Extracting a honey bee colony from a chimney at the Ty Newydd National Writers Centre (Wales)

On 24 June 2009 bees were noticed inside Ty Newydd building (http://www.tynewydd.org) and by the following day were becoming a real nuisance. The focus of bee activity was found to be one of the many disused chimneys (indicated by the line in the photo below).

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In the evening of 29 June eleven of the twelve 26 mm diameter vents on the chimney capping were sealed, and a one-way bee escape inserted in the twelvth. To provide a refuge for the emerging bees, a nucleus box (mini beehive) was strapped to the pot with a bungy and baited with a brood comb and some lemon grass oil. The entrance was positioned as close as possible to the bee escape.

By late morning on 30 June bees had begun to exit from the bee escape.

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By 15.25 hours the number had increased to a thousand or so. They were scattered all over the chimney pot and cap, in the air, on the nucleus box and under it on the top of the stack.

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While watching for about fifteen minutes as bees filed out of the 10 mm hole in the escape, no bees were seen to return. Many clustered close to the vent hole from which the scent of their nest, particularly the queen (pheromones), issued.

1 July 2009

On checking with binoculars in the morning of 1 July the bees seemed to be focused on the front of the nucleus box. None were on the bee escape. However, by 21.30 the situation was very different, as the photo below shows.

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Apart from many bees being on the base of the escape (top right) they were also scattered round the pot, inside and under the nucleus box as well as many on or near its front, several of whom were 'fanning' with their Nasanov glands exposed at the tip of the abdomen (e.g. see white line near base of picture). In this instance, this behaviour is intended to lure the 'missing' queen back to the colony by means of the pheromones (chemical messengers) that issue from the gland. In addition there was the 'moan' of queenless bees coming from the nucleus box. The queen is most likely still in the chimney with the remainder of the colony. As the arrival of the bees was first noted a week previously, there is most likely some comb and brood somewhere inside the chimney. A probable location is some projection underneath the masonry on which the pot rests. It is not under the capping of the pot, because, before installing the escape, the inside was viewed through the vent holes in the cowl and all that could be seen was some old, shredded comb from a previous colony.

3 July 2009

All activity was focused on the nucleus box and no further interest was being shown in the bee escape. In the evening the box was opened and was found to be very full of bees. It was taken down and placed in a cool dark cellar for two nights to help erase the bees' memory of the chimney site. During handling the box, the familiar queenless 'moan' came from the bees.

5 July 2009

The nucleus box was transported to a hive containing a small colony with which it was to be united. The National frame in the nucleus box, now covered with bees and full of nectar/honey collected in the previous few days (see below) was lifted into a National brood box on a stand on the site of the hive to receive the bees and facing the same way.

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The rest of the bees in the box were shaken into the National brood box (see below).

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A National-to-Warré adapter was placed on the National, on that a sheet of newspaper perforated with many holes and wetted with a spray of water, and on that a shallow eke to hold the newspaper in place. The procedure allows colony scents to mingle while the bees chew through the newspaper. Usually colonies unite during this process without fighting breaking out.

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Finally, the Warré colony was placed on the eke and the hive closed up.

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6 July 2009

The bees had chewed a hole through the newspaper and were coming and going through it. The newspaper was removed, the bees remaining in the National shaken into the Warré colony and a feed of honey syrup placed beside the frame in the National box.

7 July 2009

The National box was removed and the Warré boxes restored to their own floor and stand. The stores in the frame had been taken up into the Warré. The feeder had not been emptied so was placed on the floor of the Warré hive.


David Heaf's bee index