Monday, April 10, 2017

Walking the bees home

Just two days after Mian and I captured a swarm, the bees swarmed again. And this time,we had no hive conveniently ready to house them. So Mian and I called G, to call a young man we knew who had recently lost his bees and wanted some more. Instead, G came over in the afternoon. 'It is time I learnt, Madam' he said. I am vain enough to think that our efforts helped demystify beekeeping for him.

Our 'new' hive
He had come with bee keeper's tools-a veiled hat and a basket- borrowed from a friend. The hat was standard gear, the basket was homemade. Over here, it is considered essential for capturing a swarm. Rather than 'plopping' the swarm into a box, as the admittedly uncouth pair of us had done, the local beekeepers invite the bees in. The 'basket' is a woven cone covered with jute fabric. Honey and wax is rubbed into the fabric. The bee whisperer then holds this basket close to the swarm and coaxes them to move onto it.
The swarm-catching basket
Once he had seen the bees, Mian, I and G scurried around to complete his outfit. In lieu of beekeeper's overalls, we scrounged together a cooking ladle, Mian's bomber jacket and my gardening gloves for G. Mian and I followed in our shirtsleeves, Madhu was far more circumspect.
G scopes out the swarm

G sat down close to the swarm and held the basket almost touching them.
Introducing the bees to the basket
Some drones got interested enough to check it out. Soon, he began slowly directing them to the basket with the ladle. This was a gentle unhurried process with the ladle being used more to show the bees where they might like to go than to push them there.
Gently coaxing the bees in with a ladle
The relaxed pace means that the bees stay calm, but it also takes a while. G's arm rapidly tired but he refused all offers of help.
Waiting for the bees to make up their collective mind
Finally, after more than half an hour, the queen moved to the basket. While we could not see her, we knew it by the change in pace. Suddenly, the basket was the happening place to be and the workers could not get there fast enough.
They make up their mind. At this point, the bees are walking in by themselves
Soon, they were all in the basket, and a tired but triumphant G was holding up his new friends.
All aboard!

And then he turned around and trudged off for the kilometer-long walk home. Carrying a few hundred bees in an upside down basket.
The long walk home. Good thing he's got company. Lots of it




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