We are fortunate to have friends who know all sorts of things about flora and fauna. So, when I was talking about what I thought was the discovery of a new bee hive, my friend enlightened me. The European Honey Bees were swarming. Apparently this occurs approximately once a year, when an existing hive splits in two. The new colony, comprising of a new Queen Bee, and her drones, were looking for a new home. What I had assumed to be a new hive, was actually a solid mass of bees. The queen lands somewhere, and her colony of drones protect her by climbing all around her while scouts search for a potential home.
Our friends arrived the next morning with a bee box and bee suits. Thankfully, the swarm was about head height, so there was no need for ladders or other climbing equipment. The bee box was placed on a table directly under the swarm. First, they tried scooping the mass of bees into the box. This was partly successful, but the queen was still on the branch of the tree. To protect her, and avoid aggravating the swarm, the branch was snipped off and placed in the bee box. We all hoped her scent would lure the remaining bees into the box, so the lid was placed on, with just enough of an opening for the flying bees to land and enter.
We all had a cup of tea while waiting, and waiting. Still bees flying, so a plan was formed to leave the box so they could settle in until early evening, when it should be safe to move the colony.
Feeling happy that the morning efforts had been successful, our friends went home and we had a late lunch. After lunch, we checked again, only to find that the swarm had moved out of the box. This time the swarm was under a lavender bush. Apparently the queen did not like her new home. I phoned our friends, but by the time they could return to our place, the swarm was gone. After a week, we still have not found them.
Wherever the bees ended up, I hope they did not colonise in a bird nesting hollow. While we were looking for the swarm we found an actual hive in a hollow formerly used by a pair of Galahs, and by Crimson Rosella. Honeycomb was visible in the hollow, so we assume this is where the swarm came from – the tree with the hollow was only metres away from where the swarm had initially gathered. High above the ground, the hive is very protected from most predators, as were the birds.
Since the weekend, I have been thinking about the need for pollinators, but also the need for birds to have old trees with hollows. Also, how do the European Honey Bees affect our native bees? I feel that my introduction to bees this last week is only the beginning. This is a topic for further research. If you have links to articles or food for thought, please leave these in the comments below.