When a bee hive swarms, the beekeepers (and family) are as busy as, well, bees!
The gilded skies and dew drenched grass had ushered in what promised to be a warm sultry day in the heart of North Carolina’s piedmont. All of us — my parents, Minnesotans who bravely faced the change in climes for the sake of visiting the grandkids, included — were busily focused on any of the several projects or tasks underway that morning.
The cry of the circular saw was fading and the mockingbird, perched high in the paper birch above us, laughed in anticipation of seeing another board nailed into place on the new chicken coop. The six big chickens were out, scouring the yard for worms and insects and the occasional small snake; the eleven baby chicks, at five weeks old, were in the caged “chicken tractor” under the watchful eye of one of the kids; and soaring high overhead was a red tailed hawk, seeking an opportunity to strike.
I heard a voice cry out, “Swarm!” It was my wife who had issued forth this one word; and instantly all of us — well, all of us except my parents, who hadn’t experienced this before — knew what that meant. Our plans had changed for the morning, beginning with that solitary word. Hearing my wife proclaim that there is a swarm is in some ways similar to the effect one sees when playing the childhood game Duck Duck Goose. Sitting in the circle, the participant is almost lulled to a catatonic state from hearing “duck” repeated continuously as the “goose” makes his or her way around the circle, tapping each person on the head; then “goose” is heard, and instantly the new goose springs into action, standing up and chasing the chooser around the circle.
When our family hears “swarm,” we know that one of the bee hives is now a fireball of activity and that a lot of effort will be made in an attempt to keep the bees from leaving the premises.
I looked over at the hives in the garden, and sure enough, one of them had a cloud of bees, each bee flying around the hive in a way that always reminds me of the science cartoons we watched in school of electrons flying around an atom. On warm spring days, hives always have bees coming in and out; but the swarming hive literally has thousands of bees in a small cloud.