Red Bucket Farm is an urban farm on a quarter acre property in an average residential neighborhood. We are located in Wisconsin, USDA Zone 5. We focus on chickens, bees, orchard fruit, and raised garden beds for fruits and veggies. We hope to reduce our footprint on the planet by growing some of our food, reducing our use of fossil fuels, and gardening with sustainable practices. Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Yesterday afternoon I noticed a large cloud of bees flying low over the bee yard. A few thousand of my honeybees were circling over the hives. I sensed no alarm and the activity settled down to normal after about ten minutes. Little did I know that it was a dress rehearsal for today's performance.

Around 8:30 this morning I was tending my chickens in the lower part of my yard when I heard an unusual humming-buzzing sound. I looked out the chicken coop and saw thousands of my honeybees leaving one hive, at least twice as many bees as yesterday. I rushed up to the beeyard and witnessed them exiting the hive as fast as they could, as if the hive was on fire. The bees circled over the yard but they weren't staying low like they did yesterday. The swarm grew larger and higher and louder, and yet I sensed no panic, not for me or the bees. I stood among them completely amazed.

Finally I stepped back to get a better view. The bees were rising to the tops of the trees in my neighboring woods. Over the course of about thirty minutes, the swarm became increasingly compact and more organized. A mass of bees about the size of a basketball, or perhaps a little larger, finally settled in the very top of a tree immediately behind my yard. And now, five hours later, they are still there.

This is called swarming and it is a naturally occuring phenomenon. When the bees feel too cramped in their home, some of them leave and take the queen with them. They are homeless now and will send out scouts to look for a new home, perhaps a hollow tree in the woods. The swarm may move a few times before finding a permanent location.

We're surprised that they swarmed. After all, these two hives were established at the end of April and their hive boxes are only half full. The remaining bees in that hive are probably already grooming a new queen, and they will continue to build the hive. I'll never know why they left but I'm so grateful to have witnessed the event.

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