A swarm. O.M.G.

Swarm bin and suit

Part 1 – A Swarm Arrives

Swarm bin and suitDon’t you just hate it when your head, warm and cosy in the sand, is forced to come out and face reality? How prepared was I for a swarm? I had thought that it was something I would have to face sooner or later and that I might use the nice skep-like waste paper bin. Collecting swarms is a practice that has to be part of my conservationist style of beekeeping and so a skill I knew I needed to learn. At some point.

I had also reasoned that my bees were likely to go up and out of reach as the hives sit in a small clearing amidst tall birch, weeping willow and beech trees. When I went to close the conservatory doors on my way to play bridge I couldn’t miss the sound of buzzing in the air and looked up to see bees everywhere. I could see them moving over the neighbour’s garden and they seemed to be focusing on a hedge. My poor neighbours had to retreat inside with their chilled bubbly, the first chance in months for sitting on their new patio on a sunny, warm evening.

I could get to the far side of the native hedge via the adjacent water meadow and was acutely aware that this was a highly accessible swarm and I must cancel bridge and capture it for my empty hive. I watched and waited and inched closer to inspect the branch of the field maple they were clinging to. There were two clusters on two different branches and I couldn’t work out how I would get them into the cardboard box (kindly offered by the neighbour and a lot more promising than my bin!). It was ages before I mustered the courage to bang the branch. Far too timid — angry bees flying at my veil and a sense of desperation descending. Help. I needed help.

I phoned the ever helpful Hants natural beekeeper, John H, but he wasn’t in and anyway there aren’t any natural beekeeper’s close by. In what can only be described as a bit of a state I walked in full bee suit to where I knew a beekeeper kept a few hives. I knew too that it was a cheek not to have introduced myself before and then knock on his door out of the blue to ask for help but  desperate times …

I recognised the lady who was standing at the door chatting to another familiar face. That was disorientating but it was also very nice to see friendly faces. The beekeeping husband was not like I had dreaded (a this is how it’s done type who’d suck air through his teeth when I said how I manage my bees), but very relaxed and I felt I was in safe hands immediately. When we got back to the swarm he said shall I do it then? And before I had time to blink it was in the box which was overturned and placed on the sheet, propped up an inch for the stragglers to enter. After that it’s a waiting game and my helper offered to return if I needed…

Click here for part 2

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