Saturday, June 23, 2012

Bee Mindful To Share Knowledge

The last few weeks have been incredibly full of things other than following my MooseBoots path.  The two weeks leading up to last Sunday were spent preparing for the girls' dance recital.  At least one of the girls had practice every night leading up to the shows.  It is always a huge event for us, especially because dance, and our dance family, is an enormous part our the girls' schooling.

My education was not completely stalled, however.  A part of any learning is also learning how to share the wisdom you've acquired.  These opportunities are sometimes well thought out and planned.  Other times, they are spur of the moment events that demand immediate attention.  Recently, I was called on to share in a more immediate circumstance.

On this day, I happened to be skipping out on dance practice.  I am prone to severe migraine headaches.  I have learned some of the triggers, and try to avoid them, but not all of the triggers.  With particularly bad episodes, I can only lie down, sleep, and hope for the best.  This day was one of those.  After taking my non-herbal "headache cocktail" (I can't think when they get this bad), I took a lavender scented cold thing to bed to sleep.

The call came in ... "there is a clump of bees in a tree.  What do I do?"  In my bleary eyes stupor, I said that it sounded like a swarm and that they were looking for a place to live.  I willingly shared what I had read in The Barefoot Beekeeper.  I suggested that he capture them and keep them in a hive.  He was not a beekeeper, did not have a hive, and could not begin to figure out how to capture them.  I was in no condition for a really lengthy conversation, but I told him to look up the plans on the internet to build a top bar hive and found him a link about making a swarm trap.  He built this swarm trap, immediately and hung it within 2 feet of the swarm.

The following day, we discussed the fact that swarms are not aggressive and that they are really focused on protecting the queen by huddling around her and finding a new place to live.  Upon leaving work, he went home and built his top-bar hive from scrap lumber he had around the house.  Then, he called.  The swarm was still in the tree and not in the trap.  I suggested that he just cut the branch off and place it into the hive.  I reminded him that he would need to remove the branch within a short time or the limb would be get embedded in the comb that the bees built.  I also told him to provide food for them to get the hive started.

My friend, now a few weeks later, is the proud owner of a top-bar hive full of bees.  We have discussed when to harvest any honey and how to protect them for the winter.  His bees have likely survived a winter here in Maine and are much hardier than mine.  It is nice to be able to share wisdom and have a new fellow beekeeper to compare notes with.  Ironically, with my direction, he has done something I have yet to do ... see a swarm in the wild, capture it, and hive it.  And so, my MooseBoots journey continues in unexpected ways.

If you are interested in learning to become a beekeeper, I recommend The Barefoot Beekeeper.  The woman who got us started also has a book, The Thinking Beekeeper: A Guide to Natural Beekeeping in Top Bar Hives, coming out soon.


  1. As always you've passed on more information in the process of storytelling. I have read about how experienced folks capture swarms on another blog, but the man who does it is a professional. I would never even have the guts your friend has to capture a swarm myself, thinking it "must" be left to the pros!

  2. Melonie, my friend was pretty apprehensive about it, too. He said at one point that I would need to go and help. But, he decided that he did not want to wait. Swarms will typically only hang out for a few days and then they move on. I would have embraced the experience. Of course, the one I had was pretty good, too.


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