Posted on 31st July 2019 at 16:54
It is not usual to get a call from a building company to deal with bees (Bumbles or Honey) that have stopped their work. However this one a bit usual for a number of reasons.
This is the Water Tower at the top of Kilwardby Hill in Ashby de la Zouch. The water tower was built in 1854 for the Ashby de la Zouch waterworks. It is Grade II listed and converted to a home in 2016. The tower is over 70feet (21m) tall. On the Moira Road side there is a bank down the road which makes it feel much taller.
The job in question was a straight forward call requiring a swarm to be removed from the building as it was stopping the builders doing their work. Right ho, nothing new in that. The work turned out to repairs to the parapet. Since I know the water tower as a landmark in Ashby I knew the parapet was at the top of the tower. I also knew that the tower shrouded in professional scaffolding.
The key to this job was to remove the honeybees alive and re-home them. I was going to need help. Kudos to the home owners for taking that view.
As so it was my buddy Steve was available for an adventure in beekeeping. Besides the usual protective equipment of a bee suit and gauntlets, a fall arrester harness was thought necessary. I am not sure it was legal required as the scaffold was properly constructed. The harness instilled a level of confidence being so high up and as we were going to do some non-standard things to recover these bees.
The scaffold was installed to facilitate repairs to the tower. Almost immediately a swarm of honeybees decided that a recess created by the decorative brickwork would be the very place to set up home. The recess soon became too small so they expanded their nest to the underside of the scaffold planks. It is a very unusual in the UK to have honeybees living outside. They normally favour an enclosed space. It should be said we have had some very hot weather and some monumental rain storms in July 2019, yet the bees were quite content in their choice of home. Whilst moving the comb we saw plenty of brood but not that much honey. I suspect they would not have survived the coming winter,
The most important element of this job was not to allow the hanging honeycomb to detach from the plank, to which it was attached, and for the comb to plummet from a great height to explode 70 feet below in a cloud of honeybees, brood and honey right beside the pedestrian path of Moira Road. Moira Road just happens to be one of the arterial routes for Ashby de la Zouch.
I purchased a large plastic storage bin. I trimmed off one rim and attached long strings to each corner. The bin was carefully lowered beneath the unsuspecting colony. Slowly the bin was raised with the inner edge of the bin scraping against the brickwork. As it was lifted up the sharpened edge of the bin cut the brace comb attaching the inner face of the comb to the brickwork. It work like a charm. The bin was tied off to the scaffolding plank. The honeycomb was now in no danger of falling to the road below unless we dropped the bin. Very carefully I sawed through the scaffold plank. When I was part way through the plank I screwed a batten to the plank so that when the plank was cut through all the weight did not suddenly come on the free end of the sawn off plank.
It was a relatively easy job to carefully lift the bin, bees and plank up onto scaffolding deck. We could now breath again.
The last jobs were to strap the lid to the bin and strap the whole lot to the scaffold planks. There were storms forecast so waterproofing and securing the bin seemed like a smart idea.
I had previously cut a big whole in the side of the bin so the bees could come a go as they pleased. The hole was made to face the old hive location. The bees knew the bad weather was coming as well as we did. From our lofty perch we could see the weather front approaching us. As the wind increased flights of bees arrived back the old hive location for shelter. Given the bees behaviour I was quite sure the queen was in the bin although I had not seen her. It did not take long for her scent to floated into the air and for the flying bees to locate their new, if temporary, home. Part one of the job completed we retired for a brew.
The second part of the job was to return the bin after dark to remove the bees to a new location. Bees always come home at night so that is the best time to move them and it ensures you get all the bees. In a few days the bees will be moved out of the bin and into a proper hive. I will give them lots of food to help them get ready for the winter.
I have to say the bees took the whole exercise very calmly. If you are a construction company or building manager consider keeping my email address to hand should you find that honeybees have decide your building an attractive home and you rather they had not. I also re-home bumblebees, but that's another story
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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