07 April 2012

SWARM!

video
I wrote last week about my attempt (and failure!) to capture a swarm of bees that showed up on the farm by Paul and Emily's house. We were all a little sad that they got away, but it turns out that it was a perfect practice run for the my 2nd attempt in a week. And this time they were my own bees! 
Jason and I were talking in my studio when he heard the bees a'buzzin'...real loud. If you play this little video you'll get a good idea of what we heard and saw. It was not normal behavior and we both reckoned that we were watching a swarm begin. And that's exactly what happened. Over the course of 10-15 minutes more and more bees left the hive and the cloud that they formed, swept side to side by the wind, kept growing larger.
We then noticed that there seemed to be an assemblage of bees gathering at the base of a cedar tree, just 15-20 feet from their original hive. What your seeing above is a river of bees; a big cluster on a low branch that is brought to the ground by their own weight, so the rest of the bees just spilled along the forest floor. At the top of this same photo is the branch that I'm holding in the following photo.
Jason lopped off the limb and I moved it into a new "super" as you see below. We actually cut three or four more branches with smaller clusters, hoping that we got the Queen . There was no way to gather the thousands of bees that were left on the ground, but I was pretty sure that she would be in the middle of the fattest group.
You can see the original hive to the left... they hadn't gotten far.
I just gave the branch several hard shakes and most of them dropped right in. That's the first and biggest branch that I'm taking out below.
Within minutes (seconds?!) the bees were beginning to build comb on the new frames You can sort of see them below. We then put a cover on top with a small gap for ingress and egress...there were still thousands of bees in the air and on the ground. We watched for a while and I started to worry that we hadn't captured the queen. We took a 20 minute break, went back to look, and just about every bloody bee was in the new box!!! They are extraordinary critters and Jason and I were riding a high all day.
We also checked on the old hive, fearing that it was abandoned, but it was chock-a-block full of bees, honey, larvae and 'queen cups', the funky cells (they look like a peanut in it's shell) that the hive produces only when they need a new one. Did I mention extraordinary?!
Meanwhile, back in the studio, I'm entering my last week to make pots before the glazing and loading begins. Mugs are everywhere and I only wish I could justify making a hundred more. They were flying off my fingers with ease.
We also cast the second in a series of molds to make these tiles that appear to be book shelves. This is the frame that we use. i very rarely use plaster in my working world, but it does have it's place. I did a lot of sculpture in college using it as a medium in its own right, rather than as a mold to make something else. I would color batches and pour them in layers. 
Last, and by no means least, is my newest best friend, Maple. Little sister to Ellie, she is absolutely captivating. I get to hold her a lot and nothing lowers my blood pressure better!

11 comments:

Hannah said...

Oh my goodness! I've only once seen a swarm of bees, Jason used to keep them and he collected a swarm from somewhere one day and just poured them like water into the hive, it was a crazy thing. Looks amazing.
Wee Maple looks like her mum doesn't she.

gz said...

Lucky you with bees!
and a beautiful new best friend too.

Dennis Allen said...

We think we understand the universe and we really can't understand the brain of a tiny insect.Have a great firing.

Ron said...

Wow that's amazing Dan. So do you have two hives now? I think you only had the one when we were there. If so is there a queen in each one?

Liberty Stoneware said...

Dan, that is very exciting about the bees! We just took a beekeeping class yesterday and are hoping to get a hive started on our farm soon. We heard stories about swarms and catching them in a super, but it's fantastic to see your photos! I see you do not have your jacket zipped up all the way- do you get stung often?

Patricia Griffin said...

Read this aloud to my husband this morning. How interesting. An amazing look at your world. Thanks for sharing this!

cookingwithgas said...

I am impressed! You are a master at bees as well!
Love that sweet baby face and I know what you mean.
The grand daughter does a lot for my moods and my wish to spend time just being with her, you can learn so much through the eyes of a wee one.

Joe Troncale said...

Wow! I've never seen someone actually capture a swarm!
Have you ever read Leo Tolstoy's "Two Old Men?"

littlewrenpottery.co.uk said...

Wow thats a lot of bees! I'm not sure I'd be that brave, its great to see more people wanting to care about bees since theyre in decline

Frank said...

WOW, the movies would love to get hold of that sound track for the next Bee horror movie.. Very cool… Do I see a bit-O-Honey in your future???

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