Caren became passionate about bees seven years ago. All her hives are swarms that she has caught. A swarm is the beehive’s natural way to reproduce itself. When a hive is healthy and thriving, the queen will lay a special “princess” egg in a special cell that will be cared for by the worker bees who feed the larvae only Royal Jelly.
The original queen will gather half her older workers and fly out of the hive, seeking a new home. Those bees typically will gather on a tree branch or some structure, surrounding the queen in a ball, while scout bees fly off in search of a new home. Once a new home is found, the scouts will return to communicate through a dance where the new home is located.
Meanwhile, from the special cell, the new princess hatches inside the old hive and thereby becomes the new queen. After a nuptial flight to breed with drones high up in the sky, she will return and begin laying eggs to populate the hive she inherited bringing new genetics, and the cycle of life will continue within the hive.
When we find a swarm, we attempt to capture it in an empty box and later install the whole ball of bees with the old queen, which can weigh several pounds, into an empty hive. If the queen likes the hive box, she will take up residency and the workers begin building new comb, collecting nectar for honey, and the queen will resume laying eggs to build up what is essentially a new colony.
We use a top bar method of beekeeping, learned from Corwin Bell of Back Yard Hives. The bees are allowed to build their comb freely so that they can manage the size and shape of their homes. We only harvest honey in the spring after we are certain the bees have had what they need over the winter.The bees are a vital organism on our farm as they bring not only pollination, but also their spiritual nature of love and sacrifice to the farm.