This afternoon I noticed that my new portable telephone announced in writing that somebody had tried to ring me almost an hour earlier, but I hadn’t heard it ring. I guess that was because I was at a friend’s house where reception is usually poor. I had shown my phone to her young son, a budding technocrat, hoping he would add some apps that I had had on my old phone. He showed me how to do it, but I didn’t grasp the lesson. I told him that it is a new 4G phone. He told me that they are no better than 3G unless you’re in London!
Anyway, when I got to higher ground, near Hardy’s Monument, I pulled into a layby and rang the number. I heard a recorded announcement that I had rung Aquila Heights Guest House. I knew then who it must be who had rung me, although we hadn’t been in touch for several years: a friend used to stay there on occasional visits and I got to know the owner, Joan Cox, and she occasionally bought honey from me. As it wasn’t far out of my way, I drove to Aquila Heights, in Maiden Castle Road in Dorchester and rang her door bell. Joan answered the bell and told me that there was a swarm in a hedge over the road!
I took a look. It was of a fair to middling size but difficult to get at, apart from the height, about 4 feet from the ground. There was a garden wall topped by an evergreen hedge and the bees were clustered in the base of the hedge so there was no way I could get a skep underneath to drop them in. I had no old comb with me with which to entice them.
I fetched a skep and a bee-brush from the back of the car and held the skep against the top of the wall while I tried to brush bees into it. It was awkward as I didn’t have enough hands. Joan came to the rescue my propping the skep on an upturned brush, anchoring it with a couple of bricks. I didn’t want to alarm passers by by donning full armour, so I put on a hat and veil and worked wearing a T shirt. Joan fetched me a pair of secateurs to snip twigs from the hedge and, bravely (for this was her first encounter with bees) held the skep steady for me while I worked round her. She had no protection at all and was wearing a short sleeved jumper. If there hadn’t been so many bees around, I’d have taken my hat off to her!
I got one or two stings and was able to show Joan a bee anchored to my hand. Eventually she received a sting on the cheek and I insisted that she put on the bee-tunic that I had in the back of the car. All this time we were being observed by passers by and some took photos. I took a few myself, using my new phone, but, unfortunately, my phone and the computer aren’t talking to each other or you’d see Joan, barefaced with a skep of bees in her hands.
In the end I got nearly all of the bees into the skep, which I then lowered into a large Ikea bag and Joan bound round it with baler twine. We said ‘Goodbye’ and I drove to a site I have in woodland near Tincleton with an empty hive set up as a bait hive. I removed the bait, a blob of cotton wool with a few drops of lemon grass oil, and hived the swarm. From the difference in weight between the skep full and empty and the depth with which they covered the frame tops before going down, I reckon the swarm was much bigger than it had first appeared to me.