After peeling and chopping a mountain of potatoes the lovely Sharon dismissed me from kitchen duties so I could grab a mid-morning coffee. I can’t really remember the time it was at the moment of sipping that coffee because it became lost in the whirl that became swarm Sunday.
I was casually staring out the window across the garden at the two hives, only one of which has a laying queen at the moment. This hive has the queen we have now named Grelder. I am not a fan of naming animals that are not truly pets. I named the chickens only as a joke (Roast, Lemon, Szechuan and Rosemary) and never use the names or can ever tell them apart anyway. But, after the artificial swarm adventure we thought she deserved a name and Grelder seemed fitting as GRound ELDER is something we have to deal with a lot here; just when you think it has completely gone it suddenly appears again from an unknown hiding place.
As I stared at the hives and sipped my strong coffee some activity from Grelder’s hive caught my attention. An ever increasing cloud of bees was whirling around the hive and filling the air. Only one thought crossed my mind; “NOOOOOOOOO!”
We ran outside to find ourselves standing on the edge of a cloud of bees. For a moment I thought about the wonder of it all and the fact that through the cloud the zipping straight lines of scout bees directing the swarm could be clearly seen. They were creating a perfect straight ‘beeline’ from the hive to a young horse chestnut tree. Then that thought crept back in; “NOOOOOOOOO!”
it is fun to stand under a bee filled tree and shake it
After a few minutes they neatly parked themselves at a lovely height on the tree and I went off to get suited up and find some bits of kit to attempt to catch them. I had never thought I would be catching swarms so early in by beekeeping career so I have to admit that I did the usual amateur thing of grabbing a couple of bee-books and frantically refreshed my memory on how it should be done. As it was a lovely day and they were so handily positioned I decided to go for the old fashioned method of walking them in which is apparently quite unnecessary but amazing to see.
After getting them into a little wooden box I transferred them into a hive with frames using a method from a different source. It involved quite a bit of space which seemed unnecessary to me but I went with the wisdom of others and shook the swarm into a brood box, excluder, eek, brood box tower and left them to settle themselves in for the evening.
Grelder the queen had only just been put through an artificial swarm exactly a week ago and it seems she could not be easily fooled. So in a burst of extravagance I decided that if she wanted to leave then I would make her leave. With the help of my brother in law I loaded them on to a trailer and carried them off to a bolt hole site on his land. In the pictures he can be seen wearing a camouflage beesuit and white marigold gloves. I kept asking, “where are you now?” Then he would appear standing beside me hidden in the hedge with his gloves giving me the impression of some strange army mime artist.
you can just see him if you look closely
I am assuming that Grelder left some lovely queen cells in her old home and a very small skeleton crew of bees. I also assume that, over the coming weeks, I will have to see if the two hives left behind in our cottage apiary will produce laying queens. Then decisions will have to be made, hives will need to be recombined and a queen might have to be killed. And Grelder, if you happen to be reading this blog, it might even be you.