The Unitarian bees swarm | Incredible Edible Todmorden | Blogs

The Unitarian bees swarm

Last update: 29.04.11 First posted: 29.04.11 by in

Basking, in the afternoon sun, in front of The Lodge,

studying the bees frolicking amongst the peat pots that contain sprouting seedlings of Giant Sunflower, Snowball Turnips, Nasturtiums and wild flowers; gleaning every drop of water not evaporated by the sun or greedily sapped by the plants.
A neighbour passes the time of day and sits to converse a while – the discussion leads to the cheeky midges that take such tiny droplets of blood and devastate the epidermis for days.
” Wow that’s a lot of midgies” I say…
“The cloud is awesome” says Smiley…
“I wonder if they’re May flys?” I ponder; well it is May and they are fly’s!
The cloud darkens as it dawns on me that they are our bees.
“Fantastic, just what I’ve prepared for – our bees are SWARMING!”
A swarm At The Unitarian Church 27th May 2011
“Becky can you get our bee kits and the smoker and some dish cloth and some newspaper and some matches oh and the hive tools and the bee brush” In my panic I forget the commas…
I check the hive and sure enough they are our bees; Lots of activity around the hive. I dive back to the front door and don my bee suit and green wellies; Becky puts on her veil and checks the ‘Fuji Fine-pix’.
“Batteries charged Bec?”
“Batteries charged Wessie”
Great that’s one thing we learned from the other day.
I run up Bee Brow and try to collect the spare hive – I knew I shouldn’t have fell asleep on the bee course when they discussed swarming; too heavy, strip the supers off and the brood box; get the hive base and take that down and then the deep. Right that’s that done as I set it down under the teeming mass. Now the deep. I think I’ll bring some supers down with bees on that will attract them. Down comes the honeycomb full of unswarmed bees.
“I’m sure you’re not supposed to do it this way?!” I thought as I carried out every meticulous step of the procedure in a spectacularly amateur fashion. I have now placed four frames of honey and bees into the spare hive under the bees.
I’m expecting the bees to get off and find a twig somewhere miles away so I am really speeding. I shouldn’t really be surprised but the throng suddenly landed on one of my twigs. Naturally the one I had just pruned. It was high in the sky. So this was my first swarm. What do they say? ‘A swarm in May is worth barrel of hay’. Not sure I know what to do with a barrel of hay…
“Paulie – get the ladder, please” I implored Smiley.
Smiley brings a ladder after what seemed an endless time – I thought he’d gone to watch the match. By now I have stuffed paper, twigs, rhubarb leaves and twigs into the smoker and managed to ignite it with Becky’s patient help. A few puffs and the smoker is choking me – I know now why I gave up smoking. Becky brings me the spray bottle I requested and I’m ready to go.
First I must get a container big enough to collect the bees… can’t find a cardboard box but fortunately I had just planted a shrub this morning, up Bee Brow; I had a large empty zinc container. That’ll have to do.
The Spare Hive Brood Box and Empty Container Under Swarm
The container placed at the bottom of ladder under the swarm. I climb the ladder with water spray bottle, smoker, tree loppers and empty container… no chance I can’t get anywhere near the swarm – half heartedly I spray but its no use…
I ask Smiley to get a longer ladder from The Church; it takes a while but finally I get the most fantastic, sophisticated aluminium ladder I have ever seen. Very tall, with banisters?
Setting up an Even Higher Ladder To Capture The Swarm
I make the ascent one more time fully loaded with kit, spray the bees with water so they can’t fly and with gloved hand brush them into the plant container… no good; only half came down. By the time I wondered whether my queen was amongst them, the branch which is half as light moves further towards the heavens.
I shake the bees in the box into the hive and make one more attempt – by now my vertigo is really kicking in.
“Becky, can you help the guys hold the ladder?”
I forgot to say , our neighbour Terry has been helping out and now he was holding the ladder also.
“Sorry, I can’t Wessy, I’m making a video!”
I finally convince Bec that I really need more help and it’s up the dancers again. I venture further expecting to land on my head any minute. I can now extend the loppers to cut the branch, the swarm is on. Uhh, Uhh – wrong loppers – they don’t extend, so its nearly up to the top step. I drag down some branches and hold tight onto the branch holding the swarm a couple of snips and I’m holding the remainder of the swarm. Slowly down and take some photos of the valiant helpers – and the bees – whilst the whole episode has been unfolding Smiley and Terry have been standing under the bees without any protection, however, they had followed my advice ‘not to panic’
Smiley and Terry are Either Completely Mad or Very Brave
Finally I ask Becky if she can get me one of my bee books so that I can discover how to capture a swarm.
“You have done everything according to the book – except you are only supposed to move the hive less than three feet or more than three miles” she encouraged
Wow! I had made the biggest mistake of all. Now, if I move the hive where it’s supposed to be the bees will get lost and if I leave it here it will block the church path. I had to take a chance and so I took the hive up to its proper place. The old hive gets moved a couple of feet to the left and the new hive sits where the old hive used to sit. After lots more manipulations putting frames of brood from the old hive into the new hive – I closed both hives up for the night to settle in. I checked later but couldn’t find my old queen – she is only one year old. So touch wood she is either there or a new queen will be reared from queen cells.

More on the bees later.

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