Grafting and queen mating flight

kate-barnwellOne of the joys of working in nature are the occasional special little moments of connection.
Kate Barnwell, fruit tree enthusiast from South Carolina, was helping us catch up on some grafting. While scoping out what we wanted to do across the whole orchard, we had admired how active and plentiful our bees are this glorious Spring.
Then about 30 minutes later we were working on this cherry plum, 200 metres from the hives, when a  cloud of bees passed right over our heads, coming from the direction of the hives.
We tried to follow them on foot, but unlike a swarm they were travelling purposefully, too fast for us to follow them far, and quickly went out of sight beyond the olive grove. The next day none of the hives showed reduced numbers, as they would have if they had given up a swarm, so it seems we were just in the right place at the right time to witness a queen and some of her admirers on their way to a drone congregation area. It felt very magical to have just been admiring the bees 30 minutes before, then to be 200 metres away and have them fly right over our heads, as if they wanted to show us what they were up to.