A Saturday blessing


My expanded apiary: the mother hive stands between two captured swarms

I shook the kitchen rugs by the back steps. Next, I’d make coleslaw and put chicken and potatoes in the oven for company.

     All was well on another beautiful, Michigan Saturday.

     Then my husband shouted from down the hill, hands cupped to his mouth. “Your bees are on the ground and in the pine tree!”

     Well, if you read my letters occasionally and memory serves you right, you may recall my misfortunes as a beekeeper, a misnomer in the following situations.

     As a beginner over a decade ago, I mortally maimed the impregnated queen when releasing her from her little box to her skep where she would lay her eggs. Her death left thousands of orphaned worker bees and drones until I obtained post haste another queen for $50 (more dough than my weekly grocery budget in the eighties).

     I’ve since fed my honeybees two parts sugar to one part water and vigilantly guarded against yellow jackets and wax moths, dreaded honeycomb and honey robbers and bee killers.

     This past spring, two weeks after I brought home my new nucleus of queen, bees, and brood, a hive beetle showed up nearby the apiary. A website recommended a product which I retrieved from our henhouse. "Spread diatomaceous earth eight feet in circumference around the hive and wet it down with a hose,” the directions said. 

     And even though I had applied a chemical treatment to the queen’s brood box to repel the Asian Varroa Destructor, invisible mite to the veiled, naked eye, I sensed this prolific queen would not be kept.

     Yes, honeybees on the ground and in trees could only mean one thing.

     My first swarm.

     I ran downhill and recalled the needed equipment to capture the runaways: hive stand, bottom board, box (skep), frames, entrance reducer, inner and outer boards, and hive tool.

     My goodness! Yards from the hive, TWO swarms hung from two branches in a young pine tree, and within my reach!

     Ecstatic, I ran to the greenhouse and slid the hive tool into my pants’ pocket, gathered parts for two brood boxes, placed two cinderblock stands in different locations, and carried the bottom boards and boxes with frames to the swarms.

     Even though I knew swarming bees don’t sting because they’re protecting their queen, I suited up because I had no time to risk another mishap. Our company was due in two hours.

     First, I tapped the branch of the lower swarm and watched the glorious downpour of apis mallifera fall into their new home, set the bottom board and brood box upon a stand, and added the inner and outer covers.

     Within minutes, the second swarm fell from its branch into its new skep. The swarm on the ground followed the queen pheromone of its choice.

     Dear Reader, I walked up the hill a beekeeper instead of a bee loser and served dinner almost on time. Ten days later, worker bees exit three hives to forage and feed their queen.

     Praise God from whom all blessing flow! All is well.