Les Broux, La Vienne, France …. 14th April 2013
We did it! We collected the complete colony without mishap – it just went really well, thanks to good advice from Paul Clarke Tony’s teacher, and good planning and preparation.
Morning phone call from Liz (bees current landlady) to say there seemed to be a lot of activity in the hive, but the bees were coming and going as the weather was good. We arranged to be there at around 2.30.
It did not start as planned! In France the window’s open inwards, so Tony had to open the window and lean across to open the shutter; fortunately both window and shutter that needed to be opened first were not part of the “hive”. So he set the smoker going and gently opened the window, lots of smoke and then leant across to open the shutter. It would not open, eventually it did, taking the other shutter with it, and detaching that from the combs. Tony nearly ended up on the scaffold from the wrong direction!. A quick close of the window and back outside to see what we had.
We had already got the hive (box) on the scaffold, along with the tools for cutting the combs and freeing them from the window, and frames ready to put the combs into and wire on. Also a box to put in the combs with honey only. We had planned that Tony would do the cutting and carry down the pieces of comb and I would brush the bees off into the box he would then either put them into the honey tub, or attach them to the frame. We had set up a crate with a board on to lay the frames on, and I prepared them as he cut the comb. By working steadily and calmly together it went well. It was good that the queen was in the centre as the outer combs were easier to deal with and acted as a good learning curve. There was only honey in the cells to start with, but then on about the third comb of eight we came across brood cells, unfortunately we cut through some. We had a sheet on the boards beneath where Tony was working and were very careful as we moved around trying not to kill any bees.
Finally Tony cut a piece of comb and the bees were clustered around the center, before they had tended to be generally all over the cone or lifted off as we moved it. We believed the queen was in the middle and brushed the cluster carefully into the box. Towards the end a great number of bees seem to be on the shutter, and in the corner of the window frame and crawling up the wall by the lintle, but efforts to brush these bees down brought quite a frantic reaction, so we stopped and came down off the scaffold having collected eight frames in the hive – we added two with new foundation cells on them; and a tub and half of honey and comb.
Fay, photographer stayed safe inside the car and filmed from there and Liz stayed with her, as the general activity prevented her for going back into her house. – watch her video
The whole operation had taken an hour and a half. One essential piece of equipment had been the bucket of warm water so that Tony could keep his gloves and the knife clean.
Fay and Liz drove to a neighbours house for a much needed cup of tea and Tony and I stayed back to watch what would happen next. We were encouraged to see bees entering the hive, but still concerned about those still on the window and shutter, unsure that we had got the queen. We were also still attracting attention from some of the bees. Eventually that died down and we were able to move far enough away to loose them. We then also made it to the neighbours – absolutely parched. We had not appreciated how hot it was inside the suits – but what a feeling of complete security they give you, amazing.
After about an hour we went back to find that the bees were coming and going into the hive and very few remained on the window (see picture at beginning), so we felt free to go home convinced that we had the queen and all was well. A phone call from Liz this morning confirmed it. She said a few bees were working on the shutters and window cleaning up but the rest were in and out of the hive, no doubt working hard to sort out the mess we had created for them.
The hive will stay where it is for three days, and then we will return at the end of the day, close up the hive and carefully move it into the car and home to the site we have prepared for them.
Today, after visiting a local plant sale, and telling Paul about our success (he and his wife run a local plant nursery, along with the bee school), we set about finalising the work on the “bee garden” we have been creating close to the hive area. Having brought on rosemary, comfrey, borage, blue thistle, blue flower cuttings from our son’s garden in Germany, and forgetmenots, today was the first really good day to plant them out. The wild flower seeds go in tomorrow.
A brilliant weekend – we can now call ourselves beekeepers! well once the hive is home. Now we start another learning curve, dealing with honey and wax comb – something we had not expected to have to do until later in the year.
I’ll continue the background history tomorrow.