Bees are awesome. No, bees are really, really awesome.
I have a special place in my heart for bees. Honeybees specifically, but all bees in general are pretty amazing.
Never before, however, had I seen a swarm. A swarm is actually a natural occurrence, and isn't really a scary thing, at all. When a queen leaves the hive because its population has gotten too large, she brings an entourage with her. This can be over half of the entire colony. They all leave in search of a new place to make their home. People have referred to this huge amount of bees flying so closely together as a black cloud.
Naturally, this is pretty exhausting for the queen. When she tires, she'll stop to take a break in a somewhat protected area.
While a few bees go off to scout around for the perfect location, the rest stay near the queen, swarming around her in order to keep her safe. During this migratory state she's vulnerable, and so her protection is of the utmost importance to the hive.
This swarm that gathers around can be hundreds, and even thousands of bees, depending on the hive. You can't really comprehend what this is like until you see it.
I was able to fully comprehend this when a swarm was discovered in the back of my sister's yard one afternoon. It's awe-striking. This picture does it no justice. What you're looking at is a swarm of honeybees that's well over a foot and a half long, and about five inches in diameter at its thinnest point.
That's a lot of bees.
They actually aren't aggressive at this point. Just like at any other time, they won't sting unless threatened. As you can see, I was able to get in close enough to take this picture, and lived to tell about it. Not a single bee sting.
I was actually pretty worried, though. My nephew is very young, and like all small children, doesn't really understand what "don't pick on the bees" means. He ended up swiping at one while in his wading pool, and was stung. Once he got over the initial pain, however, he was fine.
That was actually how the swarm was discovered in the first place. The bees were so peaceful in their chosen area, that they didn't call attention to themselves. It was the presence of the ones that came to the pool to collect water that had splashed out that caused anyone to notice them, at all!
Like I said before, they choose a relatively protected area to rest.
We didn't know, couldn't know, if this was a passing swarm, or if they were deciding to build a hive, so we made calls to try to relocate the bees. We had very little luck at first, with no honey farms in the area doing swarm relocation. I was making calls in a mad panic, because I didn't want any fumigation to take place. Colony Collapse Disorder is killing a large amount of bees, so I needed to do everything in my power to keep these bees safe and healthy while ensuring my wild little nephew was safe, as well. Fortunately, the pest control companies in the region felt the same way, I was told, and didn't want to come out unless they absolutely had to.
I finally found Bustamante Farms in New Mexico. The woman I talked to was quite helpful, even giving me the name of another honeybee farmer that could help. It was then that I went outside so that I could watch the swarm to give her accurate information about what I was seeing.
And the swarm was gone. It had left to continue its journey.
And I missed the opportunity to see the exodus! Argh!!!