At the beginning of October I got a call from a friend of mine about “an infestation of bees” at the Town Hall in Albury. Are you sure they are honey bees? I said. Yes, absolutely, please come and have a look as we no longer know what to do!
So armed with my swarming kit I went and had a look: it was a very pleasant day (October this year has apparently been the warmest October since records began about 100 years ago) and there were a lot of bees flying around. They were coming and going from an air brick positioned quite high on the side wall of a one-storey building part of Albury Town Hall. Normally air bricks are positioned low, but the ones of this building were all high up, about 2 mtrs from the ground. And just round the main entrance so a few activities and meetings had to be postponed.
They told me that the bees were first noticed some time in August; at first they couldn’t work out where exactly they were, then they noticed they were coming in and out from the air brick. They left it as it was, also apparently on the advise by a local beekeeper that most likely the swarm would have not made it through winter. But the bees grew in numbers, and they were doing very well. In fact the cavity in the wall between two skins of brick, about 2 or 3 inches wide, is ideal for them. They even have full protection from the rain thanks to the sloping roof above.
They tried to block the entrance and it proved not to be a wise move………….. and then they called a local pests controller. He came promptly, assessed the situation and delivered an estimate for breaking into the wall, take the “problem” away and re-brick the wall: about £1,400
So they said: “let’s give a call to that guy called Sergio who I think keeps bees; perhaps he can do something about it”.
and I did, thanks to some additional “swarming equipment” being a professional grinder, a power drill with “hammering” option and few other builders’ tools. And it took me 4 “sessions”, each time taking a few bricks out trying to disturb the bees as little as possible, and minimize casualties. The smell of honey didn’t help and so the wasps came to complicate matters a bit more. Having made two holes, one at the entrance level (and being stung a few times when I had to break through the air-brick itself) and a second hole in line with the bottom of the combs themselves, I removed all combs inside and placed an empty hive on the floor nearby.
The modified vacuum with reduced sucking power, did the rest and somehow most of the bees and the queen herself found the way first in the vacuum bag and then out of there (more stungs!) on their combs but this time inside a new “mobile” home.
The vast majority of people using Albury Town Hall’s facilities voiced vigorously to save the bees and not destroy them. It was very nice to speak to some of them and see how they were aware of the importance of honey bees, their continuous decline and wanted to do something about it.
The bees are fine, have now stocked up well and hopefully they will make to next year, let’s keep our fingers crossed!