I got some hardware cloth and put the existing hive onto a metal cart, whose base is open metalwork. (It came with the house, and I never could figure a use for it, before.) I asked Dan to help me lift it from the other side, onto the new platform, since the bees were mostly out foraging, and he said he thought he could deal. It was a moment's action,and went smoothly. It's now portable and the hive has the open bottom that one of the fellows at the bee guild says is invaluable for avoiding mites. I can see it, since hives in the wild often have a large space underneath, where things can drop through and be gone. I took the lemon branch out of the hive body, and scraped loose some of the comb they'd been building on it, put it into the hive for now. I know I'm going to end up with cross-comb, but while they're establishing themselves, I want them to have all the resources they can get. I put the lemon branch aside, since it was covered with bees on one end, and went to deal with the later swarm.
I think I got these ladies a hive just in time. The box was rapidly being filled with comb and honey, and it was a mass of bees inside. I pulled off the tape, opened the box, and got a huge whiff of queen scent. I was finding these were the most mellow bees I've ever dealt with. It's probably that fragrant queen. Dan stood by and watched me working in a dress with no protection except garden gloves, and started coming in closer. "This is amazing," he said. "I've always been afraid of bees, but watching you, and seeing them, I just feel mellow and comfortable with them. They're so fascinating, too!" He started helping me with the hive and the box. He didn't even freak when a bee got inside his T-shirt, just pulled it up, and I reached over and got her onto my finger. Wow, these really are mellow bees, that don't even get weird inside clothing. Or maybe it was just us being dead calm. Getting all the bees out of the box proved challenging. I think it's because the cardboard was just full of queen scent. I put the cypress branch (covered with bees) and most of the comb on top of the hive frames and covered it with the inner box that had held the frames (where they had started drawing comb, as well). I put the outer box back over where the colony had formerly been, to serve as a trap lure for those still out foraging. Every now and then, I swear I heard the queen pipe. And then this wave of scent came... We could both smell it. I think this colony may have a very young queen. I think I may split this colony, eventually, make a nucleus for a new one. I want to propagate this stock, because I like their habits. We ended up just watching this colony for about an hour, as it moved into its new home.
I went back to the other colony, and noticed there were still bees clustered on the lemon branch, all around something yellowish. I picked up the branch and looked more closely. It was a swarm cell! It was full of a fat queen larvae and a ton of royal jelly, not yet capped. They were making a new queen! And then I realized that, as I had suspected, the second queen must have absconded, and they were left with an old queen, who was now laying poorly, so their first priority was to make a successor. I'd never seen anything like this before, and it was magical! I carefully trimmed away the bushy stuff and cut short the branch, putting the tip and cell into the hive. I hope it's okay, and didn't get chilled or anything.
There was a small comb full of honey and pollen lying next to where the branch had been. I picked it up, intending to put it inside, on the inner cover, but stopped to show the honey/pollen to Dan. Then I dipped my finger into a few of the broken cells and tasted it. Wow, brand new honey, like ambrosia! I broke off a piece and handed it to Dan, and he tasted it and was amazed as well. There were a few capped cells, but most were still open, being filled. We chewed a couple bits of comb, and then I put the rest into the hive for them to scavenge. Amazing stuff, new honey fresh from the comb, not even capped yet!
This morning, I checked the hives, and pulled the cypress branch mostly out of the new hive body, figuring all the clinging bees will eventually move into the hive. I'll check again at noon, see if I can remove the branch entirely. Again, I'll have to go in later and deal with cross-comb, but I want these gals to have all the resources they need to get established.