I was working from home this morning and about to leave to get the bus into town when the dog asked to go out: she had been hovering around in the kitchen for a while, it's unusual for her to ask to go out from the kitchen.
Tom opened the kitchen door, yelled and then slammed the door shut: "It's like a horror movie out there." Indeed, we had our first swarm.
There was a cloud of bees swirling around above the grass (lawn? sort of) in the back yard, a buzzing column that seemed to stretch up even higher than the flagpole and the trees.
I called Peter.
Then I donned my spacesuit and wandered out ... by now most of them were hugging the trunk of a very tall spruce, at about 15 meters above the ground. Great. First things first, I wandered over to the school and told the teacher on playground duty to keep the kids away from our garden - some of the boys spend their breaks in the ditches and down in the river which was right where the bees were swarming.
Peter arrived home and I handed over the spacesuit, the gloves, a bin bag and a broom and went to work.
P&T spent the entire afternoon dealing with swarming bees. I was convinced the recently christened Hive From Hell had produced the swarm but Peter thinks it was the other hive (the "quiet guys") since he had found an empty queen cup in there when he added a Farrar frame yesterday.
The only way they could bag the swarm was to climb up the spruce on a ladder with a bin bag and a broom. Anyway, that worked and P managed to get most of the bees (including the queen) into a cardboard box. Thomas had to drive to Kirkkonummi to buy more frames from the bee supply shop. Then the other hive started to swarm - but they dealt with that by setting up a hose and sprinkler which sent the bees back into the hive.
We now have four hives in the back yard and I have no idea which are which and where the queens are. Peter says the situation is under control. We need to check the queen situation and then merge some of the hives if we can. I dread to think what the situation is like in Pojo. Tom will report back later this evening having gone out there with strict instruction on how to add frames to the hives. Poor Tom had no bee-suit to wear while Peter was up the spruce, and he was stung several times. Astonishingly he had no reaction at all. Maybe he should quit uni and become a bee-keeper.
Swarming is quite dramatic but we have to reassure ourselves that we didn't really do anything wrong. Bees are programmed to swarm, it is part of the long-term survival strategy of the colony. We had added boxes to the hives the previous day, which should have prevented the swarm, but what we didn't do was check for queen cups...
Lessons learned: we need an extra bee-suit, smoker and miscellaneous Other things here. No good leaving all the kit in Pojo. Also, don't listen to advice on internet forums. Just open the lids, look inside and make up your own mind.
This BBC article summarises what is happening when bees swarm.