Yesterday afternoon, I got a call from a woman who noticed a massive clump of bees on her neighbor's driveway. She was concerned about the well-being of the bees, did a bit of online hunting, and found my friends at Pollinate Farm & Garden. The lovely proprietors of Pollinate passed my information along, and I was able to stop by after work.
The swarm of bees was about the size of a large pizza, and was probably three bees deep.
It's quite unusual for a swarm to land on the ground. Typically, they land in a tree or on a wall, which I imagine offers more protection for the bees.
There's always a bit of improvisation involved in collecting of honeybees. When bees are in trees or bushes, beekeepers can either cut the branch on which the bees are clumped, or they can shake the bees into a collection box. (Sometimes this has hilariously disastrous results. Click here for my embarrassing photos.)
After a bit of experimentation with wooden ramps (too Rube Goldbergian), and dustpans (too much risk of crushing bees' legs), I adopted a technique that was direct, but not for the faint-of-heart.
With great care and gentleness, I scooped up handfuls of bees and chucked them into the box.
There I was, tossing bees around, and trying not to trample any of the bees on the ground. It was all very dignified and professional.
(Or maybe it was like the worst game of Twister, ever...)
At a certain point, I must have tossed in the queen, because the bees all started marching into the circular hole in my box. They were like a well-organized army.
Within minutes, they were all inside. I taped up the entrance hole (I do some tricky tape-origami to avoid exposing the bees to the sticky side of the tape). And then I wrapped everything up in a shower curtain, and stuck the bees in the trunk of my car. These bees were taken over to my friend Jamaica's house, because the first swarm I brought her has not been flourishing. (I only wish I'd made time to repaint the hive boxes I gave her. They're a bit of a mess.)
As for the origin of these bees... It seems that the gentleman whose driveway the bees landed in has an attic full of bees. We could see them flying in and out of vent holes in the sides of his house. He told us that he has honey oozing down through his living room ceiling. And he also told us that since he just had his living room remodeled, he doesn't want to rip apart his house.
While I'm happy to collect wild swarms, I do not do what's called "extractions." I'm not qualified to do this kind of work. But I do encourage homeowners to get this taken care of. The colony really needs to be removed. Simply poisoning the bees is not a good solution. Even if all the bees are killed, the remaining honey and wax and larval brood will attract more bees, as well as ants and mice.
I really hope that the homeowner finds someone to help him sort this out.
And I'm entirely thankful for all the kind, observant folks who notice swarms of bees, and who take the time to do a bit of good. The world is a better place, because of people like this.