Bees in Trees

My husband popped down to the allotment this morning to sort the chickens. He found Leia off her eggs. We hoped this was just her daily break from sitting.

Later in the afternoon we both went down for a little fresh air. Upon arrival we discovered Leia sunbathing outside. Idiotic bird! Unfortunately, this probably means the eggs won’t hatch. It’s frustrating because she was sitting so well the last two days. I have done some research and found that they do go broody. Maybe Leia is still trying to work out how it works? Who knows. By the time I left the site this evening, she was back in on the eggs.

As we stood reprimanding Leia and trying to persuade her to go back into her eggs, Steve appeared. He had received an urgent call from Neil saying he has spotted a swarm of bees in a tree on Phil’s plot. The massive swarm had settled halfway up one of Phil’s fruit trees behind the shed. I have seen a couple of swarms but this was significantly bigger. We quickly hatched a plan – set up a new hive and transfer the bees. Simple right? We carefully suited up, a vital precaution when dealing with several thousand bees. Using a step ladder, Steve held a large plastic bag under the swarm. This was tricky because the swarm covered several smaller branches and several more restricted how far up Steve could get the bag. My job was to shake the main branch to force the bees to drop into the bag.

The sound of thousands of angry bees makes even a hardened bee keeper wince. Part of the swarm fell off the tree into the bag, the other onto the ground. Within second both myself and Steve were surrounded by hundreds of irate insects determined to defend their Queen. Once the bees were in the bag, Steve quickly dashed to the new hive on the Community Garden. He tipped out the angry bees into the brood box. It was then my job to get the Queen excluder into place. Easier said then done when the hive is crawling with confused and disoriented bees. We left the hive to calm down for a few minutes before going through the same rigmarole again.

By this point, the remaining swarm was still large and we were concerned we hadn’t caught the Queen. All bees will follow their Queen and if we hadn’t moved her into the hive, all the bees currently in the hive would leave again. However, the remaining swarm had moved onto a single branch. Grabbing a pair of secateurs, Steve chopped the branch down and carried the swarm to the hive. It was much easier than the bag however, you can’t cut down branches every time you find a swarm! He shook the bees into the hive before I carefully placed the Queen excluder and the crown board on top. At this point we left the bees for half an hour to sort themselves out.

I popped down to the tree a couple of times to check on how things were going. Each time I checked, there were less bees in the tree. This showed that Steve and I had managed to transfer the Queen into the hive. There is always the possibility that the Queen may move her colony again but here’s hoping they will stay. We fell to talking about where the swarm came from. None of the five hives on site were showing unusual behaviour which led Steve to ponder if this was a wild swarm or a swarm from another bee keeper locally. Until we can check the hives fully, we can’t completely rule out that the swarm came from our hives.

I stopped to chat for a while with Tracy, Andy and Brad before heading home for a late dinner. Tomorrow we will move the broody box, plant some new exciting seeds (full details to follow) and place the new pallet in the main coop to keep the food bins on.

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