The buzz was audible, just on the edge of hearing but getting louder and starting to impinge on the conscious. Bees from a local beekeeper’s hive were swarming on the green just outside the house.
Difficult to see at first, I was reminded of a nonsense rhyme of my Dad’s:
A B C D Bs?
M N O Bs!
S A R. C M?
The kids groaned as I trotted it out for the umpteenth time. Funny how little things like that stick in the memory.
Back to the bees. My Beekeeper friend’s colony had clustered in a huge clump of the lime tree across the road. The kids were standing watching them, oblivious to the bees buzzing around.
In fact, when swarming bees tend not to be aggressive. They’re concentrating on finding somewhere to live. While the main swarm was attached to the tree branch the queen bee sent scouts out to find a suitable location in which to set up home. This turned out to be a hole in the pointing of the stonework of my neighbour’s thatched cottage.
The bees swarmed all over our garden for about an hour before finally finding their way into the hole. Honey bees are living a precarious life at the moment. Destroying the colony really wasn’t an option. The beekeeper came and set up an empty hive close the hole. He filled it with food in the hope that the bees would find it more attractive than the hole in the wall.
When I got home from work the following evening the hive had gone and the hole in the wall had been blocked with newspaper. A few bees were buzzing around the hole forlornly looking for a way in. To be successful, the beekeeper would have needed to get the queen into his hive. I think he thought he had but I can now report that he hasn’t.
The colony is now well established in the cottage wall. To avoid damage to his property from quantities of dripping honey and large honey combs my neighbour will have to call out, at his own expense, a local authority pest control service to have the bees removed. That will probably mean the destruction of the colony.
If the beekeeper had been a bit quicker off the mark, he could have got them off the lime tree by dropping the bees into a box and taking them to his hive for re-homing. There are around 20,000 bees in a swarming colony, that’s a lot of bees to lose.
And we can’t afford to lose the honey bees. There’s a quote – falsely attributed to Albert Einstein – that says: “If the bee disappears from the surface of the Earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination…no more men!”
A potential environmental crisis is developing for reasons that science is yet unable to fully explain, but at least we can avoid carless beekeeping and try to hang on to what we’ve got.