About 3 weeks ago I was alerted by a neighbour to a swarm that was arriving in my back garden. This was the middle of August – way beyond the normal swarming season: “A swarm of bees in May..” etc. They hived themselves in some empty boxes I had stacked for renovation. Over the years a number of swarms have arrived here and the article by Roger Patterson in the last BBKA News on Bees and Ley Lines may be relevant. He also refers to them as Geopathic Stress Lines. An internet search reveals that, while some creatures try to avoid GSLs, bees are attracted to them.
They found their way into the stack of boxes through the entrance of a division board that was inverted over an empty brood box. Below was a couple of supers, one with comb. So instead of having their entrance at the bottom as is traditional, they had it at the top. When I looked in after a few days, I found that they had drawn wild comb centrally, hanging from the ‘ceiling’. I gave them frames with starter strips or footprints of comb in the hope of getting them on the straight and narrow. They were also occupying the upper super so I inserted a board beneath it.
Although it is pleasant to have bees in the garden, especially to sit in an armchair next to them while reading a book and keeping an eye on them, it wasn’t really the best place, especially with nervous neighbours, so I had to find a new home for them. Although I have plenty of empty hives in my scattered apiaries, I really have enough bees and I know others whose needs are greater than mine.
The first candidate was a friend on the County Boundary in the far west of Dorset whose Warré hive was queenless and depleted and I got in touch with her, however, before we could arrange to move the bees I had another call, this time for what must have been a ridiculously late mating swarm that had become grounded in the next village. I rescued the newly mated queen and took her across to my friend to introduce to them, hopefully, with a bit of feeding, to restore them to strength.
My beeless apprentice, Beccy, was away camping in Italy. I knew she was back when I found a jar of Italian honey on my window cill. We agreed that she should have the bees. With the aid of Google maps I measured the distance from my garden to her apiary: 2.01 miles as the bee flies. That’s fine as the books say you should move bees less than 2 feet or more than 2 miles.
I strapped the hive tightly so as to avoid accidents in transit and also applied duct tape to the joins between boxes. In order to avoid suffocation I put a scattering of pennies as spacers ‘twixt their ceiling and the rim of the top box. This may not seem much but a penny is 1/16th of an inch thick and the perimeter of the boxes is 4 x 18″ = 72″ long, which means that they would have the equivalent of a breathing hole of 4.5 square inches, (minus the bits at the corners where I taped and, of course, the pennies themselves).
I went along the following evening by torchlight and stuffed a sponge in their entrance. Beccy arrived early in the morning and, together, we carried the hive to the back seat of my car and drove it to her apiary where she had a hive set up according to my instructions: stand, floor, brood box with frames, roof. We carried the strapped hive through the jungle and across the stream to a small fenced-off area next to a meadow.
Carefully, we positioned the hives above each other and loosened the straps. Then I lifted the boxes with the bees by a smidgeon while Bec slid the board out. We left the sponge in the entrance so that the bees would have to use the new one down below, which they soon did.
We left them to it, returned to the car and continued up the drive to the big house whose owner had provided the land and Bec’s hives, he having become allergic to bee stings. In the corner of his house, beneath the eaves, bees were flying, as they have as long as anybody can remember. It must be a quarter of a century ago that I crawled in the attic and put removing them on the ‘too difficult’ list. In the meantime, nobody has been treating them for Varroa and yet they continue to thrive.
In the afternoon I went back to my garden and found, where the hive had been, up to a dozen bees looking for their old home, some of them obviously having been foraging on Himalayan Balsam. My guess is that, foraging from their new home, they found the same patch of Balsam near the village that they had been working on before and then got confused and went back to their old home.
All this unusual activity proves to me that the only book that bees read is Wedmore who states that “Bees do nothing invariably”!