Season of the Swarm

No, not a B movie….but rather a Bee movie if you prefer.

Because the spring was a cold one and followed a winter with some extreme cold, everything in the UK has been late. Here on the East Coast, we’re finally getting all the hawthorn in full bloom weeks after it normally would have bloomed. Not only are the flowers late but the cold spring has held back the bees.

As you may know, we’re bee-keepers. But what you might not realise is that most bee-keepers have their names down on something called the swarm register. This is a list kept of bee-keepers willing to come out and collect a swarm; local councils, police and many others access this list to find someone willing to come and deal with swarms.

Now bees are amazing creatures in my opinion but not everyone agrees. People are understandably alarmed (or often terrified) by the arrival of what can be tens of thousands of bees.

We’re on the local swarm register so we get called out. So far we’ve been called out a good few times. One swarm had settled itself in a chimney, inaccessible even with ladders. We left a bait hive for a few days but the bees liked their chimney and stayed there. Another swarm had picked the loft of a sheltered accomodation flat a few miles away; some found their way down into the bathroom. We reassured the occupants, made plans to come and collect when the bees were properly settled, but the bees moved on after a day or two.

Then we had a swarm descend into a spare hive we had in the garden. We only discovered this later in the day when we went to try and take a spare frame from it to be greeted by annoyed bees.

But so far I had never SEEN a swarm, just the outliers coming and going from whatever nook they’d settled in.

On Wednesday, I saw my first swarm. We’d been visiting a country church in the next county, and when we came out, there they were:

This was an amazing thing to see and has enormous significance for us.

 

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10 thoughts on “Season of the Swarm

  1. I like bees. I’ve managed to photograph a few actually in flight. And I’ve seen a swarm – in a tree before they moved on to find a suitable home. They were European honey bees like the ones in your picture. Yes, in those numbers, most things are scary. I hope the bees in your photo found a suitable place to live.

    • I hope so too. Next year, as we are moving to the area, we may put a bait hive in the churchyard as there is a resident colony in the tower. Thanks for visiting Greta!

  2. I too feel it is most significant for you. Was thinking today of the old custom of telling the bees about important things, and that bees have recently been ‘active’ in your daily lives. Something seems right. X

  3. I’m encouraged by your story, Vivienne, because we hear so much about the decimation if the bee population due to disease, widespread use of pesticides and because many of the flowers that encourage them are classed by gardeners as weeds. When I buy local honey, I ask the keeper to thank the bees! 🙂

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