No way the bee swarm in the above photo is formed in the image of Elvis Presley’s head. The chin is all wrong. Jay Leno with dark sunglasses, maybe, but definitely not Elvis.
Last week a few thousand bees in one of our hives revolted. As I understand it — from expert beekeeper Dr. Moses (pictured below) — the existing hive created a new queen. Of the thousands and thousands of eggs that the old queen laid before winter hibernation, a few were destined to become new queens. From the time they were larva, these special bee princess-pupas were fed a special diet. (It’s not known exactly how the adult bees decide which larva to make into queen bees, but I imagine it’s similar to how each new Dalai Lama is discovered, except for bees.)
Because the hive already had its old queen, the new queen and her followers had to split. So off they flew to one of our apple trees, where Jim noticed them and started jumping up and down wildly. Not really, although he did immediately call me on the cell phone and say, “Get out here, hurry, and bring the camera!”
Jim also called Dr. Moses, a local homeopath who keeps the bee hives on our property. Dr. Moses and his family have one of the oldest natural foods stores in Albuquerque. They sell local honey (great for allergies) and other natural products and pretty much keep a lot of Albuquerqueans feeling healthy.
A good friend of mine goes to Dr. Moses for bee stings to alleviate the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. She is a nurse who for years pooh-poohed the suggestion that she try bee sting therapy. Then one day she was riding her mountain bike along a ditch bank in Albuquerque’s north valley and got stung by a bee. By the time she got home from her ride, she felt different. Better. The constant achiness was gone. She’s been a bee venom advocate ever since.
For some people, however, bee stings can be deadly. There are many different kinds of reactions to bee stings, depending on the person and the type of bee (or wasp). Interesting fact: the honey bee can not pull out it’s stinger once it enters the flesh; it must remove the barb by ripping away part of its abdomen and venom sac. The stinging honey bee gives up its life, and so do four out of every thousand people with life-threatening bee allergies — they are so allergic to bee venom that they will die within 15 minutes of being stung.
It took him most of the afternoon, but Dr. Moses managed to get the new queen bee and her male drones and female workers into a new hive. The bees were somewhat accommodating, although in the interest of time he brought out smoke to get them into the box more quickly than they might have gone on their own. Unfortunately, we weren’t on hand to watch this part of the process, although next time plan to be there.
The new queen and her hive were relocated to a property two or so miles from our place. There’s always the risk that the bees will migrate back, which is why they were moved so far away. There’s also the possibility that more queens will emerge from our existing hives.
The bees in our hives are thriving, which isn’t the case with bees everywhere. Dr. Moses is so encouraged that he’s decided to bring several more hives to keep at our property. We’re thrilled, as the bees are essential to the health of our orchards. It’s a good relationship.
We’ll keep our eyes peeled for Elvis, Marilyn, or anyone else who might mysteriously appear in the pulsing, humming blobs that are bee swarms. In the mean time, let me know who or what you see in our first bee swarm of the season.