How to Dispose of my Colonies

I was cutting down the wildflower meadow behind my beehives yesterday.  I was using hand shears (rather than the hedge trimmer I used last year) because I thought it was less likely to upset the bees.

Nevertheless, one bee took a dislike to what I was doing and stung me on the lobe of my right ear.  I pulled the sting out with tweezers, put my bee suit on and carried out.

Soon afterwards I could feel my lips swelling.  I suddenly felt very tired and was sweating profusely.  I had trouble getting back indoors and was having trouble breathing.

I rang 999.  The ambulance arrived soon after.  They did tests, an adrenalin injection and took me to hospital where I had more tests.  They gave me anti histamine and steroids and kept me in under observation for six hours.

Very reluctantly I have come to the conclusion that the bees will have to go, but I don’t know how to go about this.  I have two hives, both are Warre style and quite tall.  I’ve only been keeping bees for a couple of years.  I haven’t used any treatments, neither have I taken any honey or given any feed.  They are still busy bringing in pollen.

Can anyone advise what time of year it would be best to move them, how to move them and where to move them to?

Any advice greatly appreciated.

Graham Brookbanks

Chandlers Ford, Hampshire

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15 Responses to How to Dispose of my Colonies

  1. Chris Crook says:

    HI Graham,
    so sorry to hear this. You sound like the perfect beekeeper in leaving your bees to get on with their jobs and not interfering.
    I’m probably too far away to take on your hives as the bees would be on the road for 90 mins to Surrey, but let me know if you don’t get any takers. I know of a couple of people in my area who are trained in NB and desperate for bees.
    If you can wait I would have thought leaving the bees on site until they stop foraging in Autumn would be best. The colony would be smaller by then and more boxes empty making the Warre easier to transport. If you need to divide the Warre up into separate boxes for moving, I’ve found sheets of newspaper to seal the top and bottom useful. You can then remove them when you put the boxes back together.
    Hoping it all goes well for you
    Chris Crook, Dorking

    • grahambrookbanks says:

      Thanks for the advice. Chris

    • Andrew Forbes says:

      Hi Graham

      It was very sad to read your story above. I am sure that all of us can identify with the regret you must feel in realising that your beekeeping is drawing to a close.

      I live in Chandler’s Ford also (Hocombe Drive) and am a new beekeeper with just one Warre hive. Like you, I am a big believer in not treating the bees or harvesting honey unless it is clearly surplus to their requirements. Coincidentally, my bees became somewhat angrier a couple of weeks ago too and took particular exception to my cutting the grass one afternoon. Thankfully no 999 calls though!

      So if you urgently need to get rid of your hives, I could fit one more in my garden. If you want to wait till winter, that’s fine too. You would still be very welcome to come and see them from time to time (suitably clad of course!).

      All the best

  2. deweysanchez says:

    Hi Graham. If you can hold out til early winter a move would be easier then. I suggest posting your hives on forum. Lots of experienced warré and TBH natural beekeepers who can manage your hives in the same way you do.

  3. grahambrookbanks says:

    Thanks, Dewey.

  4. Mary Walwyn says:

    Hi Graham, Sorry to hear you have developed such a response to bee stings. I would be interested in taking one of your hives to add to the Warre I have already. I only have the one hive and would like to enlarge my apiary.
    As mentioned by others, early winter would be a good time to move them, although that may be some weeks ahead if the general forecast for a mild autumn continues. If you wanted help with reducing the number of boxes, I and others, I am sure, would be happy to come over.
    So disappointing for you to have to abandon them, after all the effort you have put in over the years.

  5. Amanda Denton says:

    Hello Graham, I do hope you are feeling a little better today. I’ve been on john havershams natural beekeeoing course this weekend and am looking to set myself up with a Warre hive and bees. I also have a mentor in place and have the support to take on a hive. I live in Winchester. Perhaps once you are feeling better we could chat? Regards. Amanda.

  6. kate denning says:

    Hi Graham, I’m sorry about your experience. Did previous stings not trouble you much of was there a build up to this allergic reaction? So disappointing for you! I have two top bar hives and a skep and although it would mean removing them to a new area, if you are having trouble rehoming them do get in touch. I live in Fordingbridge near the New Forest and am a member of the Hampshire Natural Beekeeping group. I am hoping to add a Warre to compare – they seem the best regarded ‘natural beekeeping’ style of hives. All the best, Kate

  7. Andy says:

    Hi there, as long as you do it in the late evening, it does not matter when you move them, as long as you remember the old ‘over three miles or under three feet rule’ otherwise confused bees will turn up back at your site. I am just south of WincHester if you want any help, and Could take one and find homes for others if you like.

  8. grahambrookbanks says:

    Hi Kate
    The last time I was stung I was up a ladder, sawing a branch off a tree to bring a swarm down to my skep which was on the ground. The veil was touching my face (I was looking up) and a bee stung me through the veil on my forehead. (I thought bees couldn’t sting when they were swarming, with their tummies full of honey!!). Both eyes swelled up so that I could only see through slits, but I didn’t feel ill like I did this time. I’m just worried that my allergic reaction seems to be getting worse. I’m still reluctant to let them go to a new home, but I’ve had lots of offers – some very local, so I’m confident I’ll be able to re-home them when they’re less active than they are right now.

    Thanks for your concern.

  9. lindylou says:

    Hello Graham, has anyone told you that you can get hospital treatment to cure this allergic reaction. It takes about 5 years and regular visits to the doctor’s. I believe it works by accustomising yourself by inection to the bee venom. A man in my neighbourhood has done it and it has worked even though like you he became dangerously ill before that. I also have an allergic reaction but I carry pills with me whenever I am at the bees. If stung I take one within 10 minutes, the reaction is less awful. 2nd day also one of the pills. I also rub vigorously the sting place with leaf or flowering part of Greater Celandine. When I did this once last summer virtually no big bump. This in combination with the two pills. Bicarbonate of soda rubbed on the sting place that you wet with your finger first allow neutralises venom effect somewhat.

  10. grahambrookbanks says:

    Hi Lindylou
    Thanks for your posting. After my bee sting experience which I detailed in my original posting, I was stung again – this time on my bottom, through my bee suit, trousers and underpants! (While I was finishing cutting my wild flower meadow). This time the sting caused quite a large red swelling but it didn’t result in anaphylactic shock symptoms. So I’m assuming that my severe reaction previously was because of the location of the sting (on my earlobe).
    I’ve decided to just leave the bees alone to get on and do their own thing without interference from me. As long as they thrive I will keep the hives. If they succumb to varroa or some other pest/disease I will get rid of the hives then.
    I have now got an Epipen – just in case!
    Thanks again for taking the trouble to respond.

  11. Vivienne says:

    That is good news and a happy ending

  12. Graham Brookbanks says:

    Thanks, Vivienne.
    Just as an update – both colonies appear to be thriving and one of them swarmed a couple of weeks ago. An awesome (literally) experience.

  13. grahambrookbanks says:

    Further to last years posting, I have recently suffered another anaphylaxis incident, following a bee sting on my neck. This was more serious than last year (I was unconscious) and the doctor has told me that another incident could be fatal.

    Sadly the bees will have to go. Andrew Forbes (see previous comments) has offered to take one colony. I need to get rid of my my other colony (or both if someone wants both – Andrew is just taking one hive as a favour).

    I haven’t touched either hive since the previous incident (except for an occasional peek through the observation windows). I haven’t treated them, taken honey,or fed them, but both seem pretty active.

    I’m scared to go near them now, so I’m hoping that some kind soul will come and take them away for me.

    You can contact me on 023 8026 8567 if you prefer and want to know any more. I am happy to wait until the weather turns colder (surely it must soon!!!)


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