It was the day before the garden tour and I had a lot to do to get ready! But as I came out of the garden gate, I could not believe my eyes.
There on the side of the driveway, maybe 15 feet up, was a large swarm of honey bees. We had been wondering why so many bees came to the fountains, and they also seemed to have a liking for the hot tub (and sometimes drowned). But why they had to swarm and take up residence above the driveway on the day before the tour, I do not know.
I quickly called my friend Chris who had a few numbers and called back a while later to say she had found someone who would come very soon. And indeed, a half an hour later, George arrived, had a look at the problem, and said he could help. He prepared a cardboard box by cutting windows into it and taping metal screen pieces over the windows. He also cut a door into the box. Then he donned his bee attire, got onto a ladder, shook the branch on which the swarm was lodged, and neatly dropped them into the box.
George then put the box on top of the ladder, opened the door, and taped the top shut.
The door allowed any bees that had been flying around while the swarm was caught to join. George said he usually waits 45 minutes to give the stragglers a chance to join, but he was on the phone most of the time he was near our house, talking to different frantic home owners who sounded as if they had bees in their fireplace chimneys and other strange locations.
After it looked as if the number of joiners was diminishing, George closed the door, and let us each hold the box and look in through the screened window. The box was heavy, George estimated there were 10 pounds of bees. I must admit I was a bit surprised that he ended up charging us a fairly large sum of money for the removal, but I had not made the call and therefore could not refuse. In hindsight, I should have called the Beekeeper's Guild of San Mateo. The members of the guild often remove swarms for free, as long as they are not in difficult places.
But really, we were so glad to have the bees go to a good home, and so relieved not to worry about bees on the driveway on tour day that I did not mind writing the check. And besides, it was really fun to watch. Now, of course, I'm wondering whether it was the bee-friendly Phacelias I planted, or whether it's just a good spring for bees...
For a lot more amazing photos and great information about bee swarms, go to the How's Rob blog. Very cool!