National Trust Bees – and a whole lot of moths

Paul and I wanted to check on the Winchelsea church bees, and also the swarm from the church bees who were too angry to live domestically so to speak, so Paul took them from Mary’s garden down to Crutches Farm, where the bees in the cottage wall had been; those bees are now at mine, in a box full of random comb. Hope you’re keeping up…

I was also invited to come and see the moths from the moth trap that Michael, the National Trust ranger, had installed in Paul’s parents’ garden the night before, ready for the reveal that morning. Bees, moths, and the promise of a cooked breakfast. Yes please.

I arrived early, and we went for a quick look at the bees in the church wall. The one with the swift box inserted into it (!) and from where the angry swarm issued, was flying well.

We also noticed another colony in same wall on the other side of the stained glass window which must have installed itself fairly recently:

We are waiting for data regarding the swift boxes, but honeybees are certainly happy living in the church.

Next, it was the moths. I have some photos, but I would advise you to read Michael’s blog on the results here, as I am an enthusiast but no expert! The egg boxes are for the moths to hide in, and the light attracts the odd beetle, lacewing, and a significant portion of caddis fly too:

After recovering from some serious Aga-envy, we went to Crutches Farm to see how the angry bees were getting on. In the field next to the farm track, I spotted some parasol mushrooms arranged in a large ring:

We also had a quick look at what we think is a black poplar. Poplars hybridise freely, and the farm has Lombardy poplar windbreaks and a few small poplar trees which look like crosses. However, there is a mature poplar with its feet in the pond next to a crack willow, and we are wondering if this one is a true species. If it is, we will try to take some cuttings as the poplars at the Marsh seem to be struggling.

On to the bees. Their hive is positioned on the same stand where we’d put the comb and bait hive following the wall bees’ removal attempt. They seemed ok with me but really didn’t like Paul, and definitely have personal space issues as they got extremely buzzy and agitated if we obstructed their flight path. Here at the farm, they won’t be disturbed and they are very strong, so I am reluctant to fiddle around with them. There is an argument for requeening (so, removing the laying queen and replacing her with a known queen of good temperament) but this is something that is good for us, and necessary in a situation where the apiary is in frequent contact with humans, so like an allotment or school. However, bee colonies are meant to protect themselves and in my experience, feisty colonies are usually extremely productive and vigorous. If they are out of the way and their genes are less likely to mix with those of managed colonies, I feel it is worthwhile maintaining a wide range of genetic traits by keeping naturally mated queens. Temperament varies across the season anyway: I have had two colonies this year who started off being completely vile and aggressive, and are now absolutely fine. They haven’t swarmed, or requeened to my knowledge, so who knows? I would always err on the side of moving them rather than changing the queen, but that’s the topic for another blogpost…

We didn’t disturb the bees as they were completely fine when they were transferred from the WBC, they are clearly settling in to their new location. They have a double brood so will be in no danger of starving, especially given the enthusiasm with which they are currently foraging. We will keep an eye on them and see how they are in the spring. We are in the process of investigating other locations in Winchelsea where we can relocate the swarms from these managed-feral colonies so that we can monitor their progress while maintaining their semi-wild habit.

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