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A truly astonishing event occurred in my own backyard yesterday; my 4 year-old son assisted a professional beekeeper in capturing a swarm of bees! We first noticed the swarm, about the size of a basketball, clinging to a thin branch of an apple tree a couple of days ago. On the grass directly below the swarming ball of honeybees was a puddle of even more bees.
We were stumped about what to do. I had remembered seeing a PSA on TV this summer that gave directions for JUST THIS SITUATION, but damned if I didn’t write down the name of the organization or the phone number to contact. I only remembered (207) something something something – BEES. So I called a bunch of people and places and eventually landed at The Maine State Beekeepers Association.
That is how we met the marvelous Peter Cowin aka The Bee Whisperer. You can find him on Facebook. Peter drove out to our house, suited us up in protective gear and walked us through how to safely capture the swarm of bees. He patiently answered all of my son’s questions and then when it was all over he gave us a small jar of honey!
We started out by observing what the swarm was doing. Mr. Cowin had us empty the new hive box and while he held it directly under the swarm in the tree I shook the branch as hard as I could. The swarm released in a loud BZZzzz and most of the bees fell into the box. We repeated this a couple of times. Then we showed the hive box to the puddle of bees on the ground. The most amazing thing happened…the bees marched in! At that point we got to see the queen as she marched with her swarm into their new digs. The bees in the tree had been there for maybe three days, which was long enough to form a cluster of honey comb. Mr. Cowin collected this and gave it to my son. Talk about a proud and excited kid!
We were so thrilled to be in the thick of a natural event and we were surprised by how not scary it was. My husband and I are totally sold on the idea of beekeeping. We plan to meet up with Peter again in the spring to have him outfit us with our first beehive.
Peter Cowin, aka The Bee Whisperer, is president of the Penobscot County Beekeepers Association. His activities include honey production, pollination services, beekeeping lessons, sales of bees and bee equipment and the removal of feral bee hives from homes and other structures. Check out “The Bee Whisperer” on Facebook, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 207-299-6948.