There is something extremely tranquil about standing in the middle of a swarming beehive. It is almost like stepping outside of time and watching time frames flash around you like a series of snapshots which suddenly fit together in a spectacular picture. In all reality, only a beekeeper would identify with that statement! I'm sure that I would not have been the only one standing excitedly, camera in hand, in the middle of the huge swarming bee colony who just returned to take up residence on our homestead.....happy little bee dance!!!
Bees swarm for two reasons. Firstly their survival depends on abandoning their previous home. Any number of things could chase bees away from their hive. Ants. Excessive noise or movement. Hunger. Bee eaters. Humans. The second reason bees move is always a special one. When a colony gets really big and strong it forms a second queen and then the bee colony splits. One Queen Bee moves on with her new colony and the other Queen Bee remains behind.
It is sad to me that while people don't understand bees and will easily kill one if they feel threatened by the sting - our survival depends on these incredible little pollinators. In the many years of the drought we barely saw bees. In the early drought years we lost all of our bee hives. Apart from the healing and sweetening properties of honey the hard working bee colonies are largely responsible for the cross pollination and therefor growth of foods that keep humans alive.
A bee hive in search of a new home is called a swarming hive and their twofold purpose in swarming means they are almost harmless. I say almost because they will still sting if threatened. Because they need to protect their little queen and find a new home a calm spectator does not raise the bee alarm while they are swarming. But don't expect to be able to bother a colony once work resumes as usual.
Here in SA our bee is known as the African Killer Bee. Rather a sad name as they sacrifice their life when they feel there is danger to their colony. The distinct difference between our African Killer Bee and any other around the world is their defense response. Other backup bees will be sent in to defend the colony (sacrificing their lives by stinging the threat) when they feel in danger.
However this weekend there was no danger to either the swarming bees or the homesteading humans. The scout bees didn't waste much time in finding some of our spare bee boxes and calling in the rest of the family. It took a couple hours but they were eventually in. The sound of the buzzing filling the mountainside was exhilarating. Every day we peep at the happily dancing little bees. With our fruit trees beginning to bloom there is cause for many happy little bee dances.