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Our Purple beehive, which swarmed on Wednesday (today is Friday), threw another swarm this afternoon.

It remains to be seen if we can recapture them. So far we haven't been able to see exactly where they've settled. Fingers crossed.

For the past week we've had rain, sometimes brief downpours and at other times more gentle rain, and the rainy days would be interspersed with sunshine. We were warned by one of our beekeeping mentors that this was "swarmy" weather:  The bees are locked up inside the hive when it rains, and swarm on the days that are going to be sunny. "Watch your hives for swarms!" we were told.

We did take care to minimize swarms from our Apiary #1. We split the hive and gave the original hive frames of blank foundation to work on, hoping that this extra space would counteract any tendency to swarm. It seemed to work on the original hive, but yesterday the split swarmed. Surprise!

Here's what a swarm looks like when the bees are getting ready to depart. They gather on the front of the hive until a certain critical mass is achieved, then they take off to a temporary landing site nearby.

These girls went down the canyon and decided to alight on the poison oak. All that green stuff you see in the video is poison oak, so nice and shiny. Alex was brave and bushwhacked a path through the poison oak, then he captured the swarm and brought it back up the hill. By the end of the afternoon the bees were safely (and, we hope, contentedly) ensconced in their new home, our Blue hive.

The swarm now lives in our Blue hive. We hope they stay here.
The swarm now lives in our Blue hive.

We hope they decide to stay here.

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The astronomical onset of spring is the vernal equinox, which this year occurred on Thursday 20 March 2014. The date is determined by the movements of the Earth and the sun, and occurs regardless of weather conditions anywhere on the planet. Some people look to plants for an indication of spring: the first day that a crocus pops up through the snow, or the first blossoms on a cherry tree. For me, I know that spring has sprung when certain birds show up in my world.

The first red-winged blackbirds make themselves heard in January, which is too early to be thinking about spring but at that point in the year it's nice to be reminded that the days are getting longer. The red-wingeds' calls are heard throughout February and March; it always makes me smile to hear them lekking. Some time in March I see the first barn swallows at the marine lab, and once they start plastering mud under the eaves I know that spring is here.

A few years ago the swallows chose a site sort of under a stairway to build their nest. They started plastering mud in a corner of the wall and constructed a neat little home in which to raise their young. That year they raised four babies successfully.

At this point they're the same size as their parents.
At this point they're the same size as their parents.

The parents were still feeding them, but the babies almost didn't fit into the nest anymore. It was so cute. I'd walk under them to get to the door and they'd all pivot their heads down to look at me.

The parents were pretty blase about people walking under their nest all day:

The parentsIt was up to us to make sure we didn't get pooped on. Sometimes you'd have to dodge the splat.

Once the babies fledge and start feeding themselves, we get barn swallows swooping around the courtyard. They seem to be more active in the afternoons, when the wind picks up. They look like they're having so much fun, zooming around like miniature 737s.

I bet it's fun to be a swallow in the springtime.

 

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