Of bees and olive trees…

I don’t know what it is but suddenly there seems to be a day a week that the local wildlife goes temporarily AWOL. Last week it was Jack the Jackdaw. This week, the bees.

As we opened up the shed, I saw Phil and Steve busy down in the Community Garden. We walked down to the main coop to feed the girls when I heard Steve yelling my name. Leaving my husband to sort out the girls, I dashed up to Steve to hear that the middle bee hive had swarmed again. Fortunately, the bees had only flown a foot away into the olive tree. Less fortunate was the fact they were higher up in it, making extracting the swarm much more difficult.

We suited up and approached the olive tree with caution. A swarm is a highly stress balled of bees who are hyper alert. Before moving the swarm, Steve and Phil had set up the new hive a few feet away, got the smoker ready and were armed with a bin bag in one hand and a bee brush in the other. Phil and I held the bin bag in place and pushed away the branches that were in the way. When all was ready Steve shook the tree. The angry buzz of several thousand bees is something that causes a tingle to run down your spine. When Steve thought he had shaken enough off the tree, Phil quickly pulled the bin bag away from the tree, closing the top to stop the swarm escaping.

We all walked across to the new hive and I watched rather apprehensively as Steve and Phil took turns shaking the bees out of the bin bag into the hive. Inevitably, Steve was the first to get stung and he beat a hasty retreat to stop either of us getting stung. Bees release a specific pheromone as they sting and other bees are attracted to it. Bees will continue to sting you to chase you away from the colony. However, if you remove yourself quickly then you should limit the number of stings you receive. Using the bee brush, Phil and I placed the queen excluder on the top of the hive then joined Steve up by the clubhouse. It is important to give the bees time to cool down and for bee keepers to catch their breath!

When we went back down to check on the hive, we discovered half the swarm was still in the olive tree. This might be because we hadn’t managed to transfer the queen in the bees we had moved. So the same plan was used and we repeated the performance. Steve used the bee brush to try to get all the bees off the olive tree. Upon getting stung again, it was up to Phil and me to transfer the bees into the new hive. Phil shook out the bees onto the hive and I brushed them away from the edges of the brood box so I could put on the queen excluder. There were still lots of bees in the air and several thousand on the outside of the hive. Angry buzzing seemed to be the only sound I could hear.

While the bees had time to calm down, I fed the girls in the main coop as well as Leia and Rey. Four eggs collected, I stopped to look at the olive tree. No bees. Relieved, to ran up to Steve’s plot to share the good news. The lack of bees in the tree show that the queen is in the new hive and the workers have followed her into the new hive. Before we could completely relax, we put on the top board and the lid of the hive. The next problem was what to do with the middle hive now that it had no queen. The choices are either to buy one and hope they accept her or allow the colony to create their own. Buying queen’s is expensive and especially during the pandemic, so Steve and Phil decided to let the middle hive create their own queen. If it doesn’t work then they can always buy in a queen.

Exhausted after all that excitement, I decided to have a relax by the shed. The sun was out and it was getting a bit warm so I grabbed a trusty screwdriver and began to fix the sail canopy. I wasn’t happy with where the rigging eyes were and moved them up onto the top of the wooden board where I had added two screws to keep the middle of the sail up. It took a few minutes more to attach the sail and raised the top end on the halyard. There in blissful shade, I sat and surveyed one of my favourite views.

Tomorrow will be a day of weeding and planting. Hopefully we will hear back about Jack the Jackdaw too!


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