Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wild Honey Bees Swarm

There is a ritual this time of year when the wild honey bees just have had it with their accommodations and overcrowding. The bee hive high in the Rock Maple anointed a new queen and about half of the colony (mostly workers) took leave with her. They landed for a bit in an old apple tree in the rock garden area. I was taking the day off from working in the gardens and just out taking photos, when eyeing the large dark form from a distance. At first I believed it to be tent caterpillars and wondered how I could have overlooked those nasty critters. I was quite delighted to see upon closer viewing that indeed a wild honey bee swarm had formed in such an opportune location for my observing and documenting. The size grew over the few hours I kept watch, and scouts were coming and going seeking a site for their new digs. I could easily see them doing their waggle dance to show the directions of the various site findings, as I was able to stand very close. The honey bees are very docile at this in between lodgings time... no hive to protect so no need to be aggressive. This rather thick skein like cluster was protecting a queen who must have been somewhere in all the mass of bee. Protect her they must for their very lives depend on her good health... if she should die during this unsettling time the entire new hive will go to their grave with her. Such strain and consequence for one tiny queen. Hundreds of little bitty golden bodies with striped abdomens piled on top of one another... somehow the information ... perhaps descriptions... but certainly directions gets to the queen and I think she decides when to head out and must send a signal for all her subjects to fly... and fly they did when my back was turned for a moment to capture pictures of the little folded-winged skipper in my last post. I was bending down close to the small butterfly when I heard the unmistakable HUMMING of hundreds if not thousands of bees... turning around I was surrounded by them and clicked away. The wild honey bees were en masse and slowly rising up towards the west pines like a cloud floating away till out of sight and no longer part of my day. Meanwhile I checked the old hive and the bees seemed a bit agitated by all the drama. There were even several still lingering at the apple tree after the others had flown. I hope all is well with the newly divided colony and that now two hives of wild honey bees will prosper for we simply cannot do without them.

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