12th June 2018
Did you spot the swarm of honeybees that settled in a tree in the school car park for over a week?
Our nearest beekeeper would have liked them for his hive but they were too high in the tree for him to collect.
On Sunday the swarm came down to the pavement and the BS4 Connect Face Book group swung into action! Another beekeeper was alerted and came immediately...
No sooner had he arrived than the bees decided the tree was the place after all and settled again, even higher!
He cobbled together his bee collecting box and an extending pole and pushed the open box up against the branch where they were clinging until the bulk of the bees dropped into the box. After several minutes he tentatively brought the box down, hoping that the queen was inside.
He closed the box, leaving a small entrance hole, and watched carefully to see whether bees would leave the box, or come down to it. The queen gives off a pheromone (which, apparently, smells a bit like lemongrass) which attracts them. More and more bees started coming to the box so he was sure that he had her. Then, it was just a matter of waiting for most of the bees to join the queen in the box. Some bees stationed themselves at the box entrance, 'fanning' to spread the pheromone to show the others where to come!
The beekeeper explained that it was a balancing act... he wanted to get as many of the bees as possible but if he left it too long, the bees, feeling they'd settled in a home at long last, would all start going out again to get supplies. When most of them were in, he carefully sealed the box ready for their journey.
A few bees remain and will hang around for a day or two but once the traces of the queen's pheromone have faded they will return to the hive they came from.
The swarm was taken to the Bath Teaching Apiary in Newton St Looe where a group of new beekeepers have just completed their training course. They have gone to a new home in Devon where there was a hive all ready and waiting.
It is very unusual for a swarm to stay out in the open for so long. They usually move off to find a home within a couple of days. They had actually begun to make honeycomb on the branch.
We feel quite honoured that they chose our car park for their bivouac! Hopefully, lots of people had a chance to see them.