A couple of weeks ago I noticed that we seemed to have a large number of bees accumulating around the outside stone staircase, specifically the entrance to the under stair space that we use to store logs for everyday use. I did a bit of research and thought that this was probably a scout team of bees looking for a new home.
Every year around two thirds of the bees in an existing population must leave to form a new swarm and ultimately a new nest. Scout bees go off to look for a new site, then come back to the moving population, do a dance to tell the others where the site is and how good it is. Once a decision is made the homeless swarm of a few thousand bees and the queen move in and this is exactly what happened in our log store. I think they picked well, its a safe spot, free from frost and excessive heat as well as dry, the problem is it was not a good choice for us. The room under the stairs is used for well seasoned pine that we use to start up our ESSE wood fired cooker and is therefore visited quite regularly. The doorway is right next to our power room where all the solar equipment and batteries are kept as well as our washing machine and the pig food so it is visited lots of times a day. The new residents really had to be encouraged to leave. I mentioned our problem to our Portuguese neighbour and great friend Alice, she, of course, had the solution. Her Brother-in-law keeps bees so she called him and he came over to have a look.
Not the best picture in the world but you can see the new nest with the beautiful wax structures holding the honey and the new bee grubs. They had already been working hard!
So, this weekend, as it was cool and damp, was a good time to come and remove the swarm. Alices Brother-in-law Antonio came with his friend Carlos, suitably kitted up with bee keeper jackets, head gear and gloves. Antonio used to have 40 hives of his own, one year exporting almost 400 kilos of honey to Belgium but in the terrible fires of 2017 he lost all his hives and bees. He is building them back up again and now has 6 hives so he was very happy to take our colony off our hands.
Antonio arrived with the new hive in his truck. Firstly he prepared the hive by painting it with a sugar solution that had been steeped over night with sprigs of Rosemary. The wax frames that fit inside the hive were also painted. The hive was then taken into the under stairs space and, using a long knife, Carlos removed the large wax structures and placed them inside the hive with the queen. The bees were not happy about this as you can imagine, Blue and I got stung almost immediately!
With the queen safely inside the hive Carlos brushed all the bees off the honeycombe and put them in a bucket for us. You can see from these images just how unhappy the bees were!
Then Antonio came into the house with the honeycomb and began to squeeze the honey out, you can see the bee grubs all over his hand, a bit sad but I think the bees will begin producing again very quickly. The hive was left all day with hoards of very angry bees flying around, they were attacking everything, even the cats were not safe! They calmed down and by the night time cool the hive was quiet and ready to go to its new home. Today there are only a few slightly confused bees still about so the danger to us, our visitors and pets seems to be over………… Thank goodness.
I made a short video of Antonios extraction process, it was mesmerising and the honey tasted great! Antonio has agreed that next spring he will bring us a couple of hives for our land which is very exciting and he was so happy to have a new swarm, so all in all another brilliant day on the Quinta.