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Bees

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Topics: 
hobbies

This isn’t about dementia at all but it’s about what dominated the weekend for this researcher.

The tale begins a while ago. Concerned at stories about declining numbers of bees across the world, I must have said something like, ‘We should keep bees to save the planet’. My wife took due note and for next birthday, I received a huge box as a present. It contained a very beautiful traditional wooden hive. It was accompanied by a smart beekeeper’s jacket and mask. I looked up what you had to do and realised that it was quite technical and likely to be very time consuming. You would have to go to special evening classes. Not to mention the risk of getting stung…

As a result I didn’t do much. The hive made an interesting addition to our sitting room. The cleaners dusted it. Guests would say, ‘Wow, do you keep bees?’, to which the reply was, ‘Not in the living room – I’m not that crazy’. After a while, I moved it into the garden for a couple of years where swarms of bees passed by every now and again without taking root there.

Roll forward to our new house. Suddenly we have bees everywhere, masonry bees in the front wall and what look like honey bees entering a hole just under the roof. They then decide to swarm into our bedrooms. At the end of the day they all die and we hoover them up. The same the next day. Something has to be done.

We scour the British Beekeepers Association website (http://www.bbka.org.uk/) and eventually find someone who will come and have a look. Brian is a large and reassuring man. He climbs perilously into an area of loft space not designed for easy access but he can’t see the nest. A direct approach is called for, with a hammer and chisel through the sloping ceiling of the bathroom. Clouds of plaster and animated bees ensue. We try to convince ourselves we had planned to refit this bathroom anyway. Through a crack in the door, I can see Brian getting at the nest. There are combs and combs of wax, utterly dripping with (literally) home produced honey. It is delicious. He pours bees and comb into his trusty box but he can’t find the queen anywhere. He leaves the box for the bees to crawl into and arranges to come back in the evening.

Towards dusk, we notice that there appear to be bees swarming in a tree just down the drive. Is this anything to do with our nest, or is it another mob? Brian returns. The bees have formed a tight knot in a high branch. With stepladder and three poles lashed onto his net, Brian can just reach and bangs a load of them to the ground. They are very angry (probably hungry?) and he is stung several times. Again, he leaves them to congregate around his basket and, as it going dark, heads for home. In the morning he returns and collects them. The good news is that the queen is there, and these are indeed our dislodged bees.

Brian is ecstatic. So are we. He heads off with a new swarm of bees plus queen, not to mention that we have given him our hive and the beekeepers gear too. No money has changed hands. Fantastic. I’m having honey on my cereal this week.

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