The verdict is in...Hive Orange is fixin' to swarm, as indicated by this swarm cell and several others.
I now have the following options:
(1) Let 'em swarm (send them out into the world or perhaps try to catch the swarm and house it in a new hive); or
(2) Divide the colony in half now (a.k.a. do a split) and house half the colony in a new hive.
(3) Hide my head under a pillow and pretend none of this is happening.
(4) Start getting psyched, because I'm going to see my first-ever honeybee swarm!!
Honestly, though, this is a lot more excitement than I was planning on this summer. My intentions were bucolic and exceedingly unambitious: a taste of honey; some low-key time spent "in the bees," as the beeks say; and pleasant hours whiled away idly watching the pretty bees collect pretty pollen from pretty flowers.
The landscape is shifting quickly here—and the bees are running the show. Which is OK by me....I think... My lofty principles about letting bees be bees are being challenged by the very bees I'm supposed to be letting be bees! So I'm meditating heavily on a passage I found the other evening:
"How do you calculate upon the unforeseen? It seems to be an art of recognizing the role of the unforeseen, of keeping your balance amid surprises, of collaborating with chance, of recognizing that there are some essential mysteries in the world and thereby a limit to calculation, to plan, to control. To calculate on the unforeseen is perhaps exactly the paradoxical operation that life most requires of us."—from A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca SolnitA very short time ago, we hived a couple of packages of bees who buzzed in a most demoralized fashion for weeks, until the snow and cold let up, the flowers bloomed, and the buzz turned focused and robust. I worried about them like crazy and prayed to every minor god I could think of that they'd thrive. Eight weeks later, we have two happy, healthy colonies with tons of bees. Words simply cannot convey how many bees! Just to help you envision this, here are some before and after images.
Typical level of activity at the entrances in mid-May...
Typical level of activity at entrances (plus bearding along the upper face of the hive body) in mid-June.
In May, as the bees were getting started and at the very first phases of building up their population, a typical comb was relatively small and barely covered by worker bees.
Now, we have many combs drawn across the length of the top bars, stuffed full of pollen, brood, honey and yes, swarm cells!
With summer just getting started and the queen laying a couple thousand eggs a day, there's no end in sight. A full, crowded hive is a good sign—just what I'd wished for. Thank you, minor gods!
So though the word "swarm" is a scary word, I'm going to try to face this with beek-like equanimity. It helps that just moments ago, one of my online mentors wrote to say, "You will love [the sight of the bees swarming], it's a beautiful thing to see."