Friday, October 26, 2012

Catching bees.

Late last Wednesday evening, or very early Thursday morning, half of the bees belonging to one of our bottom orchard hives suddenly gorged themselves on honey and flew on out of their hive. We weren't around to see it happen, but according to everything I've read, 1000's of bees leaving the hive at once is quite an incredible sight to behold.

Once they had escaped the hive with their queen bee, the swarm quickly found a temporary resting place in a nearby tree.

When we drove past on our way to school on Thursday morning they were calmly waiting in a big bee cluster for their scouts to come back with news of a more suitable permanent hive.

Leaving behind half their colony and a new queen to take over is the hive's way of managing their population.
Over the years we have found bee colonies living in tree trunks and other cosy, protected nooks and crannies on our farm, but this swarm, waiting on an easily accessible branch of a tree seemed very catchable. 

So we waited until dusk and put on our bee suits.

Then farmer Bren held on tight to the branch holding the swarm while I cut it down.

Then we placed the swarm, still on their branch, on a white sheet right next to a new bee box.

And we waited and watched. And after a while we realised that the swarm was pretty comfortable on their branch and wouldn't be going anywhere unless we helped them a bit more. So I picked up the branch and with one big flick, shook the bees off onto the sheet.

And then I ran away madly, terrified that they would go crazy and chase me. They didn't. But farmer Bren said watching me run as fast as I could trying to escape in my bee suit was the high-light of his whole day. Pretty funny.

After that they quickly started crawling to the shelter of their new home. They looked like a slowly moving blanket rippling and creeping to the hole in their new hive.

And although we sat and watched quietly, we were also buzzing along with them. What a thrill to get up so close and personal with such an incredible creature. Part of me wanted to wriggle my hand deep into the middle of their mass and feel their movement, their texture, their weight. But the other part of me, the part that respected their potential danger and the fact that we had already tampered with them enough, won out and left them alone.

And while I'm talking about danger, I should tell you that I took these pics through the mesh of my bee suit helmet with thick, clumsy gloves on. I'm sure that was a pretty funny sight too.

So now we have a seventh hive of bees as very important members of our Daylesford Organics team. And those worker bees certainly have their work cut out for them at the moment collecting nectar and pollen for their hives and pollinating our orchards and gardens and forests. And we're a bit thrilled that we rehived them, and that they'll continue working for us pollinating and making honey.

Are you keen for the bee like me?
Do you love honey in your tummy like Miss Pepper?
Are you busy and buzzy with a list a mile long like farmer Bren?
Or are you happy in your swarmy gang of pals like Indi and jazzzzzzzzzy?

Wishing you such a happy and sweeeeeet weekend. xx

55 comments:

  1. Im stupidly terrified of bees but I loved this story and your "clumsy" pictures (they look great!)

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  2. This thrills me to bits! I wish I had been there to see it!

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  3. That was AWESOME, Kate. What a magical thing to show us. Thank you so much! x

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  4. that looks so amazing. a few years ago i saw a swarm move. they flew over my head, surprisingly low in a fairly compact swarm whilst i was weeding (we're in a town).i had no idea what was going on, and when the sound and the shadow cast freaked me out, a horror movie briefly played in my head before i ran for the house. i felt lucky to survive. my husbands bee keeper uncle laughed for a very long time when i told him. what WONDERFUL experiences your kids are getting x

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  5. I loved keeping bees. We lost a hive once on our bush block when cows pushed it over in the middle of a very cold winer. we weren't there till much too late. we eventually gave them away as my husband became increasingly allergic to any sting, to the point of nasty reactions. We were a very long way from any medical help needed after epipen so we reluctantly gave them up. Great to see Pepper helping.

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    1. I think watching how calm and confident Miss Pepper is with the bees is my highlight too.
      I've watched her be completely covered in bees and just sit there calmly.
      She thinks she might be our bee keeper/honey maker when she's bigger. x

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  6. Fabulous photos - thanks for sharing the experience with us. I'm sure not many of us will ever manage to get that close to them. Have a great weekend.

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  7. Oh we have a swarm of bees on a tree by our house Kate, they have been there for about four days and don't seem keen to move, but its not a great home for them....hmmm, perhaps I'll tell them about your farm...

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  8. I love reading your posts, I see so much in our family in your writing. We have 3 boys, we are self employed living rurally in southern tasmania. We have bees, the first swarm arrived on our property exactly one week after my husband had done a bee keeping course, the first swarm we had ever seen here! It was obviously meant to be. Our kids love it when we harvest the honey, it is hard not to have it from one end of the house to the other. I have the same bee suit for my kids, it is great to see them getting involved.

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  9. So fascinating Kate. I really had no idea about bees rehiving and population control. I love all things bees especially their honey. I am so intrigued by your farmy exploits. thank you so much for sharing your farm life with those who can only dream. Your farm's diversification is wonderful and the way you write about it is friendly and descriptive. And Pepper in that bee suit . . . gorgeous. xx

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  10. How exciting!!
    Miss P looks so confident around them too!x

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  11. Loved these pics on IG and absolutely loving and enthralled with the whole story here :) I love bees and I love how very important they are to life. I read somewhere that the state of the ecosystem can be judged by the bee population numbers... isn't that amazing? Still loving your space suits too :) Kx

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  12. Oh wow. That is amazing. I love bees!

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  13. That is fantastic Kate, love the pictures and the descriptions.

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  14. That is so cool. Bees have been buzzing around our backyard (with its six fruit trees, lavender bushes and other assorted flowering plants) for the past few months and we love listening to the lazy drone of them as we potter about. I am very unallergic to bees (was stung twice in two days once with nothing much to show for it), but our little Jack Russell is allergic so we make sure she keeps her distance. Enjoy!

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  15. I love reading about stuff like this.
    Bees, honey, family life, terrific

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  16. How impressive to list the current number of Daylesford Organics employees... Seven Thousand and Five...no hang on chickens... dogs... other human helpers... Wowsers! You're a corporation!! :-) xx

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  17. Your heart shaped swarm is just beautiful. And it's great that you managed to re-house them. I love bees. Love them! I could watch them for hours. Entrancing. We nursed a weak and starving colony back to be healthy enough to threaten to swarm. We gave them some more space and they seem to be happy enough. I love their purposefulness when they are working a flow....deftly buzzing in and out of the hive.

    A few weeks ago while our old crab apple trees were putting on their spring show, I sttod under the branches, watching the sunlight filtering through the blossoms; all the while listening to the hum of bees, as they moved quickly from flower to flower. Just amazing!

    Ms Nada

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  18. I will never be as close to them as you are 'cos I'm allergic to their little stings but I love their sweet honey and their fascinating ways!

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  19. Haha love it! I would have been running with you had I been there!!

    Rach x

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  20. Yep – very keen for bees but even more so for their delish honey. How sweet to have your own hives and honey!

    We had a swarm of bees land at our place recently and it happened the same time I was making my boy your farmer boy hat! (I blogged about both here http://bearlovesdove.com/2012/09/23/bees-and-a-beanie/ ), but I didn’t get nearly as fabulous photos as you did… they are great. Don’t you love a sweet coincidental connection like that!

    So impressive that you guys knew what do, and went about it all like it was just in another days work on the farm. We didn’t know what to do so called the apiarist, but if we lived a few hundred km’s closer I would have happily sent them to you to do their noble work on your lovely farm.

    I have a pretty dragon tree in flower at the moment and it positively hums with the delight of happy bees buzzing about their day. I guess your farm must hum with delight often :-)

    little white dove

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  21. How wonderful! Thankyou so much for sharing Kate. My daughter (5 1/2) and I love reading all the wonderful things you do and Pepper is quite popular here! What an amazing life you give to your girls. had to laugh about you running from the bees but I don't think I would have been as brave in the first place! Trying to convince my parents to have some hives on their property full of Blackwood, wattles and oher lovely Tassie forest trees. Will keep working on her!

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  22. Great pics! I have been called about collecting swarms in Brunswick and Coburg in the past week, but they sounded way too hard (a ceiling!) for a newbie beekeeper like me. Bees hanging on a low branch - with inspiration from you, I could handle that.

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  23. Pepper is such a cutie in her mini bee suit :)
    Well done Fox's Lane farmers. You are braver than I would be getting that close to bees x

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  24. The thought if you running from the bee's brought a smile to my face too! What an extraordinary life you guys live. I absolutely love reading about it xx

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  25. Love it Kate, a little scary but also fascinating. Great photography!

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  26. Wow, absolutely brilliant pictures. Thank you for sharing, Sam xx

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  27. So interesting, love it. Thanks for sharing.

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  28. Your blog just makes me feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude every time I read it. This is so amazing. I just found your blog yesterday and it's lovely.

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  29. I love honey in my tummy! what an amazing sight to see!

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  30. What a wonderful day, experience and sight it all must have been. Loved this post Kate.
    And yes I both am amazed by bees and grateful to them, for many of their gifts.
    Especially honey one of my favourite foods xo

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  31. Oh, thanks for sharing! I'm dreaming of keeping bees one day, and this post made my desire even stronger...

    Fine

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  32. I'm just picturing all those bees sitting around tonight having honey mocktails and retelling stories of that crazy white human with the gloves and the camera and the white sheet! Love taking a peek at your work days. mel x

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  33. I don't have a good relationship with bees. I was stung as a teenager which was excruciatingly painful plus I have never liked honey as I think it tastes very nasty indeed. Commercial honey is very cruel too so even if I did like it I wouldn't eat it. I understand bees are very necessary so I am glad when I see them around but I'm not for exploiting them and taking what belongs to them. I'm sure organic farming is kinder but still, I prefer the bees to keep what is theirs.

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  34. Most fabulous post, thank you!

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  35. Thank you for sharing this most wonderful experience.
    Anne xx

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  36. Awesome post Kate! I would love to have our own hive but I'm petrified of them stinging me. They are amazing animals &we loooove honey.

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  37. congratulations on catching your swarm!! as a beekeeper in the u.s. it is nice to see that things are done the same way so far away!! i am tightening up my hives for the winter, so it is nice to see spring!!!

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  38. I can't wait til the day when we can have bees on our farm...it will be so wonderful!
    (and I believe I can tick the 2nd and 3rd questions :D )
    Enjoy the weekend xoxo

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  39. Fantastic! What a wonderful post... just love those pics, especially the big-and-little bee suits! What a wonderful thing to happen and be part of. Lucky!

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  40. My dad used to keep bees when I was a kid in Qld.
    Cane toads used to sit outside the hives with their mouths open and the bees just seemed to fly straight in.
    If you caught the toads and cut open their bellies, the bees would still be crawling around alive inside them.
    Let's hope those wretched cane toads never make it down to this part of the world.

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  41. How fantastic, like a plant that you can divide and keep growing! I am definitely a fan of the bee and am looking to keep a hive when we settle in our own place. I would probably think we couldn't keep bees in town if I'd forgotten our neighbour across the road when I was a kid had a couple of hives, and that was the suburbs.

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  42. Amazing photos and a great post. I think bees are amazing creatures and I so adore honey, although being there with your family I would find somewhat nerve wracking as I am allergic to Bees! XxBrenda

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  43. Thanks for sharing your day with us at Foxes Lane. I love the photos. I love how they tell the story. I'm loving the bees at the moment. They are frequent visitors in our little herb garden and they will be much loved once our vegetable patch is up and running

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  44. hi kate, i just found you + wow, what a day to do so!... we {being my dad!} have a hive on our holiday property that we've been trying to settle from branch to box, it was such a treat to see your images make it look so easy. We bought Dad a 'bee suit' for his birthday a few weeks ago, and got my kids one while we were there, hopefully that will make them all as brave as you and yours appear to be. thanks for sharing. Jo x

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  45. I wish Bren had of got video of you bolting in your space suit!! X

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  46. What an adventure, thanks for sharing it with us. So are these your hives or ones an apiarist places on your patch? As I will be moving to a place with box forest - great honey making eucalypts - I am keen to have bees either our own or managed by a friendly apiarist.

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  47. Oooh I'm putting my mum onto your blog immediately. She has started bee-keeping and is feeling her way slowly in-between cheese making, veggie gardening and most of all grandchild minding!! (eleven so far). Beautiful photos!! Oh the blossoms!:)

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