My partner keeps bees. We call them 'the girls' and speak to them regularly. They're a very good tempered bunch, they make delicious coastal honey and give neither us nor the neighbours any trouble, until last Friday.
A quick run down on bee keeping. You start with a nucleus containing a queen bee and a small colony of bees to support the queen. These you transfer to a brood box where they construct a network of hexagonal cells in which the queen lays her eggs. These then hatch and the nursery bees look after them. The majority of these will be pollen gatherers, but there are other jobs to be done in the hive, so there are undertakers, architects, guards, and the queen's personal attendants as well. All of these are female but a few male bees, (drones) are hatched, purely for breeding purposes.
Once the colony has become established you start placing smaller boxes on top where the bees make the honey to keep the colony alive through the harsh winter months. This you harvest and replace with sugary bee food. It's more complicated than that, of course, but that's the basic gist.
The answer came on Sunday. We received a call at The Mill from one of her neighbours to say that a swarm of bees had taken up residence in his garden. Gathering up my sweep net, we rushed back to Lowca. And there they were, a great buzzing mass of uncertain temperament hanging from a bush. It would have been unwise for Ishbel to tackle them so soon, as a second attack could have been fatal, so the apprentice bee keeper was sent in. That was me. With an audience of fascinated neighbours, I enveloped the swarm in the sweep net, and carefully cut the colony from the bush. About 5kg of bees plopped into the net which I quickly twisted over to seal them in.
Although not intended for dealing with a swarm of bees, my trusty insect sweep net came in very handy. I'd recommend it, not only to bee keepers, but to anyone who, like me, has a fascination with the insect world. And, if I've not put you off the thought of bee keeping altogether, the British Bee Keepers Association have produced a book containing all you need to know.
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