Something amazing happened here.
Before I tell you, though, I need to back up. My only two hives had died by early winter, last year. This is a sad, but unfortunately, a common event here. Also, I was worried about not having any honey bees for this year, because my honey bee order was late.
There was still a good amount of honey on the hives–I had saved it for my new colony of bees. (I prefer to feed my honey instead of sugar because it is better for the bees and, in my experience, they seem to do better.) Many weeks ago I noticed an occasional bee flying in and out of one of the hives. “Not surprising,” I told myself, since I had left honey on the hive. No doubt they were taking the honey back to their hive, wherever it was. But recently, I noticed an increase in bee traffic. I peeked in the hive.
Once I opened the hive, it was clear a small colony, probably a few thousand bees were living there. Wow! In checking the comb I found “baby bees”. I could see larvae (larvae is the wormlike stage between 3-8 days old) and capped brood (the pupae stage from 9-21 days.) New honey and pollen were also in the hive. I have checked the hive twice. I have yet to find the queen bee (she can be hard to find), but just recently I found eggs, which means the queen was alive and laying at least 3 days ago. I’m thrilled!
Honey Bees on Their Comb
So where did these bees come from? There are two possibilities. They could be a wild or feral colony that decided they liked my hive with good honey and decided to move in. Or they could be a swarm from someone else’s hive. A swarm is when a large group of honey bees leave their hive with the queen. They leave behind other honey bees and a developing queen so the original hive can continue. Either way, I feel honored that they came.
In my five years of beekeeping I have not heard of bees just arriving to an empty hive. I’m sure it happens, but it is not very common. Some beekeepers will try to attract swarms to their apiary by using a special box and pheromones that will hopefully attract honey bees–referred to as “swarm baiting”. Perhaps I should give try this a try.
I rubbed lemon balm on the inside of the hive boxes which mimics the pheromone honey bees use to find their hive. I will be working hard to make sure the honey bees stay healthy and do well.