Bee Blog July 2016
The swarming season is all but over here in the south, but as the season is still running quite late, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are still bees thinking of setting up a new home, in the north. I’ve heard of some good swarms this year, and the prize for most unusual goes to one that had moved into a rabbit hole. Bees seem to love chimneys and roof spaces, and so we get a fair few requests to remove swarms from these locations, about a month ago I had a call from the local pub to say that they had a swarm in a wall in their car park. Truth to tell, it was in the wall of an adjacent building – The Church Rooms.
Collecting a swarm from behind an air vent in a wall is not a sport that I would normally indulge in, but as the church warden pleaded for help, I caved in. It was an ideal home for a colony of bees, with lots of holes for the bees to exit and enter. The stone had to be removed carefully, to avoid damage, but once it was out, we could see that they had been there a while, as they had constructed quite a bit of comb in the clay pipe which was behind the vent.
The next problem was how to get them out, because as soon as I smoked them, they moved further into the pipe and were soon out of reach altogether. We cleaned out all the rubble from the base of the pipe, and removed all that beautiful comb in the picture below, which gave us thinking time, if nothing else. After a lot of ‘umming and aahing’ it was decided to insert a length of plastic sheeting, rolled up into a tube. Once in place it was released and uncoiled itself. Effectively, we had a floor to the clay pipe. The bees were, by this time, all hanging from the ‘ceiling’ of the pipe, and some 2 metres in. The real piece of ingenuity came from attaching a bee brush to a garden hoe, which seemed to appear from nowhere. Now we could reach the bees, but would it work? We presumed that if the bees were brushed, very gently, from the ‘ceiling’, they would land on the plastic sheet and we could then pull them out. All the while, the bees maintained their cool, and were very well behaved.
Did it work though? Yes, it did. I have made it sound very simple indeed, but removing the comb made every implement very sticky indeed, and the whole operation took two and a half hours. Most of that time was taken up with scratching heads, wondering how on earth we would manage it, and answering calls from wives, who were explaining that the evening meal was even colder than the last time they called.
We did manage to get the queen, and what turned out to be a sizeable swarm, out of the wall, and they now reside in a village about 20 miles away, and are apparently building up into a nice colony. The air vent has been put back in place too, but this time, with a fine stainless steel mesh behind it.