If you haven’t done so already, scroll back and read my post of a couple of weeks ago entitled ‘Chewing on Pi whilst driving’, which describes the bait hive I designed in my head. I’ve made it now, more or less as described: a decagon (10 sided) ‘cylinder’ about a span across and a couple of cubits deep, giving a capacity of about a bushel. Towards the lower end is a decagon of plywood that sits in a groove to keep the whole thing rigid and in shape. At the top is a circle of thicker ply that just fits with propolisable gaps here and there. A bar screwed across the top extends half an inch each side to prevent it slipping down. The underside of the top has a series of parallel lines of beeswax, drawn with a soldering iron, spaced as frames would be in a brood box.This morning I ironed beeswax onto the outside to waterproof it and possibly add an attractive aroma.
This afternoon I took it to my friend, Jean’s d’Cruze’s, estate (about 4 acres) on Rampisham Down about 700′ above sea level. Her bungalow is about a mile from the nearest neighbour; several from the village. She has had bees above her kitchen ceiling continuously for 25 years, flying from between 2 and 4 places, varying from year to year. A few years ago I (with the assistance of, the now late, Len Watts), renewed her soffit board in which we drilled 3 holes for entrances. Last year they also flew from the north side. At the moment they are flying only from 2 holes. Tufts of mouldy black debris resulting from the activity of wax moths dangle through the cracks in her ceiling. I have applied duct tape to the wider cracks that bees found their way through. Jean says that there are rats up there too, but I haven’t heard them.
In case you are thinking that Jean may be a little lax in her housework, I point out that she is severely disabled through diabetes and arthritis, having just had a second toe amputated because of resulting septicaemia. She needs both extremely knobbly hands to bring me a cup of tea and roll me a ciggy (about the only time I smoke!). She can’t drive at the moment and is marooned so, when necessary, I drive her to the clinic or to do a bit of shopping, and I am so grateful that I am able to do so when others are not.
I took the hive across the field looking for the best place to place it. I tried the pair of pine trees but my rope was too short to tie it to one of them. Eventually I settled on the wall of a disused outbuilding that had a convenient heap of concrete blocks next to it. First I dropped a chunk of old brood comb into the hive then, not being able to reach to the bottom of the box, I shoved a phial of swarm attractant through a couple of cotton wool balls, eased the top off and dropped it in. Then I replaced the lid and capped it with a lid that, in a former role, had been part of a kitchen steamer.
I tied a rope around it and hoisted it to position, dangling from a projecting beam. There wasn’t a lot to keep the loop of rope in place so I used some plastic binder twine to loop from one side of the rope under the hive to the other side, so I hope that will keep it in place. The loop of rope not being exactly central, the hive wasn’t quite vertical so I found a fence post and inserted it into the gap of a few inches at the lower end and leant it against the wall.
I checked the alignment of the entrance with my shadow and my watch and ascertained that it was facing due south. The entrance knot hole is at the height of my collar bone: 5 foot-ish. Job done: now it’s up to the bees!