14 May 2012

Bees: The Farmer's Friend

Last week Ellen and I were going for a walk around the perimeter of the farm, and we almost stepped on a big ol’ pile of bees!  I have seen swarms of bees on tree branches before, but this is the first time I have ever seen a swarm on the ground. 

Swarm of bees on the ground.  Glad we didn't step on this!

A bee swarm is created in the springtime when a queen bee leaves and overcrowded hive and some of her worker bees follow.  The workers are able to follow the queen by cuing in on the scent of her pheromones.  By staying close to the queen, the worker bees are attempting to protect her and a swarm is created.

Bees in a swarm are generally not aggressive, since they have no young (or brood) to protect.  My father and I went out and attempted to capture the swarm that we found so that we could put these bees to work on the farm!

The plan: gently scoop the bees into a beehive using a shovel.

Bees milling about.  Where'd the queen go??

We moved the bees from the ground into a wooden bee hive, shovelful by shovelful.  Nobody got stung!  After we had moved about half of the bees into the box, we went away for a few hours.  When we came back, the rest of the bees had moved into the box on their own.  We must have gotten the queen in the hive, and the rest of her army followed.

We left the box alone, hoping that the rest of the bees would follow.

During my senior spring semester at Cornell University, I took several “fun” classes including wine tasting, woodworking, and beekeeping (good to know an Ivy League degree still means something, right?).  Beekeeping was a great class!  We learned how to process honey, care for a hive, and make wax candles.  One time we “created” a swarm by removing the queen from a hive.  If you held the queen in your hand, the bees would come and swarm around your hand.

Taming a swarm of bees with my bare hand back in Entomology 2640: Practical Beekeeping!

Farmers love bees!  Honeybees are one of the primary insects that pollinate our crops.  Every tomato, eggplant, pepper, squash, etc. is the result of pollination.  Without bees and other flying insects, we would not have fruits and vegetables to eat.  It has been said that the collective value of bees (including pollination, honey, and beeswax) on a yearly basis is over a billion dollars.  On top of pollinating crops for us, we also get the benefit of sharing the honey that the bees produce.  These bees seem to be enjoying their new home!

Home sweet home.


  1. wonderful to read your blog!!! that bee glove was really something! looking forward to seeing you all at the RFM.

  2. I love reading about the latest "buzz" at Brittany Hollow!

  3. Thanks for reading, Meri and Anonymous! Something exciting is always happening over here at Brittany Hollow. See you June 3rd for our first RFM appearance of the year!