There was I, enjoying a pre-prandial doze, when I was awakened by a banging on the door. It was a couple of farming chaps from the next parish but one, Wynford Eagle. There were bees in the barn and could I get rid of them please?
I went along after lunch and, after driving down a quarter of a mile of steep and bumpy farm track, arrived at Broom’s Farm. I was shown where the bees were: there was a large oil tank in the barn with about an inch between it and the double skinned barn wall. I could see some bees but couldn’t get at them. I put some old comb close by but they weren’t interested. I tried a bit of my precious and dwindling stock of Bee Go on a corner of a cardboard egg carton and inserted it as close as I could on a metal spike. They buzzed a bit louder but it didn’t shift them. It occurred to me that my apprentice Becca lived close by and could do with some more bees so I rang her number, but she didn’t answer so I could only leave a message.
There didn’t seem to be very many bees, and yet, leaning an ear against the barn wall, they were noisy. They might be between the skins of the wall. Alternatively, I could see from the shape of the opposite side of the tank that there would be an indentation close to where the bees were to be seen.
We had to go in through the wall. A farm worker was togged up with a spare bee-suit and helped me prise the outer planks off. There were a few bees in the cavity but not many. Therefore they must be in the alcove of the tank. The chap fetched a chainsaw and, very delicately so as not to rip the full oil tank asunder, sliced down through the horizontal planks of the inner wall.
The bees were exposed! They had several combs and then I was told that the bees had arrived 4 days ago. I brought my skep and sat it in a wheelbarrow next to the colony. Showing off, I picked up a handful of bees and they were all warm and tickly. Carefully, I cut out the combs and placed them in the skep; then I used an Apiguard cardboard box as a scoop, running it along the contours of the tank and depositing the bees in the skep. Then work with the bee-brush eventually got nearly all of them in.
Into the big Ikea bag with the skep, a bit of string round it and a jacket on top and we were away. I thought of dumping them in Becca’s empty hive, but as the colony had oriented on the barn, drawn comb and the queen had started laying eggs, the bees were likely to fly straight back home as I guesstimated that she was less than 2 miles away.
I do have several empty hives around the place, but chose to put this swarm in a woodland site where the chestnuts are coming into flower. It isn’t usually a very productive site, especially in a dry year as the heather doesn’t yield then, but, on the other hand, it is a lovely peaceful place where, generally, the only man-made sound is from the occasional aircraft. Often, after playing with the bees, I recline on a comfy heather clump and chill or doze. Hmmm, I seem to be doing rather a lot of that lately!