Lunchtime today I walked along Bockhampton Path where the family would often take Sunday afternoon walks when I was a child. I looked for, but failed to identify, the tree upon which I carved my initials more than half a century ago. Maybe it’s been felled.
As I approached one of the trees I heard a familiar buzzing and, looking up, saw that bees were flying from a large knothole about 8 feet up. Some were carrying pollen so they must be an established colony rather than a fresh swarm. I carved my initials again!
While on the walk my pocket telephone warbled. There was a swarm at Chetnole which the caller, a beekeeper himself, didn’t have any spare kit to house. Could I take it? He gave me the phone number of the householder and I wrote it on my hand. When I got home and had a google map in front of me I rang it. The chap confirmed that the swarm was still there and was accessible.
I hastily re-loaded my car (which had been emptied and cleaned for my Mum’s funeral) and headed for Chetnole, finding the right house at the second attempt. The swarm, not a very big one, maybe a cast, was still there at about head height in a cherry tree set in what, in other gardens, would have been a lawn but was a miniature wild flower meadow, the owner being a professional naturalist. I shall crib that idea as it was lovely. He even has a Marsh Orchid flowering in a washing up bowl!
One rap of the branch and the swarm was in my skep, which I placed in a wide Ikea bag to allow stragglers to rejoin. I brushed the few remaining bees off the branch and gave it a quick squirt of repellant to stop them re-grouping there.
I chatted with the owner while we whetted our whistles with mugs of Earl Grey (this used to be known as the Earl Grey Whistle Test) and watched the bees around the skep. It turns out that we have several acquaintances in common. Inspired by the swarm, he wants to become a beekeeper himself and we bounced ideas around. One is for a communal hive in a natural area of the churchyard; another is for a teaching apiary (with me as teacher!) in an established nature reserve.
As left, he was heading for his computer to fire off a grant application! I hope something comes of it. It’ll be fun!
I took the swarm straight to my allotment to hive it in the experimental transparent hive I have made and described in an earlier posting. To my amazement there were a few, maybe half a dozen, bees in it already plus a couple of dead ones. Maybe my attempt to make it smell hive-like had worked.
I hived the swarm by dumping it in the upturned crate/hive and slamming the lid on, then manoeuvring it back into position with the entrance tube through the hole in the back of the shed. Soon they were fanning at the entrance so it looks as if they intend to stay.
Tomorrow I shall add the temperature sensor through the pre-drilled hole and also place an ordinary thermometer inside the hive but away from the bees, the ideas being to record temperature in the brood area, outside the brood area and also outside the hive. I might learn something.