Bee Happy: Springtime and the urge to swarm

 

Photo by Felecia Chavez
This bench located at Battlefield Ford provided a temporary new residence for these swarming bees. Owner of La Bee da Loca, Felecia Chavez, answered the call to come and move them.

Felecia Chavez

This month was a little weird. Between the storm we had with lightning hitting one of our trees and falling on our neighbor’s fence and all the devastation around town, I was sure that when I got home (visiting grandchildren out West), I would find our hives knocked over or worse with our bees scattered to the four winds. Upon checking, I found them to be just fine, whew! With our observation hive at the shop we found that we were getting close to an over populated hive and would have to move them home and take a few frames out, essentially splitting the hive. Now with the weather all wonky, finding a day that would be beneficial to move them, and checking my husband’s schedule imagine our surprise when we went to move them, we were too late, yup they had swarmed.

After talking to a way more experienced beekeeper, Jerry Headley, of Virginia Bee Supply, he said, “Every healthy hive has the urge to swarm in the spring. Swarm Cells are ALWAYS located out of the way at the bottom of the frames. Once a Queen Swarm Cell is capped, the old queen and up to half of the hive will leave to find a new residence…increasing the likelihood of giving the species a better chance at survival.” And yes, that is exactly what happened. The queen left behind quite a bit of brood (baby bees waiting to be born) and yes there were a few queen cells. After deliberating with Jerry we decided to let nature take its course, after all this is the workings of a hive, so we will let it play out. So come check on our bees and see what they have decided.

What I failed to mention was that earlier that day I was called to retrieve a swarm which was in a most auspicious location, thank you Battlefield Ford for calling me. Speaking to a few people that work there they felt strongly enough to not want to destroy them and called us. They have a proper new home and after checking them this week they are doing quite well. Retrieving a swarm is really exciting, not so exciting is when your bees swarm! This is also the time of year when everything seems to be in bloom and the bees are working hard to bring in everything they can. This also means that I may get a call and have to close the shop. Please be aware that the bees are a very important part of my life and I hope to share my many adventures with you.

I will also keep telling people that want to become beekeepers to take a class, see if this is something you want to do and learn everything you possibly can either with the Northern Piedmont Beekeepers Association or Virginia Bee Supply.  These are two that I know of but I’m sure there are more organizations out there. One other thing, and if nothing else, please remember these are living beings and when you take on the mantel of caring for them you become a keeper of the bees.

Felecia Chavez is the owner of La Bee da Loca located at 236 E. Davis Street in Culpeper. You may reach her at 703-975-2966.

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