When Bees Swarm, Sometimes It’s a Gift From Nature

We've fallen short in many aspects of farm life (including with our bees), but sometimes Mother Nature cuts you a break.

by Rachael Dupree
PHOTO: Rachael Dupree

Have you ever looked at a farmer’s Facebook or Instagram feed and wondered, “How do they get it all done?” The answer to that question is simple: They don’t.

Don’t get me wrong, farmers, particularly those who farm professionally, are some of the most innovative, efficient, hardworking people on the planet—I oftentimes don’t feel worthy of taking on the title. But I can deeply sympathize with the never-ending to-do list that landowners of all types have. I have so much to learn, and many of my big plans fall by the wayside as my attention is diverted by the tiny human that lives with us. A big thing on our farm we’ve neglected of late is our beehive.

During the course of my pregnancy and since having a baby, I’ve been into our hive only a handful of times. Last year, we kept tabs on the colony enough to make sure it was healthy and had what it needed to survive the winter, but we didn’t harvest honey and definitely didn’t partake in the proper maintenance activities.

This spring, once again, we got caught up in life—namely, our daughter and our garden—and when we finally went to check on the hive, we found that the bees had checked out. They said sayonara, adios, ciao. That’s right: The bees swarmed.

This realization brought me sadness but also relief: sadness because we had failed our bee friends but relief because we could put beekeeping on hold until we are better equipped to give it the attention it deserves. This latter part Mr. B and I agreed on with reluctant hearts. For the next several weeks, as we hiked by the beehive, a little wave of guilt would wash over me.

Then, something miraculous happened. As if an acknowledgement from Mother Nature that we’d been doing the best we could and deserved a second chance, the bees returned.

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OK, I realize they probably aren’t the same bees but rather a new colony that has overtaken the hive. That’s OK with me for several reasons. First, they see the hive as hospitable enough to occupy, so maybe we’ve not done all that bad. Second, the new bees seem to be as gentle and friendly as the last lot, so welcome—and yes, please pollinate our garden and make some honey.

While we’ll probably continue to be “hands-off” beekeepers in that we’ll probably not conduct constant hive inspections, this second chance has excited me and Mr. B and also inspired us to interact with our bees—or rather, the bees that call our hive home—more frequently and continue our education on how to be better beekeepers. This second chance to have communion with the honeybees is a gift, and one that we’re truly grateful for.

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