This is one way to get Honey Bees out of a tree…

This story begins at Gate 1K in Edinburgh airport awaiting to board a plane to Bristol.  We were on our way back home after visiting the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which by the way I must say is amazing, what a great city Edinburgh is, I would recommend you visit…

So anyway back to the airport, I mean story…  Whilst stood amongst fellow passengers at Gate 1K, I turned my telephone on to check for messages.  A new message arrived, it was from my answer phone…

The message went along the lines of: Bees in a tree! Need removing! Would you help?

Of course, I just had to call them back to get more details on how I could help.  I arranged to visit them the following morning to fix this little quandary, and boy it was a spectacular quandary.

Workmen carrying out tree maintenance cut through a branch of an Ash tree, with unexpected consequences.  Honey bees began flying around in distress which was the reason for my presence here.  The Ash tree had enormous hollows throughout most of its trunk and branches, living inside approx 15 – 20 feet up inside a branch, were a large colony of Honey bees.  Due to the branch being removed the previous day, the bees retreated to the hollow trunk as a lot of their comb fell to the ground along with the branch.

After careful thought, these Honey bees could not continue to live inside the tree successfully, they would not of been able to survive the winter and spring due to the amount of comb that was lost at this time of the year (23rd August), their home is now compromised, so the threat of robbing, exposure to the elements or attack was extremely high and and therefore they needed to be re-homed urgently.  Some scratching of the head was required to figure out how to remove and re-home them as gently as possible.  I did not want to do this to them but it was their only chance.

The re-homing part of this for me is easy, get one of my bee-homes and insert bees, however on this occasion removing them was going to be a challenge.  Due to their location within the tree, it required cutting them out.  Thankfully the workmen who found them the day before were on hand to assist with this part.  

The Ash was felled expertly and lowered ever so gently to the ground.  Now that this was on ground level, it made life easier for me to get eyes on and access to them.  I tried to get a closer look inside but more surgery of the Ash was required.   It required drilling deep holes into the tree at certain points, which allowed me to ascertain where the colony was, which in turn allowed me to inform the workman where to cut.  

Time to give the bees a hand job…

When I said “it’s time to give the bees a handjob”, the two workmen found this extremely funny.  In fact this was the second time that I had them laughing a lot.  The first time came when I moved my bee collection kit box to a safe place just behind my car, shortly afterwards I needed to move my car and so jumped in and reversed over the box destroying it into many pieces, many laughs were had at my expense.

After some fine cuts with the chainsaw, I was now able to get my hands inside and retrieve some of the comb and transfer some of the ladies into a box for transporting.  Here I was able to see properly the extent of the ladies home, comb with brood, all stages of bee development and honey all stored in substantially tough comb, which tells me that they were living here for some time.

In total it must of took 3 and a half hours to get them from there.  

The plan was to leave them to settle down for the afternoon and return that evening to collect them.  However in the adjacent field were rather large cows, bulls and sheep, who were beginning to get curious as to our presence in the field.  Trusting these livestock was an issue, so it was decided to transport the bees sooner rather than later.  So after collecting all of the remaining comb and as many bees as possible, we headed off into the distance.

We drove the few miles through the rather bumpy lanes on our way to the main road, incredibly carefully and slowly.  This was to not disturb the bees any further as there were tens of thousands of bees in the boot of my car, inside a container while some other honey bees were taking the journey with me but sitting on the dashboard and looking out of the window listening to a bit of Mumford and Sons.  
Upon a sharp left corner, a Mercedes car and my car came head to head abruptly.  I was not speeding but it still required me to put my brakes on hard and fast, giving thanks to my slow speed and the ABS for not crashing.  Another car was behind me so the Mercedes had to wait on this corner for us to pass.  The driver put his window down and gave me a disgusting look of anger which quickly changed to looking completely puzzled as he noticed my choice of clothing at that time, which was a bee-keepers suit with the veil up.

Later that evening the lovely honey bees were re-homed and are now living in one of my bee-homes until a discussion is had to determine their final resting place.  At least they are now living in a safe place being well looked after.

I cannot imagine the stress that they went through the past few days.  I feel sad, almost remorse that I needed to destroy an item of such real outstanding beauty, another amazing example of Honey bees living naturally with no help from humans, providing some much needed proof to question the current scepticism of some critics.  From this destruction and death though, comes life.  Although their situation was dire, they have been given another opportunity. 

Even though previously I felt sad about their situation, I now feel joy, I feel pride and a great sense of achievement.  
I feel this because I build beehives, I build bee-homes  I build beautiful homes for beautiful bees, people get in touch with me to purchase a bee-home or to inform me of bees living in an unsuitable location.  It is a great feeling, knowing that I’m extending life by giving a lovely colony of honey bees another chance of survival, albeit through delivering homes, training or education.   

The episode confirmed once again my inner compulsion to work for them and I will continue to do everything in my power to aid our bees, regardless of where they come from, their colour or their previous history.  I genuinely struggle to find adequate words to portray the consuming awe I feel when spending time with them and I feel incredibly fortunate and privileged to be able to spend some of my life making friends with our honey bees.  

On this occasion, even though it was me who decided whether they had a next chapter in life, it was me who was disturbing them, it was me who moved them by hand.  The fact is… that they still allowed me into their home, they did not attack me, they allowed me to work at the best of my ability, to be able to improve their situation.

For that humble bee, I salute you

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