a french garden

Is this the last bee swarm of the season?

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For us, in this little corner of France Spring 2020 was a little unusual.  The winter was rather mild, and then we had quite a lot of rain in early Spring which together with warm weather pushed all the plants forwards – specially the nettles and other weeds.

So, during the self isolation period of the pandemic of Covid 19, Amelia and I spent a lot of time weeding, and gardening and weeding!

Bee on Glycine

But gardening has its rewards, as we could take our coffee breaks and smell the heady perfume of the wisteria along the fence.

Poppy and Bee

A few years I brought the seeds of a rather large poppy from Spain.  We simply named it the Barcelona Poppy,  It is now much appriciated in several spots in the garden.

Bee in Rose

Another favourite of mine is a rose bush called Phyllis Bide.  It has smallish flowers but very delicate colour.

Bee Swarm

During the cold months of winter the queen bees almost stop laying eggs as there is shortage of pollen and nectar outside,  But not in our garden.  Amelia has planted so many winter flowering plants that the bees pop out frequently for a little snack all through winter.  Of course outside in the open fileds there are also plenty of wild flowers like dandilions that are welcomed by the bees.   As the result the colonies grow quite fast and then nearly half a colony swarms forming a new colony.  We had our first swarm of the season on the 21st of March (the vernal equinox).  We collected it and placed it in a 6 frame nucleus hive.

Since that day until the 26th April, we had a total of 8 bee swarms all landing within a few metres of our beehives.  We know that at least two the swarms came from our own colonies.  Early last winter we lost two of our hives and so two large swarms were directly placed in hives.  Two other hives after swarming did not develop as well as we had hoped.  So after a couple of weeks that the newly arrival swarms had well developed, we mixed them with each of the less-developed hives after sugar dusting both colonies to help them accept the odour of each other.

Our friends who keep bees a short distance away also had similar experince and we gave them the other swarms.

Hives in Sring 2020

We had promised ourselves that we will not keep more than 3 hives at the bottom of our garden – OK, we said just 2 more in case we lose any.  But by end of April the bottom of the garden had become a nursery of hives and nucleus hives.

Field of Poppies

Each year, on 5th of May the Europeans commemorate the end of War in Europe.  On that day, I passed the centre of our village and noticed a field some half a kilometres long full of red poppies and it made me think of all those brave young men and women whose blood was spilled on the European soil.

Bee in Cotoneaster

The cotoneaster is now in full flower and you should hear the buzz of the honey bees as well as the bumble bees on them.  Sometimes when I pass the bushes, I wonder of there is a swarm, as they make so much noise.

Essaim 28.05.2020

Just when we thought the swarm season has finished, on 28th May we had another bee swarm very low on a branch of our loquat.

We are happy that we have now all our five hives active and we have placed super on them to hopefully collect some summer honey.  However, we did have to recombine 4 of the swarms with our colonies as they were weak.  We also gave four of the swarms to our friend as they lost four hives.  So, that is why I found this spring somewhat strange.

I hope that all is well that ends well.

Kourosh

19 thoughts on “Is this the last bee swarm of the season?

  1. A good year for bees bodes well!

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    • Thank you. I do hope so. The colonies expand, but we constantly need to make sure that they have enough provision. AND protect them as much as we can against the asiatic hornets.m – Kourosh

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  2. I love your photos, thank you. Swarm season goes on till at least July and sometimes as late as early September here!

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    • Thanks, Emily. When I wrote that post for Amelia, after 26th April we had not had any more swarms. But in the last few days at the end of May we had two large swarms coming in succession, So far tjis year that makes it 10 swarms.
      I hope you and your family are safe and well. Best wishes – Kourosh

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  3. Thank you, Kourosh, for the update. I always learn from your posts.
    Stay safe.

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  4. Hi Kourosh. I find this swarming behaviour fascinating – moving the populations around to strengthen or create new hives. But what would you do with a swarm in your garden if you (or your neighbours) did not want to strengthen or create a new hive? Or does that never happen?

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    • Thanks Malcolm. Good to hear from you.
      Firstly I hope that despite the “confinement” you managed to get your new home in France. Amelia and I had hoped to get another visit from you. Now that at least in France we are out of self-isolation, I do look forward that you can manage to visit us before too long.
      Yes indeed we do sometimes get more swarms that we can share with friends. So last year we sold a few swarms – not at commercial price – but at least to recover some of our costs for the frames and feeding them. Beekeeping is expensive.
      Kind regards
      Kourosh

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      • Our furniture arrived at our new French house on Tuesday. Fingers crossed, we should be allowed into France from Switzerland on the 15th June to be reunited. We shall definitely take up your kind offer to visit you this summer – but first, some unpacking!

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  5. How wonderful to have those bees and to be able to capture the swarms. Bees are having a rough time these days and need all the help we can give them.
    The field of poppies is very beautiful. The bees would appreciate that too!

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    • Thank you Jane. As long as we treat beekeeping as a hobby, it is interesting. At times it can be hard work two days ago we caught another swarm that was high on a tree and it took two hours to collect it. The temperature in the shade was 30 degrees, but we had to stand all that time in sunshine. Not very enjoyable. But the reward was a very large and friendly swarm of bees.
      Best wishes
      Kourosh

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  6. Our cotoneaster has come into flower recently and seems to be the exclusive property of the bumblebees who buzz appreciatively!

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  7. The few swarms of bees we got here were inside walls of buildings! Three went to the same building! No one can explain why they prefer that particular building. In the end, all hives went to good homes, so did not stay here.

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    • Honey bees are very particular about the size of their “nest” – not too big and not too small. That is why they often swarm in a cavity of the walls or preferably a chimney. You might know that monsieur Dadant whose design of hives we use in France (before he emigerated to the USA) based his design on the size French chimney,
      I am glad that the swarms near you found good home.
      Best wishes
      Kourosh

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      • Oh yes, I am pleased that they were well taken care of. Bees are such delightful insects. However, we can not allow them to live within our public landscapes and buildings.

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  8. Hello Kourosh,
    Wow – what an amazing number of swarms! It sounds like honeybees are thriving in your area and garden, though it does look like your hive numbers are getting ever larger. There was a piece on the radio this week about the Asian hornet threat in the UK – it’s already established in jersey, and I wondered at what time of the year you began to find these attacking your hives?
    Best wishes for a healthy and productive season,
    Julian

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    • Thanks for your comment. Total swarms collected until now has gone up to eleven! As for the dreaded asian hornets I set the trap in early spring as the queens come out of hibernation. This year I caught quite a few queen hornets. Untill end of July they are just expanding their little colonies and need mostly nectar, and so we catch them in trap. After end of June they start attacking the bees to feed to their larves.
      We do what we can to keep them safe.
      You, too stay safe.
      Kourosh

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  9. Love those red poppies. Glad that your bees are thriving, hope that bodes well for bees in general.

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