Bees in a box rescue by Lewis Turner
Being a beekeeper who has put his name down for swarm collection and having made myself known locally I am learning that it’s not just swarms you are called out for. So far in addition to actual swarms I have rescued a bumblebees nest in a bird box, an actual hive in a bush that was in the process of drowning in the rain and most recently, bees in a box!
Yes, I know all our bees are in a box, but this one was a handmade box, not meant for bees, on a shelf, in someone’s garden! Looked perfect for bees though.
I think they had been there since last year without causing any problems however we have had a lot of swarms in the village in the last few weeks (I know, I’ve been out to a few of them) and the owners of the garden were getting worried about the neighbours and the footpath right beside them, understandably they needed them removed. As you may know during these difficult times provided you follow the guidelines we’re fine looking after our bees and attending swarms due to bees being livestock – please read this page at the BBKA.
Luckily the ‘owners’ were lovely people and really cared about what would happen to the bees, so rather than getting pest control in, I got the call. As this wasn’t an emergency I was able to visit, take pictures and notes, go away and have a think and plan.
I am fortunate that I have as a mentor Jane Corcoran our Vice Chair and Education Secretary. I wondered if she wanted more bees and a project! I personally now have enough bees, well, not true, you can’t have enough however I really shouldn’t be taking even more on just now. After discussing the best way forward I arranged to go back to the bees and install a door Friday afternoon so I could shut them in once they were tucked up in bed that evening, remove them and take them to my home for the night and then deliver to Jane’s early Saturday morning.
The journey to Jane’s was reasonably uneventful. Only a few bees managed to find a way out of the box into the car. Is it just me or do you think now, is that from the box of bees or from my last little outing? Let’s just say my ever patient wife Sarah asks me to ‘de- bee’ the car before she borrows it now.. On arrival we decided on a plan of action.
As the box was light I assumed it was just a handful of bees so Jane got a Nuc ready. We started to undo the lid and I lifted it a little, then put it down again. “Jane, we need a bigger box”. Nope, not a handful of bees. A box full of comb and bees. We needed a proper hive to put them in and we were going to have to try and save some of the comb and brood and splice them onto moveable frames.
We set about carefully dismantling the comb from the lid, attaching as much as we could to frames and putting them and the bees into the brood box.
About halfway through Jane spotted the queen! Those experienced eyes always seem better at seeing queens than mine. One day I’ll get there first, one day. We popped the queen in a cage for safe keeping whilst we went through the rest of the hive saving what we could and building the new hive.
In some ways I’m glad I’m not going to have to sort these spliced frames out in the future, in other ways I’m cursing gifting these bees to Jane. I have never seen such lovely bees. There we are destroying their nest and they never showed any defensive traits at all. I was not aware of any attempts to sting, no pinging off my veil.
We went through the actions: dismantle the entire box, shake all the bees in, save what comb and brood we could, return the queen, pop the broken comb with stores on top of the crown board inside an eke, put the lid on, and insert a queen excluder on top of the floor to keep her ladyship in for now ( Jane will remove that later).
Final action was to wish them all the best of luck in a new home.
The whole transfer took about 90 minutes and was very, very satisfying, especially with knowing the queen was safe inside.
She was a very pretty lady too!