Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Not Again!

They've done it again! Those bloomin' bees in the top bar hive swarmed AGAIN this afternoon. That's three times in two weeks. The second swarm hasn't budged from the neighbour's willow tree and looking at it closely through binoculars over the past two cold, wet and windy days, we have come to the conclusion that it has not survived. There has been no reaction to the occasional patches of sunshine warmth on it at all. It looks dead.

And then there I was this afternoon, doing a spot of writing. Andy had gone out for coffee with his dad who is down from Lancashire for a visit. Heather appeared. 'The bees are very active,' she said.

Active in a swarming way.

However, thanks to the planting of lemon balm in the herb garden and its rapid and fulsome growth, these bees seemed inclined to stay within the confines of the garden. I phoned Andy.

'Bees are swarming again,' I said.
'Oh dear,' he said. 'I'm on my way.'

I donned my bee suit and went and stood amongst it all. Where were they settling? They were spread all over the lemon balm, and the angelica which has grown into some sort of monstrous triffid.

'Oh, come on, ladies,' I said. 'You can't spread yourselves out all over the herb garden. How am I supposed to gather you all in?' I'd already got the skep under my arm, hoping to pop it over a goodly clump of bees that may or may not contain the Queen. I did not fancy handpicking about 20,000 one by on off the herbs like some sort of demented Victorian lady-gardener gathering forget-me-nots and sweet peas.

And then I noticed a small cluster forming in the apex of the willow arch! There! That's where they were gathering! The willow arch. Accessible by footstool!

Sure enough, within ten minutes (although it seems longer when you are standing midst a mass of noisy bees) the swarm had settled right in front of me.

Right. I got the nuc box. I got the secateurs. I got the bee brush and the kitchen steps. I was also getting Heather's partner, Joe, suited up in Andy's bee suit so he could give me a hand if needed, but then Andy arrived and got suited up instead and promptly knocked a subsidiary ball of bees onto the ground.

'Hold the nuc box!' said I. 'I'm going in!'

Well, up really. Just a step. I fiddled around amongst bees and willow until I found what I reckoned to be the major cling-on point. This proved to be the thickest wand of willow in the arch and 'twas then I realised I had the bluntest pair of secateurs in Kent. But I got through the branch. My hands were getting hot from the bees but I got through.

'Here we go!' I said. 'In the box!' And in the space of two minutes I had snipped and clipped all the bits of willow that contained bees into the nuc box, and we reckon we got four fifths of the swarm in in one fell swoop! After that the remaining bees got themselves in by means of waggle dancing and bottom wafting and shouting, 'Here's the entrance to the new abode!'

As the last bee wandered in, it started to rain.

So, the new hive Queen is to be called Elizabeth, in honour of it being the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

'Just think,' I said to Andy, as we made plans to transport the nuc and swarm to our out apairy, 'if we'd have caught the first two swarms we'd be up to six hives by now.'

'I'd rather not think, if you don't mind,' said Andy.

I guess he's got a point...

No comments: