Friday, 3 June 2011


Well they arrived. The bees. Here they are:

Ummmmmm..... Hubs and I stood and looked at the box. A loud bzzzzzzzzzzzing sound emanated from it. Said Hubs, "How many are in the box?"
"About ten thousand".
"What! that box?"
So we stood in awe of the box. It was only a little box really, but it packed a mighty punch inside of it judging by the upset sounds that were being made by its occupants. 

So we left them, according to the email instructions, to 'cool down' in the Tall Barn, and Hubs got busy: 

He cleaned out one of the old hives we got last year. Banged a few bits of wood around the exterior to cover up some holes. I think it had been chewed by mice. Or rats. Whatever. 

And got clipped around the foot of a young oak tree which we think will be a good place for the hive, it being a shady spot, and sheltered. It is also quite near the house, but at least we can keep an eye on the bees and they can get to know us. 

Et voila: (The hive was not tilted as the photo would suggest!)

Meanwhile, I put my head into this: 

.....and made some sugar syrup. Now you might think that we looked totally unprepared for our bees. We were. But not through laziness, but because of the probs with the barging of the sheep through the electric fencing. And plus, it has now rained, which means urgent business needs to be done on the veg plots. Anyways......ummmmmmm......

So with the book in hand, back to the Tall Barn. 
"How do you get the bees out?" Hubs said.
"Well, you have to get them out of the packaging"
"How am I supposed to do that?"
"Gotta get a hammer then...."
"But you might upset them if you bang the box..." but Hubs was off, intent on his task of the moment, so he was marching as if to war. He walks like that when he has farm business. Makes him look like a real warrior-type-farmer-man!

I was right. The thwacks on the walls of the box alarmed the bees no end, as could be heard by the noise they made. 'I told you so' remained hanging in the air between us. 

Then the actual bee cage appeared before our eyes. There were a lot of bees, all buzzing about. 
"What's the book say we need to do now", said a very mildly panicky Hubs as the reality of actually having real live bees hit home to him. 
"It says to spray them with sugar syrup", which we did. The effect on them was immediate.      They all flopped down, saturated with the liquid sugar. I would have felt the same if someone had shoved the hugest bar of Cadbury's Fruit and Nut chocolate at me. 
"What next", says Hubs, now in all of a rush to get this job over and done with, suddenly picking up the bees and charging out to the hive with it, with me following along behind, trying to ooze calmness to all, the dogs following and romping around thinking it was all a good game, and the chickens following on behind in case some tasty morsels of food  should happen to come their way. 

"The book says to get the queen out. I think its that white thing hanging down inside the box" I said as we arrived at the hive. 
After another fleeting 'ummmmmm' moment, Hubs plunged his hand, suitably attired in a plastic glove, into the cage.

A big 'Ummmmmm' and 'Oh dear' moment, as we saw that the queen was deceased. 
"That's it then!" said Hubs, all the rest will die now.
"Well they might not...."
"They will".
But defeated I would not be, so I instructed Hubs to up end the box so all the bees fell out into the open hive, as per instructions in the book. By this time some were sugar-charged and were in 'up-and-at-em' mode. Time to beat a retreat. Lid on. Away into our day. 

I have found a curious quietness on Labartere since we have arrived here. Often I have pondered about the lack of bees flying amongst the flowers in comparison to the number of bees that flew into our UK garden. 

Yesterday I was bumped. As I walked through the front garden I got bumped by a bee. She looked like she didn't know where she was going - all lurchy and stumbly she looked, and obviously a newbie. And I knew she was one of ours. They were flying!

Out to the hive I went. And yes! Loads of bees all buzzing about. Plus ones that were obviously on guard duty because I got buzzed at. Now this can be very intimidating, when a bee is having a look at you and telling you to 'watch your step and if you are naughty and threaten the rest of my family they I will give my life to stop you'. In other words: sting to protect, then die. So I went. 

And for the rest of the day I watched the flowers about the place become alive and full of the energy of foraging bees. It was delight! Meanwhile I got onto the Internet and searched for a new queen. Possibilities of getting one here next Tuesday from the UK. French company which sold us the bees shut until next Monday so can't contact them to see if they will send us a replacement queen, but everyone says that they will. Leaning towards the UK queen though. She would be a Buckfast queen. Anyways..........

Ummmmmmmmm........Just on our way out for a meal with our neighbours that night...
Hubs: "I told you they would die. There is a big pile of them outside the hive. Come on, can't do anything about that now, we're late as it is". I felt very dispirited. Hubs said, "Never mind. We tried. And we will get some more bees."
It was a late night. Day over. Stamped in my head though, was the 'pile of bees'. It was a cold night as well. I expected them to be no more. 

Up at 5. Quick spin on the spinning wheel to wake me up. Out at 6. Found some old net curtaining to put round my face, covered myself up generally,

 then out for a look: 

They had clustered round the empty queen cage, which we had discarded in our haste to hive the swarm. They looked frosty with cold. The dogs had a sniff. No life. The chickens were on their way to have a look, ever vigilant for tasty morsels. 

And I thought that if I lifted the queen cage from the bee bodies and put it into the hive, that perhaps the remaining bees, if there were any, would cluster around that and stay inside the hive. So I put my fingers, with plastic gloves on just in case, into the pile and pulled up the queen cage. 

No, they were not dead. They wriggled and squirmed and buzzed at me, not very happy about being woken up. Taking a deep breath,  I dropped the parcel into the now open hive, breaking the rule that 'one should not, absolutely not, look inside the hive for at least a week when one has put bees into their new home.' 

Ummmmmmm...oh so well what to do now: I raced back to the house, grabbed a spoon and bowl, then back to the pile of bees, scooping them up a spoonful at a time, then dropping them into the hive. Did as many as I could. Am sorry that my inability to have clear vision through the net curtain caused me to stand on the pile of bees a couple of times. Didn't mean to. Was only doing my best. But try telling that to a couple of guard bees who rose to the occasion marvellously quickly and started telling me 'clear off you 'orrid creature'...... So I did, leaving a much smaller pile of bees on the ground, which had now turned into a heaving mass of bodies still very much alive. Hooray!!!!, it came into my head that they might need feeding. Into the kitchen I went. Bzzzzzzzzz. And bbbbzzzzzzz again. Inside the house. Two guard bees. And my bravery did a collapse as I started flapping my arms at them, having quite a fright at the thought of them following me into the house to attack me. But why wouldn't they do just that! After all, I was the perpetrator of much chaos in their lives. Why wouldn't they want to have a go at me!

And so I stopped flapping about, opened the windows and doors so that they could hopefully make a return to the hive. Unfortunately this seemed to give permission for the chickens to invade the house, the open door being an invitation which they seem unable to refuse. that's it! Our first experience of bees. We may, or may not, have a hive of bees. I may, or may not, get a sting from a guard bee waiting for an opportunity to have a go at me as I move around inside my house. But I tell you what, I do so hope that those bees decide to keep on trying to make a home with us. 

And to help them along the way, I made a breakfast for them of a huge dish of sugar water, with landing platforms floating on top in which were several dollops of honey, and I went back out to the hive and put it on a stool in front of their entranceway, shooing the dogs and chickens who were, as per normal, all following on behind. 

If you wait a moment, I'll just pop out to see if they are flying.....

No.... none about....but then ...yes! There were a few having some breakfast on the dish, and I walked away with a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat. Don't know why! Just did........


Nancy said...

Oh my goodness. Please read the book. I seem to remember if a queen bee dies another bee will take it's place. Sorry all this happened. Honey is getting higher priced here btw. Take care.

Horst in Edmonton said...

I do hope those Bees do well for you, I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Vera said...

Nancy: Will do as you recommend and keep reading the book! But I think that a queen has to come from a queen cell - however, will have a look in the book to find out! And the reason why honey is becoming expensive is because the honey bees are dying out, which is dreadful because pollination of most everything relies on the honey bee.

Horst: Thankyou for your crossed fingers. Will cross mine too when it comes to putting a new queen into the hive next week!

Steve said...

I am glad I looked at this post as Mrs TK asked me yesterday where do bees for hives come from.
I can now tell her, in the post. Unlike what I had previously said, which was that they just find the hive.

Vera said...

Hi Steve: Thanks for making me laugh! The Frenchman who sold us the hives said just to leave them out in the field and the bees would come. They didn't! That was last year, so this year we took matters in our own hands!

Nancy said...

Visit my friend Jayme and her hive;

Vera said...

Thanks Nancy. You are an angel!

Ken Devine said...

I know it's serious, Vera, but you do bring a smile to my face whenever I read about your adventures. Hopefully, all will be well.

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

What a dramatic day (or two). I am definitely off the idea of having bees now despite the fat that I am allergic to them.
Re the cherry and bread pudding, it also works with fresh bread :-) Take care , don't get stung. Diane

Vera said...

Diane: Our bees have gentled down and although I remain nervous when approaching them they do nothing to upset me but then I try not to anything which would upset them! Bees are necessary for the well-being of a garden and there is nothing as delightful as seeing one's flowers being pollinated by one's bees!

Vera said...

Ken: Glad I make you smile! Perhaps you might have a go at bee keeping when you come to France!

pip said...

Great post... looking forward to any news on how they're settling in ))): ))): ))): bzzz ))):

Vera said...

Hi Pip, and nice to have you visit. Bees are still humming along nicely, but we are still waiting for a new queen to arrive from the UK. Hope she gets here soon! Am just popping over to visit your blog......

John Gray said...

we have done a local bee keeping course at the local uni but have not quite gotaround tokeeping bees as yet..
love the veil
very Titanic

Vera said...

John: Go do it! We have been 'getting around' to keeping bees for the last three years, but now we have jumped in, with both feet as per usual, it is a delight! Complicated, but delightful! All you need is a simple book, some kit, and a basketful of courage, because getting in close to a load of bees is a little off-putting at first. Not to worry, though, because soon you will become fascinated by the little creatures.

Vera said...

PS. Glad you like the veil!

Duta said...

Yesterday I attended a happening at an agricultural college, and there it was a box with bees and the bee-keeper presenting them to the visitors. I was afraid to go closer as I have a bad relation history with bees.

I think it's a fascinating world, the world of bees and flowers. However, it has its dangers, so take care.

Vera said...

Duta: I will indeed take care, and I am sorry that you don't get on with bees. You must have had a bad experience with them sometime in your past.

Jean said...

It's a marvellous story, very amusing to read but it must have been worrying for you at times.
You could make a great film of life chez vous !!

Vera said...

Jean: I think that trying to find the funny side of any difficult situation gives me the energy to keep on going on, and passing the humour onto my blogging friends so they can smile as well gives me quite a buzz!