Homes for Bees

protesting bee

Yesterday, looking up from my computer, I spotted a dark, swirling cloud in one part of our garden. It could only mean one thing. A swarm of honey bees. It’s not the first time. It’s the right time of year and the weather was perfect. I wasn’t surprised.

Beekeeping is on my list. I’ve been on a one day course and read plenty of books, but I’m not ready quite yet. Apparently the bees have a different idea. They like our garden and would like to live here. Sigh.

honeysuckle and swarmNo convenient empty hive, waiting in our garden. They opted for the coolness inside our honeysuckle. I see their point. It’s cool, secure and surrounded by a food source. But no way a permanent solution. They would be on the move again.

honey bees in honeysuckleThey were kind enough to let me approach. More intent on keeping their queen safe.

Our neighbour is a beekeeper. As his hive died out over the winter, he was very happy to acquire a free swarm. Half an hour later he returned dressed in his beekeeping suit and with the tools of the trade.

beekeeper smoker

The swarm was brushed out of the honeysuckle and into a box. Then turned upside down onto a towel to ease transporting them. There the box stayed all afternoon. At first the bees that were left behind, covered the outside of the box or swirled around. Over the hours, they mostly moved inside.

swarm in boxIn the evening our neighbour returned, slid a board underneath and wrapped the towel around the box. I’m sure anyone driving down our lane a few minutes later would have been slightly surprised to encounter a man in full beekeeping suit, walking very carefully, holding a box out in front of him. Not a sight you often see.

This morning as we set off for school, we heard that the bees had settled in and were busy foraging. It took a further half a day for the slightly cross, left behind ones to calm down and follow. At least, I hope that’s where they went. I was relieved that I could let the dogs out again.borage for bees

My mission now is to carry on improving our bee friendly plants and organize a hive for next year. Eldest is keen to come on a course with me this winter. I am determined that next time a swarm comes knocking, I’ll be able to provide a home for them.

Let me know if you keep bees. I’d love to hear your experience. Which plant is the most popular with the bees in your garden ?


A footnote: At the very moment, I was out in the garden, checking out the swarm, a couple of ladies arrived at my gate. They had a message from God, they told me. My mind fully focused on the swarm, I had to stop myself from saying that I needed to cope with a message from Mother Nature first. One omnipotence at time, please.
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22 thoughts on “Homes for Bees

  • Thursday 2 July, 2015 at 11:38 am

    I love this post and since hearing a friend that keeps about 300,000 honey bees on her roof in London I’ve become really intrigued. She did a guest post on my blog about her and the kids looking after them together if you’re interested in reading it some time. I realise how little I know about these creatures and also the difference between them and bumble bees in terms of life span and honey production. Do you think you’ll go for it??

    • Thursday 2 July, 2015 at 7:35 pm

      I’ll have to check it out.Yes. It’s just a matter of when, now. Fascinating creatures. Always seems more to learn.

  • Thursday 2 July, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    How amazing to have the swarm turn up in your garden and then find a proper home with your neighbour! Friends hold bee keeping courses in their forest garden site nearby but I’m still too nervous to sign up.

    • Thursday 2 July, 2015 at 7:39 pm

      Oh. I like the sound of that course, but you do have to feel comfortable with it. I’ve been near swarms on the move, but they are always calm and focused on where they are going. Until I did my day course, I wasn’t sure how I would feel when I invaded their space. How I would react. Turns out its nothing as I imagined and I was able to relax.

  • Thursday 2 July, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    What an amazing site but I have to admit I think I would have run the other way if I spotted a swarm of them!

    • Friday 3 July, 2015 at 9:10 am

      I think it’s most people’s reactions. I wouldn’t rush in, but if you are calm and careful, they are amazing creatures to observe.

  • Thursday 2 July, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    I’d dearly love to keep bees. My granddad did and it is something I have always hoped to do. I’ll look forward to hearing how you get on next year – fingers crossed! Juliex

    • Friday 3 July, 2015 at 9:11 am

      Absolutely. Fingers crossed. I’d love to keep bees.

  • Thursday 2 July, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    How exciting, I’ve never seen a swarm of honey bees! This is a lovely story. Beekeeping is on my one-day list – when I have more time and have been on a course it’s something I’d love to do. Bees are amazing little creatures.

    • Friday 3 July, 2015 at 9:13 am

      They are amazing. I’m fascinated by all the bees. I’d have loved to be an entromologist. I spend far too much of my time on my tummy watching insects! 😀

  • Friday 3 July, 2015 at 10:51 am

    Like Gemma, bee keeping is on my dream to-do list. It must have been an amazing sight but I like you I would have been glad to see them relocated, what a stroke of luck your neighbour could help take them! Good old lavender here seems to draw the fuzzy friends in here, the children like sitting outside watching the bees buzzing about it. Thanks for joining in and sharing x

    • Friday 3 July, 2015 at 11:16 am

      They would have moved on in their own sweet time, if left, but beekeepers are always keen to acquire a free swarm, so I knew one of our local people would want it. I would have kept it myself, but I’m not set up. We have lots of lavender. I’m sure it adds to our garden being perfect for a bee hive.

  • Friday 3 July, 2015 at 11:10 am

    What an amazing sight! Thank goodness you had a neighbour who could help you out and take them into a hive. It’s a couple of miles away to the nearest hives I know of around here.

    • Friday 3 July, 2015 at 11:18 am

      We have lots of beekeepers around us. Probably why a swarm is not unusual. I’d have happily kept it myself but for the lack of a hive and kit. Hives tend to be well hidden, so you may have some nearer than you imagine.

  • Sunday 5 July, 2015 at 8:49 am

    What an amazing thing to witness, and how great that your bees found a home next door – it was obviously meant to be wasn’t it! I’ve only seen a swarm once, it swept down our street one Summer afternoon when I happened to be looking out of the window, the noise was incredible even from indoors. We’ve had 3 bumblebee nests under the eaves of our roof this year, I feel rather privileged 🙂

    • Sunday 5 July, 2015 at 10:52 pm

      It is an awesome sound. I’ve had a swarm fly just over my head and you wouldn’t mistake the sound. We have a few bumblebee nests in the surrounding buildings. Lovely to see.

  • Sunday 5 July, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    Keeping bees is on my to do list and since moving to France we have had 4 swarms land here and a friend managed to catch one of them. This year has (so far) been swarm free though.

    • Sunday 5 July, 2015 at 11:04 pm

      Give it time. The summer isn’t over yet! You must have a bee friendly garden too.

  • Monday 6 July, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    Oh my! What a sight – and I’m not sure I’d have been so cool about it – lucky to live next door to a bee keeper and I bet he was pleased to gain them – maybe they were your message from God 🙂 – that line did make me smile x #hdygg

    • Monday 6 July, 2015 at 2:34 pm

      Good job I’m not flapable. I would love to keep bees! Love your take on the message. Maybe. 🙂

  • Saturday 11 July, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    sounds like a fab project/hobby for you and your son to be involved with

    • Sunday 12 July, 2015 at 11:12 pm

      It should be. 🙂

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