The bees came back. We thought that they were swarmers.

But the bees came back on the very same day.

The bees came back. We thought that they were gone-ers.

But the bees came back and we want them to stay.

This dreg of poetastry is set to the tune used in this film about a fellow with a feline although our sentiments towards our pets differ as much as possible, of course. ’twas inspired by the following event.

On Monday of last week a loud buzzing moved one of us to step outside and be surprised by a large cloud of bees near the front of the barn. In the few seconds it took to get the other of us, the bees had vanished.

We were in a state of shock at the thought that one of our hives may have just swarmed. Weeks ago we noticed that Clarissa and Dorcas were looking rather crowded so we gave them several empty top bars. Then as we observed a very slow rate of comb construction we feared that they would not be much drawn before winter. So, thinking fewer, more complete combs better than many, small combs, we removed most of what we had given them. Had that recrowding triggered a swarm?

We went to look at the hives. Except for a much larger-than-normal number of bees orienting in front of Clarissa, nothing seemed unusual. Peering in the windows showed the typical crowd of bees. Had the colony decided to swarm and changed its mind? The observer’s last impression of the cloud was that it had started moving towards rather than away from the hives. That would be good news. We thought it too late for a swarm to overwinter and for the remnant to raise and mate a queen. Rather than open the hives to our ignorant gaze we called Dr. Milbrath for advice.

She was able to come the next day to open the hives for inspection. In Clarissa she found properly laid eggs indicating that a queen was present as well as very many newly hatched bees. Likewise in Dorcas. Beatrix, uncrowded, was left unbothered. Dr. Milbrath‘s hypothesis was that indeed one of the hives was triggered into swarming by a very large hatching of young bees. The sudden population increase with insufficient time for queen pheromone to be passed around at a time when the lighting resembles springtime all combined to trigger an attempt at swarming. But when the swarm paused for assessment before proceeding to seek its fortune, it realized that it was queenless and simply returned to the hive. For the queen had not been prepared; not trimmed down to flying weight and prevented from laying. So she could not accompany the swarm.

All we can say is that we hope the girls have gotten it out of their system.