This story has two threads: last Tuesday around noontime, the Arboretum’s seasonal groundskeeper, Matt Duckworth, and a volunteer were working outside the Visitor’s Center when they heard a tremendous drone and saw a darkening sky. The swarming hive made a “beeline” for the plants laid out for the spring plant sale but only visited for a moment and moved on. Shortly after, Bob Stanley, an Arboretum docent volunteer who happened to be at the Nursery with a biology class from Chesapeake College, spotted the swarm nestled in an American chestnut on the edge of the woods. We can only assume it was the same bunch.
In drove a beekeeper who was called to capture the hive. Alton Hooper has kept his bees on the Arboretum property for almost two years. He started with one box and now has half a dozen. He shares his honey and also his love of bees by setting up an awesome display with a full-view hive during the Arboretum’s fall plant sale.
He explained to those watching as he very gingerly sawed the chestnut branch that when the hive creates a new queen, the old queen and her workers move out in search of a new home. He believes that these bees were not from his hive but from the other hive on the property that has bees different from his.
We watched, standing very still, while thousands of bees flew around us. The queen made it into the box when Alton dropped in the hive, but to draw the errant bees to the box, he made a light tapping sound on the side of the box, a sound similar to one that the queen makes. The bees came crawling across the grass, over his hand, and into the entrance of the box like an army.
It was truly an amazing sight. He finished his project and left with the bees…without a single sting.
post and photos by Joanne Healey, Nursery Manager