Yesterday I was all planned out to head south from Skagit County to Pierce County to check the condition of the bees in Sumner (do I need to split? Super? Or both?), and then to stop at all the various packaging companies in Kent for more jars (sorry Quality Cheese, I promise I'll get honey to you soon!).
When my phone rang twice in a row at 8am with an incoming call from Dusty Williams (Farmer and landowner in Everson, Wa, also a former beekeeper), I just assumed he was pocket dialing me like he had the month before, and I kept sleeping. But then at 10am when I was up and at em, packing my truck and readying bee supplies, he called again, and I figured this was no pocket dial. Indeed he had a bee swarm, a big afterswarm with likely a new queen, out in his pea vines. He didn't ask if I wanted them, he told me to come and get em!
So checking the bees down south would have to wait. I took enough supers and supplies to check all the rest of my northern bees while I was up there, and I even scheduled myself a much overdue oil change at the GREATEST MECHANIC IN THE WORLD, Marlin's Auto on Hannegan and Pole. I headed north. And got 3 miles before the bridge traffic took another 45 minutes to go 5 miles. Ugh
So I got up to Dusty's around noon. By the time I got my truck out in the field, suited up and smoker smoking, it was almost 1. On the hottest day of the year so far, I should have known better than to mess with a swarm at the peak of the day. This swarm was in the most awkward spot, on a fence post in pea vines, so there was plastic fencing, pea shoots, wire, and a pole all to navigate around. I put my bucket under the bees as far as I could and started to brush them down into it. On a cool morning, these bees would have fallen down in big chunks into the bucket, easy as cake. But today they began to fly, refusing to go in the direction of the brush. The pitch of their buzz called alarm immediatly. I got about half of them in my bucket and then stood up, walked to my truck, and thought I'd just give them a few minutes to calm back down and re-cluster.
Except they didn't re-cluster. They pitched into a tornado-like frenzy, spinning up into a column and off the pea vine post. Their buzz was so loud, just as the swarm took off! Fascinated, as (wrongly) assuming they would land close by, I started following them, then running after them in my bee suit, across a quarter mile stretch of a giant hay field. That young queen, combined with a hot day, allowed them to fly far and fast. I was literally a swarm chaser, hot and cursing under my breath, like a mad woman from outer space. If the neighbors were anything but farmers, they might have called the cops.
So in the end, they got away. Which is fine by me. I think Dusty was a little upset that I didn't get them, but I did get a few thousand bees that I added to a weak hive a few miles away (more on that later). I'm glad I made the trip up to see them, as I had never seen a swarm in action before. The event is biblical, super natural, mind boggling. My level of respect for these little bugs and my hippie heart want me to let them swarm any time they want. Except I want them to swarm directly into another one of my boxes! This makes 2 swarms that I've been involved with this year, and hopefully more to come!!! Oh yeah, and if youre local and see one, call me!!!!!