TELLING THE BEES

As I mentioned yesterday, I had a phone call to tell me that my good friend, Jean d’Cruze had died that morning after a long and painful illness.  I have just returned from visiting her bungalow to tell the bees of her demise and to warn them that they may be in for unpleasant times to come.

The bees have occupied the ceiling of the flat rooved kitchen continuously for well over a quarter of a century.  There has been no break and re-occupation as is often suggested when feral bees have been on the same site for years, at least during the last decade or so when I have been a frequent visitor at all seasons.

I think it must have been the bees that got us acquainted as the soffit board along where the gutter should be was rotten and needed renewing.  I did it with the assistance of Len Watts, a fellow beekeeper and retired carpenter (he must have been gone about 5 years). We drilled 3 holes about 10 feet apart for the bees to use as entrances.  All three were busy today, plus a couple of other cracks.

Sometimes the cracks in the plasterwork ceiling opened up enough for bees to get in and I applied duct tape where necessary.  The smaller cracks have festoons of black fluff dangling from them: evidence of the role of wax moths in comb renewal.  Rats and/or mice may also have had a role in this as they could be heard from time to time.

Jean’s land extends to about 4 acres on top of Rampisham Down around the 700 foot contour. She had no neighbours for miles and I know of no beekeepers close by.  She invited me to place hives there but I declined as I didn’t want to spoil things by bringing pests, diseases and the wrong genes to contaminate the existing stock.  They must be within drone-flight of other colonies as I have noticed more yellow banded bees in recent years.

I once took a swarm from a fence post there and hived it on site, making the mistake of sitting it on an oil drum to provide a raised entrance which bees prefer.  They did very well for a while but were overturned by a winter gale and I didn’t realise until it was too late.

I took another swarm more recently, a couple of years ago, and placed it in a National next to her fence on the line that Jean told me was the direction in which swarms usually departed.  The bees hated that hive for some reason and kept clustering outside it, eventually departing.

After that I constructed a bait hive of a pattern of which I think Tom Seeley would approve. It is an imitation hollow tree trunk made of pallet planks with a lid, below which I trickled lines of wax as comb building starters.  The volume is about a bushel and the entrance is a knot hole at the bottom,  about chest high to me when it was suspended from the roof of an out building.  Despite baiting with lemon grass oil, I have seen only one bee showing an interest and that was last year.  I have now brought it home and will have to decide what to do with it.

As I was about to leave, a strange lady appeared at the door.  She told me she is Jean’s sister.   I didn’t know she had a sister! There are also two brothers, one of which I knew.  He’s Chris and is blind (his wife also) and lives in Northern Ireland.  I know he and Jean spoke regularly on the phone. The sister told me that he is the principal beneficiary of the Will and, as he won’t be able to use the land himself, most probably it will be sold for demolition and redevelopment.

What about the poor bees!

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About chrissladesbeeblog

I have been keeping bees since 1978 and currently have about a dozen hives. I am a member of the BBKA where for many years I represented Dorset at the Annual Delegates' Meeting. I am the co-author (with Dave MacFawn of of S. Carolina) of "Getting the Best from Your Bees" and am working on a book of my own poems : "Bee People".
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3 Responses to TELLING THE BEES

  1. Sarah says:

    I think you had better re-home those poor bees before somebody demolishes their old home. Saviour of the bees. That is your life’s job description, isn’t it?

  2. Can you attach a box or boxes to the wall and soffit fitted with a cone escape so the bees can pass out but not back? I am sure That I read about this technique for removing bees from a roofspace when I first got interested in keeping bees myself.

  3. First I would need the permission of the new owner. Then there would be practical problems as there are too many alternative ‘escape routes’ for the bees as the edges of the rood are so ‘leaky’. Also I don’t know whether this is one massive colony currently using several entrances up to 20 feet apart or several colonies sharing the roof space.
    I do have a couple of nuc boxes adapted for trapping bees from walls etc and am experienced in using them. Had it been practical to use them here I would have done so years ago. They use Porter escapes rather than cones.

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