Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The one that got away

I have just spent the last couple of hours dealing with two bee swarms on my allotment. The first was on a branch in an ash tree that overhangs the neighbouring allotment. It was spotted by Liz, the allotment holder, who then phoned me to tell me it was there. The second was on the hedge between the two allotments. I spotted it when I arrived. The hardest one to capture was clearly going to be the one in the tree - or so I thought. We had to get step ladders and a long handled tree pruner. At the top of the ladders and feeling very unsteady, I managed to chop off the right branch which then fell onto a sheet I had put on the ground. I then quickly poured the bees into a swarm collecting box which is still sitting on the ground, waiting for the final few bees to go in.

The hedge swarm turned out to be a different matter altogether. I shook it into a cardboard box which I them turned upside down onto a sheet. This is the usual practise when a swarm box is not available (we have only one). Quite a few bees were still flying around and I noticed that they were forming back up into a swarm on the hedge. Clearly I had failed to capture the queen in the box. I decided to leave the swarm for an hour to let it fully reform before attempting a second recovery operation.

When I returned for the second attempt, I decided it would be easier to chop off the branch of the hedge on which the swarm had formed and then shake it into the box. Alas, as I sawed into the branch, the entire swarm took to the air and headed off as a cloud, flying in what appeared to be a predetermined direction. I watched as the swarm disappeared over the hedgerows.

So whilst we are in a position to create a 9th hive, we lost the opportunity for a 10th. Whilst that is disappointing, it is not the end of the world. It is likely that the swarm had already identified a new nest site, hopefully in a hollow in a tree or some other sumilar place, rather than in a building. That said however, Sun Hill Aged Person's Unit here in Sunniside has had a feral honey bee colony living in its roof space for five years and it has been no problem to the residents.

Another feral bee colony, assuming it's not in a location that will cause difficulties for people, is no bad thing, given the loss of bees, both honey and bumble, over the past few decades. Meanwhile, this evening, we will transfer the swarm in the swarm box into a spare hive (which David is assembling now).

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