On Sunday, the bees swarmed, in to a tree-stump in the garden.
I couldn't get in to the Bee Suit, because of the bump; and B is still mildly bee-phobic. Also, the place that they had swarmed to was almost impossible to get to.
So we formulated A Plan. The Plan involved me giving B a bump-up and propping him up against the bank whilst he balanced a cardboard box in the tree over the swarm. Then he used the smoker and encouraged them to go up in to the box, propped up with a broom-handle.
This didn't work. They resolutely kept hanging to the tree-stump and refused to go upwards in to the nice, quiet, dark box.
So then, after a phone call to the local Swarm Co-Ordinator, we got our Nucleus Box, jammed that in the tree instead of the cardboard box and smoked them again. By this time the bees were probably coughing like sixty a day old lags - but they all shifted up in to the box. It was really amazing to watch - they sort of flowed. Even though I didn't have a suit, I was able to get quite close, because they were so placid.
After most of them had gone up in to the box, we took it off, popped the lid on it and then put it on a white sheet on the ground near the tree-stump, feeling quite smug with ourselves.
All the bees in the box then promptly flew out and rejoined the swarm.
This was presumably because we hadn't got the queen up in to the box; so we took the lid off the box again, shoved it back in the tree and had another go. This time it worked very smoothly, and when we put the box back on the sheet, all the remaining bees in the swarm flew over in to the box, rather than the other way round.
The colony sent out bees to sit just outside the nucleus hive and scent the air so that the laggards knew where the main body of the swarm had gone. We watched about a dozen of them in a line on the sill of the hive, all with their bottoms in the air, fanning frantically with their wings.
Then we went away and had a cup of tea.
As an encore, full of misplaced courage, we decided to open one of the other hives and put a 'super' on it - a new storey of empty frames for the bees to fill with honey. However, the second hive were less good tempered - and I was blase about their temperament because the previous hive were so calm.
There was lots of buzzing and two got stuck in my hair. All three of us panicked and one of them managed to sting me before we squashed it. It didn't hurt nearly as much as I expected - B bathed it with bicarbonate of soda solution and today it hardly hurts at all.
So today's encore was to open up the other three hives and put 'supers' on them. This went really, really well - I stayed a safe distance away (about five yards, under the trees) and B took it very, very slowly, smoked them very gently (which makes them calmer and wanting to eat honey, rather than buzz about frenziedly). All his movements were a bit like he was either underwater or on the moon. We discovered which one of the hives it was that had swarmed - there were much fewer bees in it, because half of them had flown away with the swarm. So we have three very enthusiastic and large colonies and two smaller colonies which we probably won't get much honey off this year.
We should next open them up in a couple of weeks - really we should go through the frames and see whether there are any new queens developing, and destroy them so that they don't swarm, and check for Varroa Mites and Foul Brood.
In other news: We've had a few viewings, no offers as yet. And we've found a place that we like, but it's coming up for auction at the end of the month, so unless we get a buyer before then we can't go for it. However, we're both very relaxed about the whole thing and pursuing a 'what will be will be' mentality; whilst also still investigating the Straw Bale Self-Build information-gathering.