A couple of years ago I answered a swarm call from the people in a big country house in Broadmayne. Bees were flying from under the eaves in an inaccessible corner 3 floors up. It was thought that they’d been there for some time. Pressing an ear to the wall of the library, the room next to the flight hole, one could hear a buzz. There was no easy way to get them out. The owners were fairly relaxed about them being there but, on the whole would rather they weren’t.
I placed a couple of old brood frames in a laurel bush nearby where any emerging swarm would be likely to gather and be accessible. I also placed a bait hive in their woodland, about 100 yards from the house.
The bees in the house didn’t last the winter, but a swarm from elsewhere entered the bait hive. I look at them occasionally. They haven’t been very productive so far and they are the stroppiest bees I have encountered, last autumn scoring a 0 (they saw me off) on the record card. They follow too, which is a trait we could do without.
I called in on Monday to see how they were doing. The owners said the roof was off, and asked if I could move the bees aside a little way as where the hive is sited is their access from their woodland to the field beyond (they have children to exercise!). I looked. I found both the roof and crownboard a few yards away and, from the state of the vegetation under them, had been off for some time. I wasn’t kitted up, so didn’t disturb the bees, but could see pollen going in. They weren’t occupying the super, but through the queen excluder I could see the brood box was at least 2/3 full.
I belidded them and went back to chat with the owners. I explained that, because of the ‘less than 2 feet or more than 2 miles’ rule I would have to move them in stages. I asked whether any bees were going to the old site in their wall and advised that they ought to block the entrance and maybe fill the cavity with foam as bees always go where bees have been before.
Yesterday I went back with a spare stand (plastic crate),examined the bees and moved them aside. They are still stroppy, which is why I am typing this with swollen hands! I went back to talk with the owner. She showed me that bees were flying strongly from where they had been 2 years before, having arrived en masse at 3.15pm. An ear pressed once again to the library wall told me that they were in occupation rather than just investigating.
And so the wheel goes round! As soon as I can find a spare queen cell in a pleasant colony I shall introduce it to the stroppy one in the hope of requeening them.