Audubon has an indoor, glass-walled demonstration bee hive.

Demonstration Bee hive.

It’s pretty cool. You can watch the worker bees tending the hive, doing the waggle dance, living their lives. Sometimes you can find the Queen and watch her lay eggs.

Demonstration Bee Hive - closer

You can see the honey stores they build up to help them survive through the winter.

There is a tunnel that goes through the wall to the outside, so the workers can go out to get nectar and pollen.

Tunnel to the Outside
Tunnel to the Outside

Exit Hole on Outside of Building
Exit Hole on Outside of Building

OK, so that’s the background… Here’s the coolest thing ever: Walt Dahlgren, our beekeeper, told us a week or so ago that our hive was getting very large and that he had identified two queens. When this happens, one queen will leave and about half the workers will go with her… Today was the day! At around lunchtime, a mass exodus from the hive occurred. The bees congregated on branches of the locust tree just outside the building.

Bees congregate on branch of Locust Tree

Bees on Branch of Locust Tree

Bees on Branch of Locust Tree

Jeff called Walt right away but he was not able to come until 3 or 3:30. In the time it took him to get to Audubon, the activity of the bees lessened and the ball became more compact.

More Compact

While we watched the bees, we noticed a few dragonflies coming through. We joked that maybe they were there to eat the bees… not believing it could be true. Then one landed on my sleeve with a bee in its mandibles. We watched it chew… I tried to get a shot with my camera… but the lens I had on was not great for this close range! (Hopefully one of Jeff’s pictures came out better.)

Dragonfly chewing on Bee

Jeff's photo of the bee-eater on my Sleeve
Jeff’s photo of the bee-eating dragonfly on my sleeve!

Most fascinating of all was when Walt arrived and set up a shop vac to suck the bees into an empty hive.

Vacuuming the Bees
Vacuuming the Bees

Vaccuming the Bees - Closeup
Vaccuming the Bees – Closeup

For the most part, the bees were quite calm and put up with this process with no agitation. Toward the end, though, one found me and decided I was a threat. I got stung twice on my face, and Jeff got stung once. But it was so fascinating, it was all worth it.

2 thoughts on “Bees

  1. great story – great educational tool – and Walt was the man we referred our callers to when they called Cornell Cooperative Extension about bees swarming, when I was there.

  2. Wow! Timing is everything, right? So glad you were able to capture this for us. nature will always amaze and entertain.

    Sorry for your stings!

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