As many of you know our family moved to my sisters farm in East Tennessee in April. You can see how our first two weeks, of adjusting to farm life, went here and here. This move has been such a blessing for our family, but it has also taken some getting used to. Life on the farm is very different from the hustle and bustle of Atlanta! Beekeeping, for example, isn't something that we saw much of...if any...in our old town. I'm sure it was there. We just didn't know anyone that did it. Here on the farm uncle Joe and his uncle Johnny have honey bees! They have taken our son, Gabriel, and I under their wing and are teaching us everything they know.
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Our son has learned all about safety precautions when working with the bees. He has his own protective gear to wear and has even learned to use the smoker! Uncle Joe always opens the hives first to make sure the ladies are nice and calm before he lets Gabriel and I in on the fun. Besides safety, we have learned how and why bees make honey and about their growth and life cycles. This is hands on science at it's best, folks!
Did you know that sometimes the honey bee queen isn't performing up to the standards that the hive needs and that causes them to perform a Supersedure? This is where the hive replaces the old queen with her daughter. Sounds like something out of medieval times if you ask me. Game of Thrones anyone?
A Supersedure is not to be confused with a Swarm. Swarming is the process by which a new honey bee colony is formed when the old queen bee leaves the colony with a large group of worker bees. The new queen remains with what's left of the workers to carry on the original colony. We were able to experience one of these swarms first hand last week! Our son discovered the swarm in a peach tree near the barn.
Did you know that bees dance to communicate with each other? We were able to watch their dancing up close and personal. It was quite fascinating! Uncle Joe said they were communicating about the location of their new hive. Once a new location is discovered the swarm will leave for it's new home. As a beekeeper, you want to capture the swarm before it leaves. If you can do this, then you've just gained a new hive.
And then, they suddenly took to the skies! There we were looking up at thousands of bees! My husband got video of their flight. Unfortunately, the beekeepers were not ready. At the end of the video you can hear the start up of a weed eater. Uncle Joe tried to use the sound to disrupt the communications of the queen bee with the worker bees, sometimes this works, but no success this time. They flew off across the pasture fields to a new location unknown to us. It was quite thrilling!
Though one swarm was lost, we actually added another 6 hives to the farm the following day. Stay tuned this summer for when we harvest honey!