An amazing thing happened today. I was working at home and kept hearing this weird scratching noise in the corner of my office window. Then a hum. Then a louder buzzing that sounded like a pack of weedwackers coming up the driveway. I looked out my window to be greeted with the sight of more honeybees than I have ever seen in one place in my life. There was a dense cloud of thousands of bees filling up the space between my house and the neighbors' houses on either side. IT WAS A SWARM! I shut the windows and ran outside to see where they were coming from and they were just everywhere humming and swirling around It was beautiful; thousands and thousands of golden flying bees against the bright blue sky! I have never seen anything like it before. I turned the corner and saw that they were landing on the side of my house and forming a two foot wide eight foot tall river of bees that was getting bigger and bigger by the second. Right near the top of the column of crawling bees was a hole in the wood siding about the size of a half dollar. They were climbing in! The swarm was landing on my house and moving into a knothole in the wood siding that led to the space in between the siding and the inner wall of my apartment.
My first thought was that they were going to figure out a way to get into my house and I would be dealing with a thousand stinging bees in my living room. Then I remembered that when bees swarm, their main concern is to get into a suitable space and start making their combs. They are not interested in flying around and stinging anything. Their singular purpose is to make a home for the queen and get her started laying eggs.
I watched them until they all were inside. It took about an hour. I did not think to take any photos I was so transfixed, but here is an image from someone who did take a photo of their swarm in Boise, Idaho...
I called a few places to see how to relocate them but they all just did exterminations. I felt so responsible for these creatures and could not bear the thought of them being killed when there are so few of them around. I felt like they had accepted my invitation in such a dramatic way...I mean they swarmed right into the place I spend the most time in my house...they moved in three feet from where I sit at my desk and work and goof around on the computer and work on my photos. I could hardly bear the thought of someone deciding it would be better to exterminate them.
I have wanted a hive in the garden for a few months and was working myself up to asking my landlord if I could have a few stacks of hives in the yard. I could not quite bring myself to ask. I thought I would start with the vegetable garden then work up to the bees...and maybe chickens. But I never had to ask...the bees just showed up! My landlord, Peter, was here when
they swarmed and as we discussed what to do about it I felt like a kid about to ask my dad if I could keep a stray puppy, knowing chances were good he would say no...except it was thousands of flying stinging insects I was asking to keep....I watched his face and tried to guage how he felt about the whole thing. It looked like he might be excited and a little worried. Was he going to take the easy way out and just call an exterminator? Could I intervene? Was it rational? Could I really take care of a giant hive of bees? I decided to wait to see what he said and then advocate to keep them if he seemed like he was leaning towards extermination. Turns out he was as excited as I was about the possibility of keeping them. He wanted to put plexiglass in the outside wall so we could watch them! But we came to our senses and found a spot to have the hives in a more out of the way location on our the property. I get to keep my stray bees!
I had a beekeeper come over and positively identify them as honeybees. He brought some beekeeping supply catalogs for me to look at, and I am going over to his house tomorrow to see his hives and make a list of things to order. He said that there were at the LEAST, 20,000 bees in the wall. 20,000 living creatures that make it possible for us to have fruits and vegetables and flowers and HONEY! If you hold your hand on the wall you can feel the heat where they all are...they are building their honeycombs right now and making a place for their brood. I have about a month to get a set of boxes for them and have the beekeeper come out and vacuum them out of the wall and relocate them. And to get a beekeeping outfit!