Shropshire beekeepers called to collect first swarms of the season near Bridgnorth
Beekeepers from Telford have collected their first two swarms of the year after being called to a village near Bridgnorth.
Alison Wakeman and her husband Steve, from Alison's Bee Classes, were called out to Quatt on Monday to collect a swarm of around 30,000 bees and take them to nearby Dudmaston Hall.
Later in the same day, the husband and wife duo from Great Hay were called out to collect a 20,000-strong swarm from Trench.
Alison said times have been hard since the coronavirus outbreak had a big impact on her business, leaving her with no income. But helping the bees is getting her through and giving her and Steve a focus point.
"Our whole life is devoted to bees," she said. "We are allowed to go out and collect bees, thanks to Defra. This was our first swarm collection of the year.
"Then we had another call out to Trench that afternoon. People in Quatt were loving it, it was an occasion. It was good because a lady was able to take a video of them so I could see what we needed and what it was like.
"We are beekeepers at Dudmaston Hall and this swarm will become a colony there as soon as we find the queen and start managing it."
Alison explained that the bees had been making a home in a nearby chimney that people in Quatt claimed they had been using for more than 35 years.
"People there said this particular colony had been in the chimney for over 35 years – with different queens and hundreds of bees coming and going.
"They swarm because it is their natural way to reproduce and expand – the existing queen leaves with half the swarm and the rest carry on as they find a new queen."
In terms of collecting swarms, Alison said this was relatively easy and they used impromptu equipment to handle them which included a food bin, bed sheet and a luggage strap.
She explained that they gently tip the bees onto a vertical board which leads to a brood box. The bees natural instinct is to go uphill, and once the queen decides to go in, the rest will happily follow suit.
In a few days after the colony has settled in its new home at Dudmaston, Alison will feed them sugar water and they will have set up home for good.
"April is the usual swarm time, but some can survive later in the season even up to July and August," Alison added.
"Swarm collecting is actually my favourite thing – its exciting. We are lucky because we managed to get all our training sessions done before the lockdown was announced.
"All our newbie beekeepers are so eager and I have a huge waiting list. The hive from Trench will go to one of the new keepers."
Alison normally teaches in primary schools about the importance of bees and hosts community events around the county, but all that has stopped since the coronavirus lockdown.
She said: "It is a scary situation, all income has gone. We do not charge to collect the bees or anything because we are doing it for the bees really.
"However, it is nice now that we have the new season swarms to concentrate on and they will be a focus point for me and Steve."
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