A couple of months ago, I put a bait hive out in my garden. An empty National brood box, apart from a dark old brood comb pushed to one side and some lemongrass oil smeared on the walls. Then I waited.
At first… nothing. But then… I saw some bees coming in and out, inspecting the empty premises. The next day, it was clear something was afoot. More and more bees could be seen around the entrance, until the water in my garden was filled with masses of humming bees. I went and stood outside, looking at the sheer number of them. You can see them against the white wall in the photos below.
But often life is not easy, and so this is not quite as simple as I was hoping. The bees had come to me – fantastic – but they’d also landed not inside but under the bait hive.
The next day, I went out in my beesuit and attempted to gather them up. I used some highly specialist equipment for this job – a bee brush and a bucket. Although this was obviously an easy place to gather a swarm from, it still meant a bit of squeezing myself under the picnic table, hovering holding the bucket with one hand while brushing the bees in with the other as gently as possible.
Just in the space of about 24 hours, they’d made the beautiful, pristine comb below, which the swarm was gathering on under the table. The wax is produced by glands in their abdomen, which they then chew and manipulate into the perfectly formed honeycomb shapes using their mandibles. Pretty amazing when you think about it.
My first attempt failed and the bees quickly reverted to hanging out under the table. I realized I must not have gathered up the queen, so they had all returned to her.
On my second attempt, I tried to make sure I got almost every single bee. This time the bees lined up on top of the frames, lifted their bottoms and fanned their Nasonov glands, which I took as a good sign. They were telling the other bees that this was now home.
A couple of months later, the bees are still here. I have named the new queen Lowen, which means ‘Joyful’ in Cornish.