Saturday 2 June 2012

Smoke Stack Lighten-ing (sorry)

Part One (by Dave Hill)
Having had a few days off swarm collecting I received a call from a couple in Swepstone who claimed to have a bee's nest in a chimney pot they were using as a plant pot. Instantly this seemed a bit strange but they assured me they were honey bee's and not bumbles so I agreed to take a look that night. When I arrived John and Judie pointed out the chimney and sure enough honey bee's where going in and out. A little investigation found that only the top third was planted up with a slab to prevent the soil dropping thru. So what you end up with is a 12" diameter tube about 3 foot high with a top entrance via the chimney vents, in other words a perfect bee hive.

Once the soil and a few stones where removed you could see straight down onto the slab with tantalising views of comb around the edges. I realised at this point help would be require so placed a box on top to keep out the impending rain and promised to come back with more troops.

Ready for the troops
Once home a quick phone call to Boyd and we agreed that Saturday afternoon was the time for operation flowerpot....t.b.c
Part Two (by Boyd Brooks) 
When I got the call from Lucky Dave he also told me that he had a swarm in one of his bait hives to give to Shane; another quick call and he was roped into the Saturday afternoon adventure as well. At 15:30 we met at Dave’s house, and after a brief tour around his growing apiary, we drove the few miles to Swepstone.

Everything was as Dave had left it, with no bees taking up residence in the top box. The next move (and this really is a Top Tip from Dave) was to move the chimney pot hive about twenty feet away from its original position and replace it with a bait hive in roughly the same position. All the flying bees then left the chimney pot hive and gathered around the bait hive. This left only a few flying bees plus the non-flying, non-stinging, house bees and the queen inside the chimney pot. The repositioned chimney pot hive was now a ‘sea of tranquillity’ whilst the bait box was covered with bees. Dave quickly got to work accessing which end of the chimney pot would be the easiest to extract the comb from and we turned it over to get access from the bottom. With ferret-like efficiency Dave was straight in and removing large pieces of comb (Pic #1). Shane was assigned the role of photographer/assistant, and I was frame builder/comb stitcher. In an idle moment I had made some bars with thin wire frames extending below that would hopefully support the loose comb whilst it was stitched on. Thankfully they seemed to help and slowly the combs were taken out, stitched to the top bars and then re-hung in a small TBH that would be used to transport them away (Pics. #2 & #3). Thanks to Dave’s Top Tip the whole operation was remarkably easy and calm, and not the bee maelstrom that would have ensued had it been left to me. Once all the retrievable comb was re-housed it was then just a case of shaking in any loose bees and then swapping the small TBH for the bait hive; allowing all the flying bees to combine with their original nest.
It had been my intention to immediately relocate the bees back to my own garden but I decided to call back the next day in order to collect as many of the flying bees as possible (will write-up Part Four later).


So big THANK YOU to John and Judie, for letting us muck about with bees in their garden, and Dave and Shane, for their time and enthusiasm.
Part Three
Now all that was left to do was for Shane and myself to pick the bait box swarm from Dave’s house, transport it over to Barrow-on-Soar, and install it into a waiting TBH on his island.

Once on the island, lifting the bars as one, the swarm went in very easily; with the short boat trip over being the most eventful part of the proceedings.  We also had a quick look at the other TBH containing the bees from the split we did last month. There were still quite a few bees in evidence so, against all the predictions, they may struggle on  for a while yet - only time will tell. 
Quick and easy swarm install
Two more jobs well done, even if I say so myself!