13 October 2008

A Bee, See?

Third time's the charm. (We hope, after the last swarm of Bees buggered offabsconded in the cold weather whilst I was away in Cape Town.)

Last Thursday evening our neighbour Tziporah (not her real name -- but my private nickname for her) called us up. "There's a swarm of Bees hanging under the eaves outside my bedroom. Do you want to come and get them?"

Being a total n00b at this bee business, I was not at all sure how I was going to "get them". I just took a catch-box -- a half-sized hive that takes only five frames -- and placed it a couple of metres away from the swarm at about chest-height. And hoped for the best. Tziporah and I called up a local beekeeper friend who advised us that "the best swarms are those that just move into the box by themselves. Failing that you can try sweeping them into the box with a soft brush."

The "normal" technique when a swarm lands in a tree is to shake the branch suddenly, and the swarm usually drops off -- plop -- into a strategically-placed box. Or you can cut the branch off. Having imbibed of a wee Golden Beverage prior to Tziporah's call, I was a bit apprehensive... So we just left the nucleus-hive conveniently located and hoped for the best.

Day 2, Friday: The weather turned out miserable. Pissing with rain (welcome), Windy (not) and Cold (ugh! It's supposed to be  Spring!) Not a good day for Bees to move about, nor a good day to try sweeping them about. We're informed (with the emotional emphasis of One Who Has Been There) that trying to brush them into a box rainy weather is definitely A Bad Idea. Their wings get wet, and you just end-up killing a whole lot. And this is not a very large swarm to start with!

So now what? We don't want them to get too well oriented to where they are; our houses are about 500 metres apart -- not really far enough for a serious Bee move. If you're moving bees (according to the Slightly Odd Belgian gent in Cape Town who advised me) you should either move them quite slowly -- about a metre a day -- or more than 2 km all at once. Less than 2km and they're likely to make their way back to their previous home. What to do, what to do?  I opted to leave them be for the day.

Day 3, Saturday: A morning call from T... "They've moved in." Hooray!

We left them alone for the day to settle into their new house. Presumably they get the furniture arranges just where they want it, make sure that no Peas have been hidden under Her Highness's Bed,... whatever it is that Bees do when moving house. At dusk I popped over with Ye Rusty Bucket1, taped a cover over the hive entrance, looped a bungge-cord around the box and lid, and drove the hive home where we had prepared an old drum as a hive stand. You must, please, remember that we're in the Land of the Honey Badger, here, and hives cannot be left near the ground lest they get destroyed in short order. The drum is filled with water so that it can't (we hope) be pushed over, either.

Happily we had very fine Spring weather on Sunday, allowing the swarm to really settle in, forage for nectar, and really settle in and get their bearings. Certainly I noticed a lot of Bees in the veggie garden, especially on the Borage and Lavender.

Today (Monday) the Bees are still around, though the weather has turned cooler (and the forecast for the remainder of the week looks like More Of The Same.) But the Bees seem to be quite happy. Soooooo.... hold thumbs that they stick around this time!

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