Three days ago a farmer felled an old Scot’s pine because it was rotten in the middle and liable to fall down in a storm. Little did he know that there was a nest of wild bees living in the middle of this hollow tree, but when he started sawing he soon noticed clouds of agitated bees around him.
Luckily for farmer Neil, Rick Stewart recently set up an out-apiary on his farm land near Wester Hardmuir in Nairnshire. Rick was asked if he could remove the tree bees but this was not a task to tackle alone. Mac (of The Lochness Honey Company) Cynthia, Linton and I had done this before so we got a team together including Rick, and newish beekeeper Stuart Thompson. We planned a date and time to suit all and yesterday at 13:30 we commenced. It would take us almost 3 hours to complete.
Mac collected up rubber bands to secure bits of comb into empty frames. His tip is to chat up the local postie who is usually happy to dispense with a few extra large bands. This is where a wee jar of honey comes in handy. Rick collected nuc boxes, a full-sized hive and lots of empty frames. He also brought his small chainsaw. I brought my smoker with enough Tomatin whisky bung clothes to reek of the good stuff and cheer up the bees. I brought marking pen, water spray, bucket for honey comb, tweezers to check brood cells for disease, water to drink, scissors, string in case Mac forgot the rubber bands, camera, queen cage. Linton brought a couple of axes and a mell/sledgehammer.
Given the tremendous upheaval, the colony was easy going. An advanced party of guard bees met us as we parked some 40 yards away from the tree but the bees in the nest allowed us to saw segments of wood so we could expose the length of the nest gradually and remove peices of comb. I was stung only once as I squashed a bee on a chunk of comb heavy with honey.
Having a good team makes all the difference and getting just the right number of beekeepers is key so that you don’t end up tripping over each other, and having a case of, “too many cooks…………
Rick will leave the hive of relocated bees for a couple of weeks before taking them to another apiary more than 3 miles away. He reported in 24 hours later to tell me that the bees had left the tree and the hive was really busy.
With hindsight, I don’t remember seeing much propolis so I’ll go back and check the empty tree. I noticed a few propolis covered knots supporting comb but there was not as much propolis as I was expecting.
I don’t think we would need to do anything differently next time because it all went remarkably well. Perhaps bring a larger chainsaw.
Last year a friend gave me a present of a numbers and glue marking kit which I was excited to try out on a calm still day when the miniscule discs were unlikely to blow away. I went to my out-apiary with a post-covid fuzzy brain and clean forgot my hive tools. I rummaged in my friend Sally’s shed (she was away for Easter) and found a door hinge to work as a lever and managed to inspect our 4 colonies and mark our queens. Number 3 belongs to Sally.
I cut a cocktail stick in half with scissors and used the blunt end to apply the glue to the queen’s thorax. With the sharp end, I pushed out the numbered discs which I then placed face up on a white plastic bucket lid. Once I had the queen securely held by her legs between my left thumb and index finger, I painted a tiny glob of glue on her thorax. I licked the tip of my right index finger and picked up the numbered disc on the tip of my finger and transferred it to the queen’s thorax. With my phone, while the glue was drying, I got a shot of the finished job.
I’ve been getting a colony ready for sale and the weather finally settled enough for them to go to their new home near Aviemore which is a week or so behind us in terms of forage. The sycamore trees have not flowered there yet but there is enough willow still. The colony had plenty ventilation and a spray of water to keep them comfortable. The frames are lined up in the direction of travel and securely strapped for transport to their new home about an hours journey away.