Today I went to Winchelsea for a meeting about the Swift Town plans, and also to check on the bees in the cottage which we tried unsuccessfully to remove a few weeks ago.
It was a beautiful day, and the blossom and oil seed rape was out in force. Following the attempted removal at our last visit, Paul patched up the internal wall with cardboard so that the bees could recover from their ordeal, and we could establish what we had to work with. We set up bait hives as we thought they might swarm or abscond after the disturbance, but they seem to be building up again inside the wall. They’ve started to rebuild comb and the queen is laying so that is really good news. I was so worried that we had damaged the colony beyond repair which would have been such a tragedy – these feral colonies are so important to the ongoing bee population as they are the survivors, and have adaptive qualities that I feel are so valuable in our ever-changing environment.
Here they are:
Our plan is to check them in a few weeks and see how they are progressing. We want to try removing them again and now we can access them easily, and the bulk of the combs have been taken off, we can see much more clearly where we’re working. They are now in full build-up mode so if we allow the numbers to increase we will then have a decent colony to move, and hopefully it will be robust enough to cope with it. The downside is that the new combs are very delicate but we will work slowly and carefully and do our best to limit the damage. We do still have a bait hive a little way away from the cottage as there might be other bees nearby, and the bees are still robbing out the comb we took out originally.
There are a number of other feral bee colonies in and around Winchelsea. We will be visiting the oak tree colonies in Market Wood later in the season but we were looking at the church for potential swift nest sites in the putlog holes. One is currently occupied by honeybees, and they were very busy today. The entrance has been heavily propolised:
Our plan is to put up a bait hive in both the woods and the churchyard. It would be great to have access to these genetics for our project on the Marsh where we really need strong bees who are capable of looking after themselves.