having had my first swarm disappear in a reswarm I was (foolishly) beginning to think I might have got the hang of this. A far more unnerving challenge was about to present itself – a colony in a chimney which needed to be demolished. Guided by Trish (who’d done this once before) and Tony (a roofer, who watched her do it) my hive was lifted on the scaffolding and then (with considerably more effort) I climbed up to join her. The two youngest roofers, dressed in bee suits, started to dismantle the brick work and handed pieces of the comb from the 2m long colony to Trish and I. We tried to place the cone with obvious brood into the hive using the comb-strengthening struts extending down from the top bars to create bee space between the pieces as we could. The honey-filled cone was laid onto the scaffolding in the hope that the bees would harvest the honey from there. There were bees everywhere yet only one sting all morning. The final pieces of comb reached us in a large bucket and at no point did we spot the queen but hoped throughout that she was safe and somehow had found her way to the hive. By lunchtime the builders had had enough, the chimney was down and the comb was (mostly) in the hive. Large numbers of bees were clustered on loose bricks around the ex-chimney – so brave Trish climbed up to pass them down so they could be laid next to the honey comb in the hope that they too would recognise their new home. That was all we could do for now.
So the next challenge, and the one I need advice about is getting them down. The plan is to leave the hive there overnight and the tomorrow evening close to sunset, secure the roof with ratchet straps and block off the entrance with cork held in place with gaffer tape. Then lower the whole thing down from the scaffolding on two ropes very carefully, put into a van, stabilise the legs so it wont move about and then drive v slowly the 4miles to my house and then return the hive to the lovely tranquil orchard at the bottom of the garden. Is this too soon? It will be 60 hours after the bees were first moved. I was reading the thoughts about moving and the advice to wait as long as possible but this isnt an option since the roof needs to go back onto the building before it rains and the roofers are anxious about working up there with the bees still nearby, albeit in a hive rather than the chimney. How will I or can I know that the queen is in there? Today the bees have apparently been in and out of the hive, working on the comb laid nearby to get the honey off and taking no notice of the space where the chimney used to be and the opening. But bees have been spotted in small clusters in the nearby trees according to anxious neighbours. And, assuming the plan to get them down and hive back home, when should I remove the corks from the entrance? That night or early the next morning?
And after that what, if anything, should I do about the muddle inside this hive? Leave the bees to sort it and not open it at all? Ever? Trish suggested that any not quite empty bits of comb from the scaffolding should be brought across and put out under the hive so the bees can continue to retrieve honey. And, given that the comb I did put into the hive filled it up completely, might they swarm this year? And if so, should I get another hive ready just in case? All thoughts that I would have time to work all this out as I went along seems now to have been wishful thinking. Major hand-holding is needed please!!!