Apis-Mania 2.0

10 April 2006

Our neighbor was walking through her yard last Saturday evening when she noticed a sweater someone had left in her dwarf plum tree. Upon closer inspection the "sweater" was composed of thousands of small, moving pieces and was humming slightly.


A large swarm of honeybees, possibly a breakaway faction from one of our two hives, had tightly massed on the tree for the night. They selected a spot about to bed down only about five feet up in the plum tree, surprisingly low to the ground.

Swarm closeup

We made a few phone calls and found Jeff (from N street) who was looking for swarm to start a home hive. Jeff came out the next morning to collect the swarm. The cool overcast conditions and the swarm's proximity to the ground made it easier for Jeff and Chris to transfer the bulk of the swarm to Jeff's pre-prepped boxes.


Once the queen (unseen but somewhere at the center of the swarm) was in the box, a number of workers perched on the edge of the box and began to fan their wings furiously.

They were spreading pheromones to attract the remaining swarm-members who had been left behind on the tree. Say what will about the hive-mentality, but social insects sure have a remarkable knack at synergetics, thanks of course to the miracle of haplo-diploidy. Even more remarkable, is the ability of highly unrelated groups (namely humans and honeybees) to hash out a workable social contract. I think it's a big improvement from the Bad-Old-Days:


(postscript: In other good neighborly news, a pair of Swainson's Hawks, Buteo swainsoni, is building a nest in a pine tree down the street. I'm hoping they'll take care of the rats in our compost and save Mike the nasty work of pitchforking.)

One Response to “Apis-Mania 2.0”

  1. Jessica Says:

    So, I was wondering if there is any truth to Miah’s worry that the bees would attack me after one was crushed in my hair (by someone else, not by the hair itself). Was there a pheremone that went out telling the bees to attack and kill? Probably not, right? I’m thinking they won’t show up on my doorstep looking for blood any time soon.

    PS… I saw a lecture today where the lecturer said that at the almost top of Mount Everest is a 50m thick unit of thrombolites.

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