The time of year has arrived for bee swarms here in Brittany - last week I was out gardening for one of my clients - when I arrived heard the light hum of bees, only to discover the rather large beginnings of a nest behind one of the bedroom shutters - this was a close up and the next photo was the view from the bedroom! It's true to say I'd never seen so many bees together in my life!
Wasting no time, I called up a friend over here who is not only a fellow gardener but who has also taken up bee-keeping quite seriously - you should check out his blog. We agreed it was best to get the swarm removed as soon as possible before it got too big and established... so these photos show you the wonderful entertainment we had last Thursday evening... a first for me and quite amazing!
As the swarm had chosen a first floor window, the first part of this rather delicate operation was to open the bedroom shutter from the inside so that we could get to work on the outside of the house without half the bees coming indoors - only 2 made it into the house which was a relief and that bit done, the work started from the outside.
We put up a ladder to the side of the swarm and as you'll see in the photo below, Richard went up (suited-up of course) to inspect the job that lay ahead!
It was certainly a decent size of what he felt were relatively docile bees - I was keeping my distance at this point!
He then moved the ladder over and brought up what is called a nuc box - which acts as an interim home before they're transferred to a proper hive. He tied this on to the balcony railings to hold this in place.
The next job was lighting some dry grass inside the smoker - from the photo this looks highly dangerous but it was all under control!
The smoker was then used by puffing smoke around the area where the bees were which helps when moving them and keeps them a bit calmer - apparently. Once some of the bees had moved, we got a glimpse of the comb that they'd made - this is essentially wax cells in which they lay their eggs - in thin circular sheets.
It was a pretty delicate operation for Richard to remove these wax sheets and place them in the frames that he had prepared - initially held in place with rubber bands... fascinating! Not long after this he spotted the queen - not easy with all the thousands of bees :-) - she was caught in a small device and placed in the box and she is what then attracts the rest of the swarm into the nuc box.
Bit by bit as you'll see in this next picture the original "rugby ball" shape of the swarm was lessening and as the remaining wax was moved into the nuc, the bees were all walking down the window - literally - following each other in search of the Queen... this transformation was incredible!
And this really was the last of them... and finally we were able to pack up and they went off to their new home... I love a happy ending!
Having so enjoyed Sarah Raven's TV series on the BBC a couple of months back this made me realise even more, how incredibly important bees are to everyone, and really without them, there would be a very small selection of foods that we would be able to choose from in the supermarkets... even chocolate & coffee depend on pollination! So next time you're thinking of what to plant in your gardens... think of the bees and pollinating insects... if you need any hints and tips on suitable plants, let me know and I'll happily tackle this topic in a future posting! Bon weekend and hope you enjoyed something a bit different.