Thursday, 4 June 2015

Attack of the killer-ish bees

I really had no intention of blogging as much as I have been recently, but things just keep on happening...

Take today for instance.
There I was minding my own business up the scaffolding, scraping paint, when I heard the hum of a tractor engine heading up the road from the village. Usual stuff.
It got steadily louder and louder to the point where it really should have been in sight by n... HOLYMARYMOTHEROFGOD IT'S A MASSIVE SWARM OF BEES!!!1!!

Gravity certainly played more of a part than it should have as I departed the scaffolding and near-teleported myself in to the house, slamming the door firmly behind me. I even briefly thought about locking it... it's fair to say that I had a little bit of a panic on at the time.
So I did what any man in my position would do - I rang Dawn at work 20-odd miles away and demanded she do something about it. NOW.

I calmed down a little during our brief-but-urgent conversation, during which time I worked out that the swarm hadn't been looking to settle right on my face like a humongous undulating bee beard - as I had naturally assumed it would, but instead it had decided to take a break in the front garden, right in front of the shed.
Dawn managed to persuade me to go gingerly back outside "and take lots of photographs", and still high on the unexpected rush of adrenaline I did just that. At great personal risk, I must add. I mean, what if they were the mutant killer kind from Africa or something?

...and the sound as the swarm swamped a scabby old fir tree in the garden was absolutely astonishing. It was as though the air was full of white noise, but on a lower frequency and at deafening volume that drowned all other sounds out of existence. It was very, very impressive.

While I took pictures, gradually getting braver and closer to the big ball of unpredictable stinging things, Dawn texted me some telephone numbers for people who could come and rescue me. Fortunately one of the blokes was just 10 minutes away and I was still staring mesmerised at the swarm when he arrived.

I instantly snapped in to Must Ask Lots of Excited Questions mode, and the summary of what I learned was that it was a reasonably small swarm - about 15,000 bees, and they had probably split off from their main colony, maybe because they had outgrown their hive - the Queen had just upped and left, leaving loads behind. It's also possible that another Queen had been hatched, and because there would normally be a fight to the death between the two, the original had got while the going was good, taking a loyal band of followers along with her.
They were also at their most docile while swarming because they would have had a good old feed before heading off and their bellies would be too full of honey to bend much to get the stinger in anyway.
I also learned that amateur beekeeping is a cutthroat world - my saviour reckoned they had likely come from an apiary over towards the village but because he was collecting them he was going to stick them in one of his own empty hives. Finders keepers and all that. That's why there would be no charge.

Bee-proof socks
Did you read the post about me asking the deer hunter if I could join him for a little while a few days ago? You might remember that the question just fell out of my mouth without any intervention from my brain.
Well, that's how I ended up in a bee keeper's suit today. I quite like this new impulsive me, although the bee keeper seemed to be a little bit perplexed by my enthusiasm. He kept looking at me funny.
Because the suit in question was only the top half with the mesh hood, I took the sensible route and tucked my trousers in to my jazzy pink socks and found some gardening gloves. I looked every inch the proper pro.

Two minutes later the bee keeper had snipped the fir branch the swarm had settled on, dropped it in to a wicker basket and popped it on the ground with a blanket over the top to keep the sun off... and that was it. The idea was that the rest of the bees would head inside through a small hole that had been left for them. 
He pointed out that of the hundreds of bees hanging around just outside the basket, the ones with their backsides in the air were calling the stragglers over by emitting pheromones, while a couple of thousand still in the tree were confused by pheromones still up there, so he would leave the basket where it was for an hour while he headed off somewhere else. Which he did.

On his return he snipped another branch off in to the basket but there were still a good couple of thousand bees hanging around that had gone uncollected, so he decided to abandon those ones and let them take their chances. At that he popped the basket on the passenger seat of his little hatchback, put the seatbelt around it and pootled off with a cheery wave. And that was that.
Ten hours later as I type this the remaining bees have consolidated in to a tight ball in the tree for the night and have gone almost perfectly still and silent. It's a bit eerie to watch.
It remains to be seen what they'll do tomorrow, if anything, but I hope they find a good home to go to because honey bees are important. The future of the human race depends on them or something, so I hear.


  1. You deserve a reward for being so brave in the face of certain stinging agony and possible anafalact.., aniphalact.., anaphilac.. severe allergic reaction . Have 10 man points! :thumbsup: =oD

    Loving the blog BTW and look forward to seeing the place at some time. (More than happy to come over and do some grunt work too if you need a hand at some point and I'm sure 'er indoors might be able to help with gardening and/or soft furnishing type stuff if you need it. =o) )

  2. Why, thank you kind sir. I laughed at the suggestion of 'soft furnishings' though - the register plate in our Dining Room fireplace partially collapsed today, sending clouds of toxic dust everywhere. That's how close we are to thinking about fabrics...
    Love to the missus.

  3. Oh dear! I suppose soft furnishings probably ARE quite a way off in that case. More than willing to help with 'owt else if you need help though... even dirty, manual labour jobs. It's what us 'proper blokes' do, innit?!

    Reading yours and Andy & Jodie's blog makes me very jealous as renovating an old house is exactly what we want to do. Hopefully one day.

  4. You can come and get that damn bees out of my big chimney then - its only about 60 foot up, you'll need a VERY large telescoping thingy on wheels to get near it, or a helicopter - I've tried to smoke the sods out, but that resulted in vast amounts of sticky gooey honey running down the chimney and all over the woodburner! Erk....

  5. You've got a gun, haven't you? Pick them off one-by-one until they get the message.


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