Back in March 2018, I picked up the phone to a man going by the name of ‘Daniel Buzzo’ who had a problem with some bees. This had to be a joke I thought. His name really was Daniel Buzzo, and he really did have a problem with some bees – he had a colony of honeybees living in his stone house wall for ten years, and they were now so large, it was tricky for his family to open windows, and even get through the main door of the house. “None of the local beekeepers will help” he said, which told me this must be a pig of a job, “wondered if you might be up for it, and fancy a nice trip out to the Ardennes?” … I do like to travel, and I do love a project, so I decided to take on the job.
(Clouds of bees were streaming from just above the main door, between two windows above)
After a quick detour to Bruges for some chocolate shops, we arrived in the Belgium Ardennes ready to move some bees. Daniel told us on the phone that there was one large colony, and so upon arriving, of course we saw two very distinct different colonies coming and going from the front of the house. “Bugger” we thought, and hoped they simply liked having a front and a back door to their home.
An ear to the ground soon allowed us to figure out exactly where the bees were. The hive sounded vast, and loud, and healthy. Undisturbed for ten years, organic forest all around, and no beekeeping manipulations or chemical miticides, had allowed this colony the best possible chance in life, and they were thriving from the sounds of things. Bee suits donned, tools at the ready, there was nothing left to do but begin….
Floorboard after floorboard revealed comb after comb. Beautifully crafted honeycomb laded with honey and bursting with new life of newborn bees. Painstakingly, comb by comb, we carefully cut out each piece, and secured them into frames.
Frame by frame they went into a national beehive we brought over from the England. I tend not to use nationals anymore, but they are incredibly practical for bee colony removals.
Once the main brood was safely in the hive, we began to tie in the beautiful golden honeycomb. We packed in as much as we had frames for, hoping every step of the way we already had the queen in the hive, and that we hadn’t accidentally injured her.
After 12 hours of solid laboring, and carefully cajoling bees into a box, we decided to leave the mystery of the second entrance until the next day. Bedtime involved a bedroom full of bees, and so when morning came, it was a relief to be able to put the bee suit back on. Here we go again. Floorboards came up, and with a sunken heart, so did more bees. There was indeed a second colony….
The wax of the comb was pure white, and very soft. This colony must have been a swarm from the main hive, only a few weeks old at most. The bees had multiplied in the time between Daniel calling us, and his return to the house – and that left us with a problem – we only had one beehive….
The main colony was sorted. Left overnight, all remaining bees not in the hive, went in once daylight receded, and we brought them down into the garden the next morning. Meters away from their original home, it didn’t take long for them to settle down. But what to do about the second colony?! Local beekeepers were called but it was to no avail. “I do have this old thing”…
An old antique chest was to be the new home of the bee colony, with the key hole as their doorway. How romantic. Daniel has since built a shelter around the chest, to ensure rain isn’t a problem, as it does get the weather over in the Ardennes.
We were also able to jar up some of the leftover honey we couldn’t fit in the hive, for Daniel and his family, which was thankfully received.
The alternative option to have the bees moved, would have been to of poisoned the bees. After the bees would have been poisoned, wasps would come along to feast on the dead bees, and thus become poisoned. The wasps then eaten by birds, and this continue along the food chain. The cavity also needs to be cleaned of all honey and dead bees, otherwise new honeybee colonies see it was an empty space, and rodents are attracted in. Lastly, the chemicals used to kill the honeybees are incredibly harmful to human health.
Instead, both colonies were successfully moved, and Daniel and his family now have two beehives in their garden. They had a large amount of honey to get them through the year, and no wildlife was poisoned. Thank you to the Buzzo family for helping us help the bees.
Heather, Bee the Change Project
Do you have a colony of honeybees that you need moved?
If they are not a bother, then please do leave them as these colonies grow wilder and genetically stronger, whilst managed bees are suffering under the hand of misguided beekeepers. If you do need them moved, do get in touch. We are currently based out in Europe.