A confused and confusing swarm
Vita Bee Health’s guest blogger writes:
This afternoon, I cycled around my apiaries on the downland of north Hampshire, England, checking to see if the harvest was ready to be brought in. As usual, on my way back, I detoured slightly to visit a a wild colony that I have been watching for two years now. (I think the original colony may have died during the winter and a swarm reoccupied the nest this spring.) Instead of the usual to-ing and fro-ing, I was greeted by this heart-warming sight at almost exactly 4pm (very late in the day for swarming in these parts):
Needless to say, I stopped to watch what was happening. Bees were pouring out of the nest in the beech tree but few were taking to the air. They just gathered around their entrance — in a very loving heart shape. I watched for 45 minutes as they continued to gather — quite thickly, as they were buffeted by the strong breeze:
Then at last they took off, leaving the entrance almost free of bees. But not for long. They circled for about ten minutes. I watched to see where they might hang up — half wondering if it would be on my bike at the foot of the tree:
But they never did hang up and, instead, after about ten minutes, returned to the entrance — although some went to a false door (lower right).
I’ll try to make time to visit tomorrow to see if they make a second attempt to swarm. My best guess is that the queen could not or did not want to leave.