Lord-willin’ and the Queen don’t fly…

Posted on Apr 16, 2011 | 1 comment

8 Frame HiveIf you were raised in the South, you’ve heard the expression ‘Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.’  (Pronounced: lordwillinanthecreekdonrise.)  Usually it’s used just after a statement of something you plan to do, kind of a disclaimer, a humble acknowledgement that there are many things that might happen between now and then, things over which we have no control…

For example, when you have a brand new hive of bees over which you are deliriously happy and on day-four you watch helplessly as they  swirl away in a big bee-tornado off into the tall forest full of hollow trees that must be more inviting than the lovely little home you so carefully prepared. Humbling indeed. Hence the new variation of the old expression: Lord willin’ and the QUEEN DONT FLY!!

“Absconding” is the beekeeping term for when you install a new package of bees into a hive and they, well, decide otherwise. I found this out after obsessively reading for hours on what could have happened or what I could have done wrong. Absconded. (Visions of wearing the Scarlet “A”  of  Shame to the next beekeepers meeting did flash through my mind…)  It was a rough day all around, even after I found out that sometimes bees just do this. “It happens,” say the bee discussion boards. “It happens,” say the experienced beekeepers, adding a shrug. It happens most often when installing ‘package’ bees in brand new equipment that lack the honeycomb and brood that tether bees to a homeplace. Some sources say there’s a one in four chance of absconding in a brand new package-bee installation.

Sometimes the swarm lands nearby in a low tree and you can fetch them back. Sometimes they leave again. “It happens.” Mine just went once, but with a sense of purpose and no hope of retrieval from the forest. Worse yet, this late in the season and with an ongoing ‘bee shortage’ it seemed unlikely I’d find more bees this year in the short Spring window for starting a new hive. It was a sad day. Those happen too.

But you know how difficult events sometimes bring their own gifts with them. One huge gift on that sad day was my wonderful bee mentor dropped what she was doing and drove right over in hopes of locating the swarm. I’d never been so happy to see a green truck pull in the driveway. Her kind presence and determination to get me more bees this year is something I’ll never forget! Thank you so much Charity!

Mendy was so kind and supportive throughout all my distress and dismay, an award may be warranted. Being a poet, she added at one point it was worth the price of a package of bees just to actually witness a swarm —an awe inspiring sight! It is, after all, what bees do to make create more bee colonies in the Spring, adds the poet. It’s much more enjoyable, I observed, if those aren’t YOUR bees swarming away!  Later, there was her short summary Facebook post of the events of the day:  “Queen leaves. Seeks better disco?”  I laughed, and that was a good sign.

Then there was knowing we’d contributed roughly 10,000 pollinators to our ecosystem since swarms usually travel less than a mile to locate a new home… And that did help me to feel better. I hope my errant colony found a wonderful, spacious hollow tree and are setting up housekeeping right now. I send them fondest wishes and luck since I couldn’t help but fall in love with every fuzzy golden one of them in the brief days they were here. Every one was magic and their absence was palpable here at Larrapin.

Days passed and another good thing happened. The local swarmcatcher of the beekeepers association told me he’d call me if they caught a wild swarm. Jim’s the person who gets the call if a beeswarm shows up on someone’s front porch, the playground,  etc and someone calls the police or animal control or the fire department. Jim shows up both to save the day for the folks scared of the bees and to save the bees from any harm. If the swarm is caught, some lucky new beekeeper is going to get THE telephone call…THE call that has been the reason the new beekeeper has kept the cellphone at his or her side for days or weeks…

I got THE call on Wednesday: a small swarm in a lanky tree overhanging a patio. My lucky day. With the help of Jim, the homeowner, several ladders, a prop, good luck and a long bee-catching pole, the swarm was placed in my hive.

There are no guarantees at all. Will they stay? No one can say. Will they thrive? Will this current cold weather snap and harsh wind harm their homemaking? Will the colony grow to a size they can survive winter? No one can say. Jim did say that if they flew away to call him and he’d catch me another swarm. Charity has offered all assistance needed. Another friend’s Grandpa may have bees to sell soon too. Beekeepers are a good bunch. And I find I’m willing to pursue every angle, because it’s been a long time since I felt as enthralled by an endeavor as since picking up that first book on beekeeping last fall. I love everything about it and the more I know the more I love it all.  I’m determined to learn this amazing art, and that includes the challenging parts and the humbling parts too. It all feels worth it just to experience such amazement.

So for the second time in as many weeks, Larrapin has bees—lord willin’ and the Queen don’t fly.

Above are some pics from my first bee day with my mentor Charity at an early spring hive inspection with her own mentor beekeeper. Enjoy!

—A Larrapin Garden  www.larrapin.us
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One Comment

  1. I hope your bees are still around! I always notice and point out the “bee boxes” along the side of the highway when Stephen and I travel. I think they are too neat.