Yesterday evening at exactly 8pm the telephone rang. I know it was 8pm because I listen to a radio programme every evening at 8.02pm and I was wondering which member of the family had decided to deprive me of that possibility.
But I was wrong; it was in fact a lady about 20kms away who had found my details on the internet where I am listed as "willing" to collect swarms of bees. She sounded a little stressed to say the least and on closer questionning it appeared her friend had been stung twice that afternoon when they'd discovered a colony of bees living under a wooden box that they use as a garden seat. The box had moved slightly and life heated up a bit.
At the time Max was busy trying to persuade a light switch that at only 8 years old it really should carry on functionning so instead I took our son Ralph. Early evening is a good time to collect swarms as the workers have come in and you have a good chance of collecting up most of the bees. We packed up the car with the usual equipment: bee suits, gloves, boots, hive tool and brush, swarm box, smoker and fuel, matches, sharp knife, basket and sheet, camera. As it turned out the only thing we omitted was a garden spade and I have to admit it never occurred to me it might come in useful!
When we arrived the two ladies came running out of the house and were indeed stressed and very worried. Ralph and I gathered up everything and got changed by the car then went down to the bottom of this wonderful garden which they had created out of a farm field. When I remarked on the green grass (ours turned brown some weeks ago) she told me there was a number of small streams running underneath the land down to the river; the farmer next door never had to water his crop of maize for the same reason.
The swarm collection was straightforward. You can see in the pictures where the swarm was situated.
The bees had obviously been there for a while because there was quite a lot of comb and sealed brood in the nest. Ralph cut the comb off the bottom of the box and having gathered that we brushed as many bees as possible in there too.
The spade, in case you are wondering, was used to scoop up a number of bees sitting on the ground. A couple of shovels and they were in the box. The rest we left to march up the sheet which I always consider one of the marvels of swarm collection - and also reassuring as it confirms the presence of the queen in the box.
The march can take a while and when the two ladies saw us sitting on the grass waiting, they came over with handfuls of fruit which 30 seconds earlier had been on their trees. Apricots and juicy, tasty plums which were delicious.
Back home Ralph put the hive in our field and opened the entrance hole at the front. Now all that remains is to fix the comb onto a frame. Unfortunately it's raining this morning but perhaps this evening or tomorrow we'll be able to do that. It's important to do it as soon as possible otherwise the bees just carry on building, starting with the roof!