One late afternoon we heard a loud humming noise, looked out of the window and saw a swarm of bees which eventually settled on the gravel area in the back garden. The dark shape like a pair of lips is thousands of honey bees.
Having a friend who is a bee keeper, I rang to ask if they would like to come and collect them, but their hives were full. They contacted another bee keeper – Basil -who agreed to come to us and see if he could help.
Apparently it is unusual for the bees to settle on the ground, usually they hang from a branch of a tree, and would then just need a tap on the branch for them to drop into a box below.
A box was upturned over the bees and they were encouraged to enter – it seems we had between 3000 and 4000 and I was told it would take about 40 minutes for them all to go into the box, it took nearly an hour, some of them were a bit reluctant.
When the bees stopped moving they were encouraged to continue when Basil used his smoker on them, they think the hive is on fire when they smell the smoke and rush inside to get their honey and protect the queen.
Then came the tricky part, lifting the box full of bees onto a sheet so that it could eventually be put in the back of Basil’s Land Rover.
Most of the bees were in the box, just a few hundred or so left outside so the process was started again, encouraging the bees to enter the box. The humming noise coming from the box was amazing.
It was fascinating to watch the whole process with Basil pointing out which ones were the drones [larger] and the ones at the base of the box which were wafting pheromones to the others by waggling their bottoms and flapping their wings – this tells the stragglers that it is a good, safe place to enter. A few of the bees had been foraging in the garden while they were waiting to go into the box, we could see their pollen sacs were full.
This is the last of the stragglers – soon they were all safely inside the box, then the sheet was wrapped round it all ready to be carried away. It was like watching an army on manoeuvres – they were almost marching in 2×2, then running the last few inches when they could smell the pheromones being wafted to them.
This is the man of the moment – Basil – he was wonderfully gentle with the bees, murmuring quietly to them all the time, ” come on girls, come on my lovelies” It was a pleasure to meet him and his enthusiasm was infectious. I spent a wonderful 2 hrs with him and it was far more interesting than sitting watching TV !
It dawned on me afterwards, Basil was protected with his suit, I was beside him taking these photos, unprotected, but it wasn’t a worry, the bees seemed to be very gentle, not at all angry as I had expected. When bees are swarming they have gorged themselves on honey before leaving the hive and all their energy and strength is needed to keep the queen protected and safe until they find a new home.
We do need our honey bees, their numbers are in decline in the UK and we need them to pollinate our crops and fruit. I feel we need to help them whenever we can, so that is why 90% of the flowers in my garden are bee friendly.
There is an old saying in England-
A swarm in May is worth a load of hay, A swarm in June is worth a silver spoon, A swarm in July isn’t worth a fly.
Basil got his silver spoon, there is enough time for the bees to make enough honey for them to eat over the winter and for Basil to have his share too.