Friday afternoon my phone rang. It was a reporter from the Sunday Times who was intending to do a piece on the effects on bees of the rain and floods. His internet surfing had taken him to my blog, thence to me. After a brief discussion we agreed that he could arrange for a photographer to visit me and Pat at her bees. Soon the photographer rang to arrange details.
Early this morning (I was still in bed) a text message arrived on my phone signed by a semi-anonymous Rachel X asking whether I’d be interested in a swarm at Trent, near Sherborne. I responded positively and, having obtained directions, made my way there after breakfast. The swarm was in an apple tree in the gardens of a manor house. As I appeared, the gardener greeting me in the best Darzet accent I’ve heard for decades: “I knew ‘ee were a beekeeper ‘cos ee’s got no socks.”
The swarm had been there for about 5 days, almost certainly coming from a solitary hive on the other side of the building. I met Rachel who had contacted me. It seems her Father used to keep bees and was a bee inspector at one time. She had tried contacting nearer beekeepers about the swarm but elicited no interest, possibly because of the proverbial value of a swarm in July.
Being provided with a step ladder and long handled loppers, I set to work gathering the hive. I had my travelling box with old brood comb and gently placed a comb at a time against the swarm then transferring the adhering bees into the box, sometimes scooping up a handful at a time. I became aware that Rachel was filming me and it is possible that the results will appear here or on Facebook in due course.
When the cluster was reduced and twigs were getting in the way, I used loppers and secateurs to remove a few at a time and shook them into the box. The final branch was thicker and dropped with a rush, partly missing the box and depositing a load of bees on the ground. I leant the box lid against it to provide a ladder. Bees in the box were fanning vigorously, indicating that the queen was within.
While waiting for the bees to go in, I sat in an alcove and chatted with Rachel, explaining that the bees were to go to Pat to replace her drowned ones. I explained about Pat’s permacultural, off-grid, home, “Ourganics”. Rachel was interested, being into permaculture and organic gardening herself, and may contact Pat with a view to visiting and doing some voluntary work there.
I put the lid on the box, a blanket around the external stragglers, and put it on the back seat of my car. As I pulled away, the first few drops of rain appeared. Within 5 miles there was a deluge but it eased after a while. It was almost noon by now so I diverted via home, grabbed bread and cheese and continued to Pat’s at Litton. Having been in phone contact, I knew she was out and not due back until after 2, the photographer being due at 2.30.
There were plenty of people around. Besides her gardening assistants there was team working on an apparatus to produce methane from compost, then capture, store and use it.
I took the box of bees to Pat’s hive, adjusting the position slightly, and, sitting the box on top, allowed the bees to fly from it. I sat in my car listing to the wireless and eating my bread and cheese, but then I was invited to take tea and cake. First there was apple cake, then carrot cake, both being delicious. I never got around to sampling the chocolate cake as Pat appeared.
I had raised Pat’s afflicted hive on concrete blocks as a flood defence, but she decided that another hive on a taller stand would be better so we aimed for that one instead. The photographer arrived. I lent him my spare junior spaceman bee-suit.
He wanted first to picture Pat and I going through her flooded hive. The only bees in it now were robbers. There was no sign of the queen I had photographed a few days ago. He got close ups of comb and of dead bees. Then I hived the swarm, taking a frame at a time from my box and, after pictures were taken, shaking the adhering bees into their new home. Then at the photographer, Steve’s request, we moved the original hive to a more photogenic location and, together and separately, were photographed examining the combs.
Finally, Steve took a couple of shots of my top bar hive with the smiling face. I suppose I’d better buy a copy of the paper on Sunday just in case I’m in it.