Northants Bee Keepers Association

Northamptonshire Beekeepers' Association (NBKA) Registered Charity No. 295593


Northants Bee Keepers Association

Copyright © NBKA 2007-2018

Northants Bee Keepers Association

A member organisation representing beekeepers in the County of Northamptonshire

Bee-Lines (A selection from our quarterly magazine)

February 2011

A Swarm in December?


I received a phone call during the morning of November 29th from Keith Rands-Allan wanting to know if it was any good collecting a swarm that his son had seen in Earls Barton.


A bit puzzled and amazed, I replied that without seeing the swarm I couldn’t really say. Keith said that he would go and look at it anyway.


A few hours later Keith rang again and reported that the said swarm was not, it was a feral colony containing lots of comb and measuring about 15” square and 24” deep. Could I give any advice on collecting it?


This I had to see, so swiftly gathering my bee suit and any bits and bobs that might be useful, I drove to Barton to meet Keith and see what he had found.


What was there was quite amazing, bearing in mind that the temperature was hovering around freezing point. The colony had been built in a deciduous hedge on the side of the pavement and had obviously, from the size of it, been there for some time. There was no cover from the rain or shelter from the wind and it was fully exposed to view. Many bees lay dead on the pavement underneath the colony, but a lot more were clustered within the folds of the comb.


Could the bees be collected and re-hived? Some fairly substantial twigs and masses of smaller ones were running through the combs and my inexperienced eye could see no way of removing the colony and re-hiving it. After some discussion Keith and I decided to leave alone and just wish the bees the best of luck.


Arriving home I rang Colin, my brother, and told him of the colony just around the corner from his house. He went look see and informed his mentor (and mine) Albino Lopez.


December 2nd arrived and so did a phone call from Alby stating that he reckoned the colony was worth saving as they would die if left in this cold weather and would I come down and help him.


Ever willing to learn and see how to do what I thought was impossible I met Alby who with a huge pair of loppers and a large pair of secateurs climbed up a step ladder and cutting around the colony let it drop none too gently into a cardboard honey jar box held by yours truly.


The residents were a bit miffed and attempted to fly in defence, but it really was so cold that most of them fell to the floor before reaching us. Those that reached us gave up trying to sting and tucked themselves under collars and other folds in the clothing we wore. By the judicial use of yards of duct tape and extra bits of cardboard the bees were sealed in the box, placed in the boot of Alby’s car and off he went.


Once at his apiary, Alby transferred the colony to a double brood box, and that is where they remain to this day.


Why these bees had never previously been reported to a beekeeper remains a mystery, particularly as it must have been quite a large swarm and right alongside a fairly busy street.


It seems that they will survive to buzz another day.


Clive Rowlands