I missed a call today which, by detective work, I traced to a firm in Bridport which is owned by a lady I know, so I rang back. I thought I was talking to Lily and it was some minutes before I realised that I was talking with her secretary. She told me that Lily was on her way to my village, Maiden Newton, and that she wasn’t in her Jaguar but in her new grey 4×4 car. She was due to arrive shortly.
I ambled round to the Mill, an ancient collection of buildings currently being restored and converted into dwellings, holiday accommodation and a water powered source of energy. Builders were at work so I asked them where Lily was. I could see the reason for the call: bees were flying strongly from a hole in a brick wall. About 2/3 of them were bringing in pollen, a sure sign of a healthy and fertile colony.
Before finding Lily I had a chat with the builders and looked at the bees. I was told that the wall was solid with no cavity. I pressed an ear against the inside wall and could detect a buzz. By tapping, I detected a hollow a little below but could hear nothing behind it.
I went and found Lily and discussed the options:
a) Leave them alone. Rejected as the entrance hole is at face height where there is to be a patio, maybe roofed if Planners permit.
b) Attach some plastic drain pipes to re-direct their entrance so that it is well above head height.
c) Use my skills and equipment gradually and humanely to extract the bees from the wall over a period of up to 6 weeks.
d) Make a hole in the wall to allow me to cut out the comb and re-hive it.
Happily Lily opted for option c. Even more happily, she agreed to pay me to do so at only half my usual rate and also to buy my last 2 pounds of honey.
I went home to find my adapted nucleus box and couldn’t find it. It must be on the allotment so I searched there among the heap of beestuff in my polytunnel. No sign. On my way home, dimly I recalled that I had lent the kit to my apprentice, ZoeAnn, so that she could extract the bees from the wall of a barn on her estate. I rang and she confirmed that she had it and that it was not in active use.
I drove to Tincleton where ZoeAnn runs her estate and hammered at her front door, which is little used as her son (aged maybe 10) had to struggle to undo the massive lock and bolts. I haven’t seen ZoeAnn for ages so we had some catching up to do.
We went across to the barn where she had installed a shelf on the beam above the entrance about 10 feet up. Unfortunately the modified nuceus box was no longer on it but was on the ground below, and not in the best condition because of it’s impact. It appeared mendable though.
We went to the manor’s old kitchen garden where ZoeAnn keeps her bees. We could see from a distance that the hive is somewhat slanticular but that there were bees flying from it. We stood before it and mentally chilled; relaxing and unwinding as we watched the bees at work. Birdsong was the loudest noise by far and I saw a Long Tailed Tit which ZA says is common thereabouts, but is not so common near me.
I took the roof and crown board off the hive and, looking in, we could see that there was plenty of sealed honey in the super, so she’ll be able to take a crop soon. ZoeAnn tells me that she’s thinking of putting most of her hives into the BKA auction this Saturday as she’s fed up with hefting boxes and wants to go in for the top bar hive, having played with mine.
Eventually we left the apiary and repaired to her house, noticing the chill of the breeze once we left the sheltered apiary. Her son and daughter were busy at games and homework.They’re having a brilliant upbringing: riding horses and bicycles; playing with kids up the lane and learning directly about nature (including shooting jackdaws). Very little time is spent in front of a flickering box. ZoeAnn dares me to use my air gun against a pressurised tin of expanding foam. I think I shall leave that for another day!