I was out for a country walk this afternoon when my portable telephone rang. It was my apprentice, ZoeAnn, whose voice came over the aether. She it was who obtained her first bees from a barn on her estate using my equipment and following my instructions. She told me that there was a swarm trying to get back into the barn in the same place they had been before. She told me that they couldn’t get in because she had used a can of expanding foam to fill the cavity and entrance cracks. She was too busy to take them herself, so they were mine if I wanted them.
I stepped up my pace to get home, then drove to Ilsington. ZoeAnn wasn’t there as she had taken her children swimming,but she had told me where to find her ladder. The shelf she had attached to the beam over the barn door some years ago was still there. There was a smallish cluster hanging under the shelf and another small cluster attached to the wall above it. Together they might add up to a reasonable swarm.
I fetched and wrestled with the ladder and climbed it for a closer look at the bees. Lots of them were investigating cracks in the brickwork: she hadn’t been as thorough in filling them as she had thought! Instead of my skep, I got my 4 frame nucleus box, raised it around the hanging cluster and banged the shelf with my fist. The bees were dislodged and entered the box between the frames, which are fitted with starter strips.
I then placed the box on the shelf and leant it against the wall beneath the bees and used my brush to sweep them into the box. Some of them started fanning, usually a good sign, however others were signalling at a nearby crack in the wall, returning there despite being brushed. I went to the car and opened my precious, dwindling and irreplaceable bottle of Bee-Go. I applied a couple of drops to the seed head of a plantain, reclimbed the ladder and inserted the smelly end into the crack they were using. That put them off!
Soon, however, they were attracted to cracks on the other side of the shelf. This time I used Bee-Go on a daisy flower and inserted it into the most popular hole. Plantian leaves were folded and inserted into lesser crevices.
I retreated and rested on what probably had once been a mushroom stem from a granary, dipping into a book retrieved from the car, breaking off occasionally to wield the bee brush. I noticed that the numbers of bees were diminishing and that there were far fewer in the box than there had been. The sun was going down and the bees had dwindled considerably to no more than a fist full. I’m guessing that they went back home but am not sure. It is possible that the queen had already entered the barn wall before I got there and I have walled her in. I hope not!
Eventually I gave up, leaving the nucleus in place on the shelf ZoeAnn had built in case they come back. I baited it with a phial of attractant that I found in my pocket. ZA and I have been trying to get together for a catch-up, tea and cake and to play with her bees, so maybe this’ll give us an incentive get on with it.
If I had got the swarm, it was my intention to put it in a wood about a mile away from there. Maybe it’s just as well I didn’t get them as, when I got home, I found a message from FERA (the Min of Ag) to say that EFB had been found within a couple of miles from my apiary. Maybe we should look at ZoeAnn’s bees sooner rather than later.