Two weeks ago I discovered that my newest hive (the one formed from the split) with my trusty senior queen who had carried last year's hive through winter so beautifully, was limping along. There was no brood in the hive, very little honey, and no queen that I could see. Hmm. I read, I asked, I attended our county bee keepers meeting. Most every source agreed I should re-unite the hives I had split since the other one was not particularly strong either (turns out this has been a particularly hard season for bees in Maine). Combining hives involves taking the weaker hive and stacking on top of a stronger hive with a sheet of newspaper in between the two hives so the bees can become accustomed to the other colony's smell before they can actually make contact. The idea is that by the time they chew through the paper they will no longer want to kill each other.
Well, I did my best.
The bees didn't love it. Actually they hated it. The poor ladies coming in from the field were confused that their home was no longer where they'd left it. The ones that had been moved no longer had a normal entrance/exit available to them. It was chaos in the bee yard for a day or two. It settled down for one cool day, but the next day was in the upper 80's, and those confused bees had had enough. They swarmed.
This may be a lot of info for non-bee keepers, so I'll just say that a swarm in August is bad news.
An old proverb states...
"A Swarm in May is worth a bale of Hay, a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon, a Swarm in July isn't worth a Fly."
So you can imagine what a swarm in August is worth, less than nothing, especially if you can't catch it! Mine landed 60 feet up in an old pine, and 12 feet out on a limb. Nearly impossible to retrieve. They hung there for three days, then flew off when no one was looking.
A bee keeping friend of mine with 15 years experience had two hives swarm last week, so at least I don't feel like it was all due to my novice skills.
It turns out (in case we ever thought otherwise) bees do what they want, when the they want. And those of us who try our best to "keep" them are fortunate to smell the amazing scents coming from the bee yard in August, watch their never ending dances among the flowers, and if we're lucky, we get to harvest a bit of their gold each summer.
(Below--the swarm up close, and as viewed from the back yard, in various setting on my new camera!)