By Rachel Surgeoner
Earlier this month The Future Laboratory bees took to the sky, blindly following their frightened queen and creating a thick swarm in the tree of a nearby hotel. Needless to say, this was not great for community relations, especially when our resident beekeeper is holidaying in the south of France. But from all the drama we learned a great deal about bee behaviour – and we would like to share some of our newly acquired bee knowledge with you.
Firstly, why was our queen frightened? Thanks to Nick at Capital Bee coming to our rescue, we learned that several new queen bees were about to hatch – and this is bad news for the current queen. Usually, the queen will try to take down the younger, new queens, or she will freak out for fear of being overthrown and she will leave, taking her hive with her – suicide mission or not.
When the bees prepare to leave the hive they also stock up on honey and leave the hive high and dry. It’s all very Game of Thrones-like really.
What happened next? Natalie, PA to the managing director (being a PA involves various duties) donned a bee suit and headed to the swarm with Nick from Capital Bee to coax the bees into a temporary hive. Success! The bees were captured and we now have three separate hives with hopefully just one queen bee per hive.
Were there any injuries? Nick had a near sting, but the bee didn’t penetrate his glove, probably because it was full of honey from carbo-loading before leaving. And thank goodness. If the sting had gone through it would have caused the whole swarm to attack, as the hormone that is released from a sting alerts the entire hive into attack mode.
Old-fashioned laissez-faire beekeeping depended on the capture of swarms to replenish beekeeper colonies and early swarms were especially valued.
An old English poem says:
A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay;
A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon;
A swarm of bees in July, let them fly.
We are happy to have our silver spoon safely back in our rooftop hives and we are looking forward to many spoons of honey in a couple of months.