Yesterday I received an email from a couple in Beaminster whom I’d never met or heard of, asking me for help with their bees. The lady, Gill, volunteers at the local Museum and so her path crosses that of Colin Bowditch who is very active there and is also, like me, a member of the Dorset Boundary Research Group. Colin pointed them in my direction which is how they got my address.
I was too busy yesterday to visit but rang this evening and spoke with Robin. He was about to go to a meeting but gave me directions and told me his wife, Gill, would be there.
They have a top bar hive and a top bar nucleus on their garage roof. A swarm had gone into the nuc and they had transferred it to the full sized hive but now it appeared queenless and (by coincidence or not?) their next door neighbour has noticed bees flying from the eaves of his house! They contacted me because their local BKA don’t seem to be familiar with TBHs.
I drove across to Beaminster and, having overshot, turned round and made my way up a narrow alleyway to find their house, which was instantly recognisable because it had a ladder against the garage.
By the time I had reversed into their drive, Gill appeared. After a brief chat we kitted up and ascended the ladder. I noticed a Lotus in the garage and Gill told me that Robin is off to Le Mans with it very soon!
I didn’t have a smoker and neither did Gill. She talks to her bees so (showing off!) I sang to them. I had difficulty in opening the hive as it is of a trapezoidal design and has a roof that opens from one side with hinges on the other. I had tried to lift it off!
Gill corrected me and soon I was able to find my way in. It all seems very new and clean. I noticed that Robin had made V shaped wedges to guide the bees in building comb on desired lines. I generally use a lump of beeswax and a soldering iron to draw a beeline for that purpose. Both ways work but I think mine’s simpler.
The colony is rather small and I assume it to be a cast. They have stores of nectar and of pollen. Then came the comb with eggs. Gill had difficulty in seeing them but, with her portable computer, took photographs. A couple of combs along were very young larvae and then Gill spotted the queen.
Gill, if you’re reading this and have the technical know-how, please post the photos.
Having closed up and descended, we went next door to the neighbour’s house. There were lots of bees flying from the eaves but they were much too large to be honeybees. I couldn’t tell from a distance what species they are as there are so many, so similar.
No reply from the door so we went into the adjacent field and found the neighbour and had a pleasant chat with him. I assured him that the bees weren’t a problem and would be gone in a month or two after rearing the next generation.
I declined the offer of a glass of wine from the neighbour but accepted tea and scrummy chocolate cake from Gill while we had a pleasant chat. Their lounge has a glass floor/window as a lid to a well through which one can see the water about 15 feet down, lower than usual. Robin had found the well when their extension was being built by dowsing with rods, so I showed Gill the dowsing pendulum I keep in my pocket.
Our chat included bee books and I recommended my (co-authored with Dave MacFawn) book Getting the Best from Your Bees. I also showed her my recently published book of poems about bees and the people who keep them: Bee People. I had a copy in the car as I’d been hoping to persuade Waterstones to stock it but it seems there’s a (soluble) problem with the lack of an ISBN. I gave a copy to Dorchester Library so, if you’re local, you can read before buying!
Having flipped through the book (back to front!) Gill like what she read and bought it! I departed with some book money and also with a doggy bag of chocolate cake! I’ve a feeling we’ll keep in touch!