Monday, June 8, 2015

A PVC Queen - you just can't make this up!

I'm up and running again! Albeit with a lot of help from a new beekeeper friend.

I was lucky enough to be at a friends garden party yesterday afternoon in Pine View Close (PVC to the initiated) when a swarm decided to settle in a hedge just over the road!

Much excitement; a huge cloud of bees was reported to be flying all around. It was abundantly clear this was a swarm looking for somewhere to settle, and sure enough within 30 minutes they formed this beautiful cluster:

It was super calm and about 2.5 m up in a beech hedge.

I put a post on the "Haslemere Swap and Sell" Facebook page hoping it would be found a home, and within an hour I had a post from someone who said their dad was interested.  

We chatted and he asked me if I wanted to keep them for myself.  I told him yes I'd love to, but that I had no equipment or anywhere to keep them.  Dave very kindly said that he would happily loan me some equipment and he also offered to host them at his apiary. I jumped at the opportunity! Top man!

We decided to meet up the next day equipped with our swarm catching equipment; so long as the bees hadn't gone!

Now I haven't seen my stuff for about a year, so I surprised myself that it was all together. 

Bee suit? (Including holes) Check!
Gloves? (Covered in Missouri propylis) Check!
Boots! Check!
Step ladder, pruning shears, branch loppers? All check!

...Good to go!

We met at 6pm and found the bees just as (and where) they were the previous night!  Interestingly we were almost identically kitted out, even down to the make, age and model of our cars? What is it about beekeepers and 1999 Peugeot 406s?

However, crucially, Dave also had a large sheet and a skep which was put to excellent use:

Once the swarm was safely wrapped up and popped in the boot of his car all that we needed to do was install them.

I've never installed a proper swarm before (I once found a swarm on the ground which didn't survive; queenless I think) and it's a truly remarkable thing to watch. 

Dave had already set up a hive with frames of foundation and he had prepared the entrance by laying an old cupboard door up to it like a ramp. 

The bundle of sheet and skep were then placed at the bottom of the slope and then unwrapped.  The sheet was quickly laid over the ramp and tucked in under the entrance opening.  

All we needed to do was lift the skep, give it a tap to dislodge the bees, and in double quick time they all marched up the slope and into the hive. 

All done in about 10 minutes.  Brilliant!

There's a feeder on top of the hive now, so all we need to do is feed them tomorrow to give them a kick start.  I'll make up some syrup as well and I'll go along on Thursday or Friday to feed them again. 

I'll keep feeding them but leave them a good week on their own before I inspect them properly.  I remember the first package of bees I got in St. Louis drew out bare plastic foundation and started to lay within 5 days. 

This looks to be a very strong swarm (I reckon 20,000 bees?) so I think they will be really buzzing!  I'm really really excited to get back in the bee game again! 

A Brilliant Day, and to cap
It all have PVC Queen to brag about!

It now looks like I need to buy National sized equipment; Langstroth stuff is available but is just not common.  Anyone got any suggestions?