Archive for the ‘Bylaugh’ Category

Two years ago last month this blog started.  I continue to be amazed at how many people visit the site.  This year has also been quite extraordinary – having caught about 8 swarms of bees.  We now have a total of nine colonies.  Quite an increase from single old Faith at the start of 2008!

The local government bee inspector rang me last week and asked to inspect my hives (for the second time this year) so he could take samples of bees from five of my hives.  Unfortunately I had to go to town that day, so I did not accompany him on the inspection.  But all was well.  Only Joy is Queenless.  The remaining eight hives are doing well – though there was not as much honey as I was hoping for as July was quite wet.

A little over a year ago I stopped working at the corporate grindstone and the last year has been interesting – with my attention being turned to smaller companies and more local initiatives with my new company, Objective Designers.  More at: www.objectivedesigners.com

Last year I was wondering why Tears of Ra, the Sun God (https://beelore.com/2007/08/24/tears-of-ra-the-sun-god) is the most popular page by far.  Someone told me that there is an American TV series called Stargate Atlantis where RA is one of the main characters.  Perhaps that is one of the reasons for the page’s popularity. Interested to know if anyone else has other theories.

My most favourite story was the one I posted in July (https://beelore.com/2009/07/21/a-gift-from-the-bees/).  I would love to have more stories like this to post.  Please do send me any stories from your past or ones you have heard of so they can be posted!

So what plans for beelore in the coming year?

I have finally started to write more on the Bylaugh story (https://beelore.com/category/bylaugh/)…..which is beginning to turning into a book about the practical and spiritual side of beekeeping as well as research the connection between the health of bees and the state of the planet.  I want this to be multi-media – perhaps eventually making a film or a series of videos.  I also want to use some of the material to create a course for beginners in beekeeping.  I think that there is so much about bees that can be taught alongside the basics side of practical beekeeping.  And this site will continue to collect that type of material.  So all contributions are welcome!


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When it all started

What luck!  My sister dug out my mother’s old photographs of the swarm that we had back in 1986.  They are the original photos which start the Bylaugh storyline which is tagged as a separate part of this blook.

Here is the swarm on the fence after it had landed and before it was caught.  What happy memories!

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It was a year ago yesterday that I started writing this blook.  I never dreamt that it would get so big and have so many entries and have received so many hits by now.  It has been a great way to relax in the evenings after work as well as a good place to record some of the happenings in the apiary – though I am still not sure why Tears of Ra, the Sun God is the most popular page by far.  Perhaps it is something to to with the way Google and other search engines work?

The bees have thrived!  Having had a very low period of only one colony through the winter – faithful old Faith, we now have seven colonies in the apiary (plus the one in the roof) making eight!  And June has been a truly memorable swarm-catching month.

I stopped work on 4th July (Independence Day) and have decided to take the rest of the summer off before starting a new set of projects in the Autumn.  So apart from making up a few new rooves and stands for the new colonies, my work-load is at a minimum.  Which is really nice – since I seem to have been at the large organisation grindstone for the past 28 years.

So what plans for beelore in the coming year?  I suppose that I want to write more on Bylaugh – which is the story part of the blook.  So far, I have developed the first chapter – but there is definitely more to be written!  The internet continues to produce interesting bee stories and poems and connections – but I want to explore some of the boundaries of the myth and legend by digging into pre-history a bit more – as well as to research the connection between the health of bees and the state of the planet.  This will probably require me to adopt different techniques to collect the material as well as finding different ways of connecting with those who have the stories.  Any ideas on how to do this would be welcome!

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A lady rang this evening to say she had a swarm of bees in her garden.  3 feet off the ground in a young oak tree.  Ideal!  I said I would be there for 18.00.  I used a nucleus box and shook the swarm into the box.  I forgot to put a sheet under the box – so some of the bees fell on the grass.  But the Queen must have been knocked into the box – so slowly but surely all the bees went into the nucleus.  An hour and a half later we left the garden with my first swarm.  What an evening!  I left a pot of honey with the owners.  It bought back so many memories of that evening when it all started for me when the bees swarmed in front of me and the lady beekeeper came to our Norfolk home to pick them up.  This incident first triggered my fascination for bees and beekeeping.  See the Bylaugh storyline for more detail on this!

I now need to name the swarm.  Any ideas welcome (ideally complementing the current three of Faith, Joy and Harmony).

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The beekeeping lady then worked quickly.  She put a large sheet on the ground and put the box with the bees on top. In a very short space of time all the bees were gone and there was no more noise.  She slowly lifed the box and put it back into her car. 

She then removed her veil and her beuatiful face shone as she presented us with two pots of unlabelled honey!  It was very kind of her, since I thought we might have to pay her to take the bees away.  Sometimes Dad paid our gardener, Jack, a little extra to help him trap the moles.  And Mum had paid the rat catcher last year to come and remove the rats from the back sheds.  Why should the Beekeeping lady actually give us a present for taking these stinging insects away from our garden? All these unanswered questions.

Mum asked the beekeeping lady if she would like a cup of tea.  (Mum always offered visitors a cup of tea).  However, the beekeeping lady said that she had to get the bees into a hive before the sun went down.  She left quietly, efficiently and gracefully, almost like an angel might vanish behind a cloud.

And we were left with the two jars of honey.  We opened one of them straight away and had honey on toast for tea in the chairs which had been laid out by Mum next to the Willow Tree.  The honey was delicious!  And what an eventful afternoon it had been!

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Then the veiled angel lit a match and put it into the can she was holding.  The “smoker” started smoking.  She squeezed a small contraption on the end of the can and smoke appeared from the nozzle.  She said at me in her low, chanting voice: “It reminds them of a forest fire and although they are drowsy, they will move away from the smoke and into the box”.  Very slowly, very gently she started puffing small bursts of smoke onto the bees so that they melted uphill into the box, just as honey might melt from a spoon into a jar – only against gravity!  Perhaps it was like honey would flow if you were pouring it in a spaceship – though I didn’t suppose that honey was a sensible food to take on a spaceship!  “We need to find the Queen”, she said.  After about ten minutes the medicine ball was down to the size of a football. It was then that she said “There she is!  Once the Queen is in the box the rest of the swarm will follow very quickly. The worker bees are in love with her smell.”  She was quite right! Once the Queen had been smoked into the box, it only took another few minutes before the last remaining bees moved much more quickly to follow her. Overall the exercise took about twenty minutes. Incredible, since the whole swarm had landed on the fence in about forty five seconds.

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She went back to her box, picked it up and can and then carried it slowly up to the swarm.

And she started speaking in a low voice.  It was almost like singing.  Her hands were bare, yet the rest of her body was covered in white.  I did not understand this, because I though that the one place which the bees would sting her would be on her hands. The barrage of questions rushed back into my mind:

“Are they wild bees – or domesticated bees?”
“How many times have you done this before?”
“What was the most dangerous bee catching job you did?”
“How many hives do you have back in your home?”
“How long have you been keeping bees?”

But I never asked her any of the questions because she was too concentrated in talking to the bees!

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Then she started chanting in a very soft and gentle voice.  It made me feel very calm and I lowered my voice in sympathy.  My head filled with questions that I wanted to ask, but her calmness somehow slowed down my racing brain and I remained silent so that she could concentrate on what seemed like a very dangerous job to me.  Having studied the swarm and the fence post she said “This will be an easy job.  They have been kind to me today!  They are often on the sides of people’s houses or up trees and I have to smoke them at the top of a ladder”.  I did not think of her as a smoking-type somehow!

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I was still intrigued about the whole affair when the beekeeper arrived.  She parked her car well down the road and walked up the small drive in a white bee-keeping suit.  She had a hat on that made her look like the cross between a nun and Joan of Arc.  A veil hung down from the brim of the hat giving the image of a soon-to-be-wed bride.  It was difficult to put an age on her because you could not see her face properly.  She appeared completely beautiful and the white suit made her angelically radiant, oozing calm and serenity.  In her left hand she had a metal container that looked like the cross between a watering can and an old metal milk jug.  It was battered and had smoke burns on it.  In her right hand she had a box which was about the size of a cardboard wine crate you get from a wine shop.  She put both objects down on the ground a few yards away from the swarm and then she very gently walked up to look at the bees.  They were much quieter now, although the bees on the outside of the ball were still moving about.  (I later found out that a swarm of bees is like a colony of penguins.  The ones on the outside keep the ones on the inside warm and then move into the inside to make themselves warm.)

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I was surprised that the beekeeper was so willing to come to our house so quickly.  Later I discovered that collecting a swarm of bees is not like sending for a rat catcher.  It is not even like mole catching.  A swarm of bees has a value – and if you want to take them from a resting place like the one they had chosen that afternoon in our garden, then you only have until the next morning before they will be on the move again. 

The old English saying goes:

“A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay

A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon

A swarm of bees in July is not worth a fly!”

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