LOT of noise. The had been acting somewhat suspicious (some clumped outside the hive, and just lots more than usual of them around) and apparently they had decided it was time to swarm.
Luckily, they chose a fairly accessible site at the top of our plum tree. Well, accessible with our ten foot ladder.
So... Sasha and I climbed ladders, held a wooden wine box under the clump, shook the branch, and fairly gracefully managed to get most of the bees in the box, which we then left atop the ladder, so the few bees not in the box would find their way back in.
Not the best of ideas, one might guess. Luckily, when it fell, which it did, it landed intact, in a chair below the ladder, and the inhabitants inside seemed fairly unfazed, at least, they were still there.
We left them overnight, and in the morning transported the box of bees a few miles to our friend's orchard, where we emptied the box that was starting to split at the seams, into a Langstroth bee hive.
Today, from the front yard, we heard a sound that was very much like the sound I heard yesterday in the backyard, and rushed back to find that our hive had decided to swarm again. After some time, they settled at the very top (way higher than that 10 foot ladder) of the oak tree in our yard, and we called around to various bee keepers to find someone who wanted this swarm. Just about when one of them showed up (without a ladder) the entire mass took off again, straight back to the original starting place, our hive.
It is the time of the year when swarming is common. The hive has raised a new queen, and either the old or new queen(I'm not sure which) and some proportion of the other bees take off in a very organized fashion to find a new home, with scouts going off searching in all directions, and the workers gathered around the queen in a tight ball to protect her. There is some management of hives to minimize this happening (which we haven't been on top off lately) but it dosn't seem to me like an inherently bad thing, after all, it creates another colony of bees, and increases their population? More thoughts on this later, along with a hive visit to see what's actually going on in there...