When hubby was out in the field a few days ago he saw a couple of bees flying in and out of the old hive. That's not all that unusual, really. Sometimes a scout will check an empty hive to see if there is any honey to be scrounged.
On his way back up to the house, he watched for a moment, and there was 'traffic'. So I put on my makeshift/frugal/cheap bee suit (light blue sweats, a fuzzy sweatshirt, double socks, welding gloves and a beekeeper's veil, topped off with rubber bands at my ankles and wrists - I am a sight!) and went to check things out.
Apologies - I have no photos at this time. Have you ever tried to use a camera when you're wearing 2 layers of clothing, a bee veil and welding gloves? I'll try to get some pics soon!
I took off the cover to find a decent size grouping of honeybees in the hive. It was the right time of day for me to be snooping in there (early afternoon) on a bright, warm, sunny day, so they were really docile and pretty much ignored me. When a bee hive gets too crowded, the workers hatch a new queen. The old queen leaves, with about half of the bees in the hive, and they move out. That's what a swarm is. In this case, a swarm found my old, empty hive and moved right in.
I did't pull the frames to check for brood (babies), but I noted that there is a feeder installed in the top super. (A super is a box. The box holds the frames where the bees build honeycomb to store honey and/or hatch brood.)
The next day, I made a batch of syrup for the honeybees. 1 gallon of water, five pounds of sugar. Heat until the sugar is dissolved, then cool and feed to the bees. This will give them a big boost toward rearing more young, gathering more honey for themselves, etc. You don't feed honeybees once they are making honey in the small (shallow) supers, but feeding them when they are filling the larger (deep) supers helps ensure that they will have plenty of honey to get them through winter.
Anyway, when it was time to feed them, the rain came. Bees do not like rain, not one bit! It makes them stop working, and that makes them cranky. It was starting to get a little late when the skies cleared and the sun came back, but I decided to feed them anyway.
Poor choice. They were not not not in the mood for visitors, and make that clear by stinging the heck out of me....well...my bee suit. The welding gloves took the worst of it. I counted over 30 stingers.
On the other hand, going in when everyone was home gave me a good sense of the size of the swarm. It looks like it was a good-sized one, so I may even feed them again once this batch of syrup is eaten. Anyway, since they were feeling super cranky, I poured the syrup into the feeder, put the lid back on and got out of Dodge. Several guards followed me for quite a long way, and I had to stand and hold my breath (they sense carbon dioxide when you exhale and that agitates them) until they finally flew off.
We have honeybees again! Woo Hoo!!
I'll need to do a little hive maintenance. There is no landing board at the entrance, so I'll cut some plywood and attach it. They are mostly using a hole that the previous bunch chewed through the top super. No biggie, but I'd like to give them more, and easier, access. Once we get their home fixed up a little, I'll start checking for brood, look for the queen, all that good fun.