The phone rang this afternoon. Could I help with a swarm in Dorchester? I was there within half an hour and was shown the swarm, large and split between two adjacent branches of a laburnum, drooping under the weight of bees. They were about 12 feet up.
Should I stand on top of the adjacent electricity sub station or use a ladder? Elfin safety prevailed and so I used a step ladder balanced precariously against a wobbly limb. The daughter of the house was sworn in as deputy assistant beekeeper and assumed the posture of skep holder (second class), clad in my better bee-suit.
I managed to cut the first twig with secateurs and lower it into the skep. I got a couple of stings, unusual with a swarm. Then I had to perform my trick, with the thicker branch, of using long handled loppers from the top of the wobbly ladder whilst attempting gently to lower the swarm into the skep. Work out how many hands that needs!
My assistant got stung too but bravely stood her ground. I relieved her of the skep and placed it on a plinth next to the sub station, getting a few more stings in the process. We retreated to the house for a cup of tea until the turmoil had eased. I zipped up again and shook the bees from all but one of their twigs and inverted the skep into a large Ikea bag. A few more stings. They were fanning so I reckoned that the queen was there.
Back to the house for a natter until things had quietened down again. Then I tied up the handles of the bag around the skep and draped the whole lot in a car blanket secured with string.
Having said ‘goodbye’ I drove the bees (with a seat belt round the skep) to Frogmore where I have an empty hive. It didn’t have a full complement of brood frames but I had a few more in a nuc in the car and made up the rest with shallows from the super.
I hived the bees by shaking them down from the skep. Not many more stings. The total for the afternoon was about 15. I hope that it was just the proximity of the sub station that made them stroppy and that it is not inherent. I’m not used to stroppy bees.