We couldn't bee-lieve what came to live in our garden!
Sunday morning we stepped outside our back door all ready to try and tackle the jungle that has been growing of late with all of the rain...when we were met with a big black BUZZING cloud in the sky.
A huge swarm of bees were hovering over the top of the garage and we could hear them from a good distance back. It felt a bit like the Trueman show what with the recent weather scuppering plans to get on with trying to push our project house on, the last thing we needed was a having the garden quarantined until further notice with a toddler to entertain.
We needn't have worried too much though as these were relatively docile honey bees, which, if you leave them be ('scuse the pun) will keep themselves to themselves and not attack unless threatened.
We watched as they quickly moved from the swarm in the sky to the safety of an old, black dustbin we had been using for garden waste. Bit by bit the entire cloud found their way to their new digs and quickly got on with making it feel like home.
Not sure what to do we turned to the good old interweb and it turns out that honey bees are in high demand! And we didn't struggle to find someone who could come and collect them to relocate to a better home. Enter the bee keeper in full outfit ready to take them on!
- bees in a bin! -
So why did they need a new home?
Each year hives often relocate. As the colony outgrows its surroundings, the Queen leaves some special queen eggs behind and leaves the nest. Some scouts help her to identify somewhere that could be a suitable home and then she sends out pheromones to attract the rest of the colony. They then form a swarm looking for her and as the pheromones dissipate the scout bees guide the swarm in.
When they are gearing up to do this, they gorge themselves in preparation for a few days of 'roughing it' until they find somewhere they want to stay. So sometimes they will keep repeating this behaviour over a few days until they are happy with their environment, just making sure that they are all somewhere safe as the temperature drops over night.
How does one move a hive of bees?
Well, it's not a particularly complicated method in all honesty. Fully suited up, our friendly local bee keeper had his special 'bee box' ready and he simply lifted the lid and banged the swarm into the box to make sure that the Queen was there. She emits more pheromones so the other bees flock to her side. He waited a while to gently encourage all of the stragglers into the box before closing it up and taking them away.
It seemed that these little guys had decided to stay as they had already begun to make the bees wax frame for the nest. We were pretty blown away with how much they had made in such a short time. And it turns out it was a really small swarm comparatively speaking, even though to us it appeared like an insane amount of bees!
- bee keeper moving the bees to a new home & the bees wax they left behind! -
What will happen to them?
You can't just introduce new bees into the area where there are existing bees, so a period of quarantine is ahead to make sure they are disease free. Apparently one of the Queens in the current hive is behaving very aggressively and our bee keeper hoped that maybe introducing our swarm may stop them all leaving the hive in search of pastures new. After all, no bee keeper wants to lose their bees!
Did you know that the honey bee only exists in the UK in captivity? It's been domesticated so much that it will only survive if they are looked after by experts in hives. So our swarm will have come from someone's collection, probably pretty close to where we live as they don't travel all that far.
Hopefully we have given them the best chance of a long and happy life in their new home rather than our old manky bin! I checked today and there's a few stragglers still hanging on in there, but hopefully they will wend their way to find their buddies soon.
Bees are super important to our ecosystem
Bees are the world's most important pollinators,
It is estimated that one third of the food that we consume each day relies on pollination mainly by bees. So essentially they prop up not only our human food chain but most of nature's, as they pollinate trees, bushes, herbaceous plants and fruiting plants. If we lost the bees our food systems would collapse as well as killing of much of nature.
- honey bee on a rose flower -
How can we help the bees?
Bees love flowers so plant some in your garden or wherever you have space. If you can, let part of your garden grow wild! Say no to Pesticides and Herbicides as these are really harmful to bees and make sure you shop responsibly, supporting producers that are kind to bees.
And if like us you suddenly find yourself hosts to a new swarm, don't panic! Give them some space and find someone in your area who can come and remove them humanely and provide them with a safe new home. Always ask an expert.