This year for the first time my bees have had a visit from the Bee Inspector. Now I should admit at this point that he did try to make an unannounced inspection some years ago and wasn’t very well received.
Parents of young children will know how it goes. I was cooking tea. Young children decided to kill each other with the standard blood curdling screams. Very stressed mother joins the attack with threats of mild violence/confiscations/lost meals. Eldest on hearing a knock at the door very helpfully opens it as he runs past in his bid to inflict damage on much younger, but very deserving, little sister. Stressed mother rushing into hallway, after fleeing children, finds an unfamiliar man standing in her house. At his request to inspect her bees ‘as I’m passing’ she has a minor meltdown about giving fair warning, not turning up at teatime etc before triumphantly remembering one hive had been queenless and she has only united them the day before. Therefore they could not be opened today anyway. All said while hanging onto a wiggling beast who had turned into a cherub at the thought of a visitor but who she knew would wreak havoc the second he left. The poor man couldn’t get out of the house quick enough and I’ve never been inspected since!
This all explains why when he rang last month and chose a date when I was on holiday he sounded both relieved and unbelieving at the same time. We arranged another date and this week it arrived, as did a rather doubtful inspector. Everything went fine, his comment ‘ oh it looks like you do know what you’re doing’ was taken in the jest I hope he meant it in and as he also called my hives phenomenal and very well managed I guess I passed!
My other first has been shown to me by my newest bee keeping friend. These bees who have been living in a barn owl nesting box in his local churchyard for the last two years.
The box is just above head height but luckily on the edge of the plot. He has wrapped it in the chicken wire to protect it against a woodpecker who was rather to interested last winter.
I think it’s amazing the way the entrance has been blocked with propolis. Leaving just a few small holes for entrances. This will keep out rain but also helps the bees to protect the nest from wasps and other predators.
Following on from this he took me to another local church where bees have been living in a wall for 30 years, to his knowledge, at least.
The main swarm is on this south facing wall but over time they have obviously swarmed on various occasions and just moved into other holes.
There are four more nests in this wall. Three to the right and one on the left of the window in this shot. Another small group are using a hole on the northern side. I guess it was all that was left!
The picture just doesn’t do the scene justice. The air was full of bees, they were catching in my hair and walking up my arms and yet I never got stung once.
As we were walking around the church a lady appeared from the house opposite with the biggest key I’ve ever seen and enthusiastically opened the main doors to show us the inside. The building has not been used for services for many years. It is beautiful inside and still has all its original features, except for its lead roof which was stolen just recently and replaced with a modern alternative. The reason the building is so well preserved is because of its squatters. At least two sorts of bats call it home in their hundreds and researchers monitor them regularly. An architect is visiting this week and she was excited to hear about the bees ( she hadn’t noticed them which amazed me) as another reason to keep it empty.
Like so many old buildings it has huge monetary potential as a quirky house build but not much as a nature reserve. I’ve been asked to do a small display for future presentations and funding bids. I also suggested setting up some bait hives next spring to try to monitor the bees. Wouldn’t it be lovely to find a native black bee strain without varroa living in my neighbouring village. Might also explain where all my swarms keep coming from!