My first bees
I've been wondering for the last week or so whether we had left things too late this year, and mentally preparing myself to start beekeeping next May instead. However, this morning Thomas O'Neill from Burnham Beekeepers rang me up to tell me he had collected a small swarm from a tree in Cossington, about 12km away on the other side of the Levels. Ten minutes later, he turned up at my house in his big van. Inside the van was a small cardboard box draped in an old blanket, buzzing much less than I thought it would. We headed off to the apiary site, tipping the box over the brood box and brushing the stragglers in. Within minutes they were fanning by the entrance, sending out the Nosonov pheromone to signal 'come on in' to the others.
I'm really pleased at all this, but the next few days are rather critical. They might stay, or they might go. I'm going to be leaving them well alone for a week to settle in. However, they are likely to be pretty hungry at this point, so Curly and I went to the local supermarket to get a block of fondant for them in case they they don't get enough food quickly enough from their new environment. Curly is visiting this weekend and has been co-opted into beekeeping. His first experience of it was just after he'd put on his bee suit — a man driving by shouted at us that 'it's not Hallowe'en yet!'. Nice.
Anyway, the new hivemates seemed pretty happy four hours later when we put the fondant in, still fanning away. That, together with all the blackberry blossom and other food sources around the apiary site that Thomas noticed earlier, should provide them with enough. Fingers crossed they decide to stick around.