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.