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Spirit of the Beehive: A Bee Swarm in New Orleans

The signs of spring are all around in the city of New Orleans. Flowers, wildlife, trees bursting with green. Spring is pretty well along now and we are moving into the heated days of the summer.

Spirit of the Beehive: A Bee Swarm in New Orleans

A swarm of bees in our Japanese plum tree in New Orleans

A swarm of bees in our Japanese plum tree in New Orleans

Yesterday, as I was putting out the trash, I heard this rushing sound like some kind of electrical gadget behind me, and I was wondering what kind of tool a person would have to have to make that noise. It was like a drill or a cleaning tool the sound coming from behind me and up in the air.

Turning around I was surprised to find bees flying back and forth swarming around the gutter of the shed. I thought, heck, they’ve found a spot inside the wall and they are now filling the shed and I’m going to have to deal with this.

I’ll have to kill the bees which I don’t want to do because I used to have bees and I know how important they are to flowers, trees and vegetable gardens. But there was something strange because I couldn’t tell where the bees were going into the shed.

And then I saw it. As I followed the sound and the swooping of the tiny creatures I spotted high up among the branches of our big Japanese plum tree a big cluster of bees the size of a football hanging from a limb, so thick and heavy that the weight was pulling the branch down.

The bees flew around me in dives and swirls and I knew they would not hurt me while swarming. I knew that deep within that football of bees was the queen who had left the old hive and was looking for a new place. I hoped they wouldn’t find a hole in a wall of our house and want to take up residence because then I would have to eradicate them with poison, something I really did not want to do.

When I lived out in the country in the Pacific Northwest I had several bee hives. I remember one day I saw a swarm on a low hanging branch not far from their original hive box. I knew that they had left their home and were about the fly away.

Knowing I didn’t have much time I quickly put a black plastic sheet on the ground and with my hands I scooped them onto the sheet, and making several trips carried them in groups back to the hive. I remember how cool it was to stand there that swarm ball only a few feet directly in from of me, bees flying too and fro so thick that it was like being were underwater among a school of fish. For a moment I felt like I was a bee and I too was part of the hive.

After I had carried all the bees back to the hive they seemed content and crawled back in. I imagined that I had found the queen and she had decided to settle back into her old home. But it was not to be for they stayed in the hive for only a day or two. I went out one day to check on them and discovered the hive completely empty. I scanned the trees around me and saw no swarm. They were gone forever.

The thing about a swarm is that it only lasts a short time. While that big bee football sits their churning and bouncing the colony has sent out scouts to find another location. When they find one the queen follows and the whole colony follows after her to their new home.

After I’d taken a few photos it was only a little bit later that I went out again and found the tree empty, no more football, no straggling bees. It was as if it had never happened. And thankfully they had not taken up residence in our home.

Posted in New Orleans Life.

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