a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

First swarm of 2021


The first swarm came into the garden on Saturday 20 March 2021. One day earlier than our first swarm last year. I do not know where it came from but it was not one of ours. We had divided our largest hive “Poppy” and put on a super. We did wonder If she could have swarmed but she is happily filling the super at this moment and the others are not ready yet.

We were happy to give this swarm a home.

The swarm had landed not too high on a cotoneaster and Kourosh held the hive under the swarm and I shook the bees into the hive. We added frames and placed it on a sheet to encourage any stragglers to crawl in.

Job done! Time for a cold drink and self-congratulations.

When we returned to check on the hive it appeared that all the bees were not in agreement of staying in their new home. We had to collect them in the bucket and pour them into the opened hive.

After a few more disagreements they gave up and settled in.

This is our friends’ hive so we put it in an outbuilding in the dark for two nights before we took them to our friends’ nearby hive area very early in the morning. Kourosh opened their entrance later in the morning and they have accepted their new home graciously.

The star of the garden at the moment is our flowering cherry “Accolade”. O.K. it isn’t very big but its our first flowering cherry and it is only its second year in the garden.

You really need to get a bit closer to appreciate the flowers.

Just beautiful!

The bees are in total agreement with our choice.

Talking of bees, I saw two carpenter bees mating holding onto the petals of the leucojum. I cannot remember seeing them mating before.

Yesterday I noticed a strange circle showing in the grass of our front lawn. Aliens? Fungal disease?

No, it was only Kourosh cutting the grass but not having the heart to mow down all the Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) flowers !

Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

30 thoughts on “First swarm of 2021

  1. I was loudly admiring my neighbours violets growing in his lawn in the hope that he would spare them too when mowing!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m with Kourosh–I couldn’t mow them down, either. So interesting that you have swarms so early. We don’t get them until June, and then, oddly, the first week of August.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello Amelia,
    Amazing that your bees are swarming so early, but then this is clearly normal for you, and confirms how lovely your weather must be! I loved the fact that they exited the hive again so quickly but you eventually got them settled in, and safely rehomed – well done. Interesting extended shape on the tree trunk too,
    best wishes

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey well done, until I read that your swarm is on about the same date as last year I thought all was a bit early this year. A friend of mine yesterday told me he had caught 5 swarms already. The other interesting thing is that I have noticed swarms ( apparently from somewhere else (( I.e. not from your hives))) appearing in the same place in following years. I have seen this happen here. I have also read somewhere that the bees somehow have a collective memory and do swarm to the same place, say a year later. Amazing but the evidence seems to be there.
    Any way thank you both for your site and great photos and I am about to do some serious swarm preventing and set out a ruchette to tempt any swarm into it rather than a high tree !

    Good luck


    • This is my personal thought – the ruchette piege attracts the eclaireuse who bring the swarm nearby as perhaps a first step. This is because I have noticed a few days of high activity around a ruchette piege before a we get a swarm. After we catch it the activity calms down again. I noticed in BBKA News (March 2021) that Wally Shaw wrote an article on Swarm Composition with the Pagden method. He was rather scathing about writers not being clear on the success rate of this method and says he has a 50% success rate with it. Interesting. Amelia


      • Amelia,
        I think there is a certain logic there as one can’t watch our friends all the time so we cant be certain. There must be so many swarms that escape our notice. Last year for example, I saw two swarms ( I go to see them once a week) I collected one the other was too high. As a result I carry our very early and active swarm control. I divide them and create more colonies rather than find them swarm and take a long time . One must bear in mind that if a colony swarms it will probably set of a number of secondaries. This simply makes the main colony so weak it will never produce any honey as it will take a long time in prime season to recover. So I think it is better to control swarms by moving frames around or dividing the colony to stop the swarming.



  5. Lovely photos of the swarm and the carpenter bees! So is Kourosh practising ahead of creating guerilla crop circles?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is the first Spring in our new garden, and a couple of weeks ago I spotted a green-winged orchid. I thought, what luck! Since then, they have popped up all over the garden, even among the fruit trees I planted in January. So now I am in total mowing paralysis – which is not such a bad thing. When they die back I will select areas of the garden to mow, for walking on, and leave areas for the wild flowers – unless the next orchid species arrives…..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Last year was an abundant orchid year in this area and the weather has been very similar so it looks like you are in for a treat. It also reminds me that it is time for a visit to a nearby protected site to see the early orchids. Amelia


  7. Well done Kourosh.
    I am always surprised to read that you have had swarms in March. Here in the UK May and June tend to be the swarming months.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hurrah for bees! The flowering cherry are lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love your crop circle! Thank you for the description of the bees –fantastic.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Bees will leave without the queen?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a thrilling adventure! Not being a beekeeper, this is all new to me. I did see a swarm fly over our property once. And there was a wild hive for several years in a eucalyptus tree near our place. Another time, I saw a swarm that had landed on a neighbors pine, and took up residence there. I look forward to learning more about bees from your blog. Beautiful flowering cherry!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. A beautiful cherry and great for your bees too!

    Liked by 1 person

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