Spring in the Garden

Spring in the Garden

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

A Bit of a Buzz

When we first moved here we had a lot of wasps flying into the house and eventually realised we had a wasps' nest in the loft.

Recently we've had honey bees flying into the house, which was a bit of a nuisance, but at least it means the honey bee seems to be thriving in this area and they like the plants in our garden.

However, when my son and his girlfriend went out into the garden to hang up the washing on Sunday I heard a scream. I looked out and they were surrounded by a cloud of flying insects. At first I thought it was flying ants, but then I saw that it was a swarm of bees, which began settling on a branch of our juniper bush. It might have taken 20 minutes for most of the bees to settle.  A few remained buzzing about, presumably on guard duty, but I could get quite close.  A swarm is usually fairly peaceful.

I phoned a local bee-keeper, whose number I got from the local bee-keepers' association website and he came within the hour.

Here he is pruning some branches that were in his way before cutting the branch the swarm was on.

You can see from this picture that he had fetched a skep before cutting off the branch.  In this picture he is holding the branch to which the swarm was attached and is putting it into the skep.  You can see quite a few of the bees were disturbed by this.

You can see from this picture that the skep has now been turned quickly and deftly upside down and quite a few bees remain outside it, on the cloth and on the beekeeper.  That's why they wear suits.

The queen bee is inside the skep so her loyal workers are now making their way in to join her.

About 20 minutes later they were nearly all in.  Once all those that wanted to go in were in the bee-keeper tied the skep up in a cloth and took the swarm away, minus the stragglers - scouts and guards - who are still buzzing about and in a more agitated fashion. Some of the bees remained in the air, presumably acting as guards and the bee-keeper told me that some bees will have been sent out as scouts looking for a suitable permanent home for the swarm.

I saw a few of the remaining bees on another branch of the juniper bush in a very mini swarm yesterday morning and felt quite sorry for them. They must wonder where their queen and their fellow workers have gone. The guards are more aggressive than they were, so I can't get as close as I could, which suggests they are feeling more agitated.

I wonder if anyone else here has had any experience of a swarm of bees. Any bee-keepers here, even?