This has been an encouraging year for our fruit trees. Only one of the Asian pears flowered so there is no hope of fruit there but, to our excitement, both of the apple trees flowered this year for the first time since we planted them. As we have been doing with our quince we sprayed the blossoms with a lemony smelling bee attractant to encourage pollination. Then as the quince began this year’s flowering we sprayed its blossoms as well.

Today, as more quince buds had bloomed, we decided to use up the current batch of attractant by spraying the new blossoms. Finishing this task we glanced at the neighboring tree, a dwarf Fuji, to see if it had any more flowers. It did not but it did have, hanging at eye level, the great sausage of bees shown at left. (As usual, clicking on a picture will display a larger version.) And so we entered stage one of seeing one’s first clustered swarm up close, Identification or Oh, look. It’s a swarm.

We rapidly entered stage two, Disbelieving Wonderment or A swarm? Right there? Oh, wow! We drifted nearer in a bit of a trance, without any fear in spite of not being suited up. The bees had no interest in us at all, letting us get quite close. They mostly hung there humming with a handful flying around the cluster and a few waggle dancing on the surface of the great mass, scouts who had already found what they regarded as a suitable home.

And so we rapidly entered stage three, Panic or Oh, no! They will get away if I do not act fast! There is never any way of telling how long a swarm will stay in its bivouac location. It could be a day or less commonly several days but it could be under an hour. Nor did we know how long the swarm had already been hanging there but seeing the wagglers reminded us that we ought not waste time.

After briskly retreating to suit up we rapidly returned with a five-frame nuc, clippers, a tarp, and gratitude that a ladder was not required. Spreading the tarp on the ground near the tree we put the nuc on it, and removed the cover. Not having handy any old comb or similar item to make the interior smell homey to a bee we gave it a quick, desperate spritz of the bee attractant. Then we gathered our courage, gripped the base of the branch from which the cluster hung, and clipped it free of the tree. After a moment’s uncertainty we just gave the branch one good shake low over the open nuc. Most bees made a pile atop the frames with some spilling to either side of the nuc and some taking to the air. The pile began to descend into the nuc’s interior, aided by a little gentle sweeping with the leafy but now bee-less branch. We slowly slid the inner cover onto the nuc from the rear, sweeping the bees before it careful not to crush any. After repeating this procedure with the telescoping cover while holding the inner cover in place with one hand we stepped back to watch.

With the queen within one should see bees at the entrance lifting their rears and fanning their wings to spread a lemony smell from their Nasonov glands. This is to guide the rest of the bees to the entrance of their new home. We saw a little individual fanning but not much. Neither could we smell anything lemony nor see the expected tide of bees crawling to the entrance. Yet within half an hour there were few bees to be found outside the nuc. We hope that means they are within and happy with the home we have chosen for them.

There remained a half dozen or so bees seemed to be trying to return to the no-longer-present branch. Perhaps they were late returning scouts ready to dance for a dream home somewhere else. Or they could just have been stubborn bees. Either way they gave up after a few hours.

And now, our work not yet done, we are in stage four, Giddiness or We really caught a swarm! This is akin to the feeling we had after hiving our very first package, a joyful awareness of having experienced something wonderful with the promise of more wonder to come. We shall wait until dusk, when any foragers will have returned, and move the nuc onto a stand at a better location where we shall feed her.