Swarm Crazy

Wing prepares to take flight.

It is swarm season again! Before I had bees, I watched swarm videos, took swarm catching classes, and read bee books about safely gathering swarming bees. Mostly, gathering a swarm is pretty simple. Except when it’s not. Let me share a bit of my last week with you, and you be the judge as to how easy or complex—or both—gathering a swarm of bees can be.

Nine days ago, on the first sunny day we have had for weeks, two of my hives—Wing, and Gobnait—swarmed. I was sitting with a friend in my yard, with my back to the bees when I heard it. I leaped to my feet shouting “Swarm!” before I even turned around to see them tumbling into the air. I have come to know that sound. That awesome sound that like no other kind that floods my heart in a rush of adrenaline.

Wing, my SunHive was in the air for a long time, swaying this way and that in the air, and finally settling inside a large bush in my neighbor’s yard. While the swarm was still gathering itself, I hurried to grab my swarm gear basket, called a bee friend who wanted to help, and rushed back to the yard with gathering buckets of various sizes, plus my skep that I planned to house them in… (more…)

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April Bee Club: Bait Hives!
I made bait hives this year with recycled paper plant pots. Clearly, they are a great hit!

April Bee Club: Bait Hives!

April Bee Club!

Mark your calendars for April 7. From 10am to noon, we’ll be gathering at the Camas Library at 625 NE 4th Ave. in Camas, in the upstairs meeting rooms. There will be a $10.00 materials fee, and you may make more than one, if you wish.

We’ll be having a “crafty” bee meeting, making bait hives for catching swarms this spring! We’ve purchased two cases of recycled paper plant pots that are light-weight and sturdy enough for a season of “hunting” for bees.

I’ll be bringing propolis water to spray the interiors with, plus lots of old comb for you to place inside (bees love to be where other bees have been before. I think they like the smell of old comb as much as we do…).

I’ll also bring my lemongrass essential oil, to mimic the queen smell. Oh, and zip ties to fasten the pots together. You’ll go home with a bait hive to hang, and we expect your reports on whether bees found them enticing over the next couple of months!… (more…)

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Late Summer in the Bee Yard
Obedient plant (false dragonhead) does not bloom long, but it spreads and fills in spaces quickly, and offers up some great late-summer forage. Nasturtiums like to climb up the spikes.

Late Summer in the Bee Yard

While my yard is beginning to show the withering effects of August heat, there is still good bee forage. I wanted to share some of my favorite bee plants with…

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Drumming the Bees

The swarm began like any other swarm. Just a big, roaring, exaltation of bees, 20,000 strong and taking to the sky in a glittering amber cloud. I couldn’t possibly know in those first exhilarating moments that by days end, the bees from RainTree hive would change my relationship with bees forever.

The morning started out warm and lush, and my attention was on all six of my hives. Four of them were telling me, through false starts and bees plastering themselves by the hundreds all over the faces of their hives, that they were in swarm prep mode.

In a bee swarm, a thriving hive of bees will send out their queen and half of the working force of the hive to “birth” a brand new colony someplace. The bees left behind will raise a new queen from the queen eggs that the old queen left behind. It’s how bees do “the birds and the bees.”… (more…)

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SWARM SPIRIT
Climbing down with my precious bundle...

SWARM SPIRIT

A long, skinny, bundle of hopeful bees

I had almost forgotten. But the second the sound reached my ears, memories flooded in: The sound and the controlled frenzy of thousands of bee bodies in the air, the sight of them moving like an amorphous amber cloud across the yard, then up high, high into the air and down again to settle in my neighbor’s maple tree just a few feet above my head.

The first swarm of the year is not just the bees’ rebirth but mine, too; that precise moment that I step out of a long, cold winter and into the promise of the sun and all that she bestows upon this good, green Earth. Standing before a swarm, my hands tingle, my breath quickens, my eyes flash a little bit of fire. (more…)

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