Not everything in the garden is rosy

Hurrah, at last, a bit of seasonal warmth. It has been so wet and so fresh for weeks now that I was beginning to wonder if the bees could hang on much longer. Today, finally, it’s sunny and warm and the bees are out in force.


roses are red

The roses are all doing well, but this ancient variety is definititely their favourite – the bees are numerous and the activity is somewhat phrenetic.

Over in the herb garden, the chive flowers are attracting much attention – from butterflies, bumblebees and honey bees alike.


chive flowers are blue

However, hiding in amongst the charming chive flowers, dark forces are at work – and this poor honey bee has become a victim.


Crab Spider (Xysticus) enjoying a spot of honey bee for lunch

Another unwelcome visitor in the garden is the Asian Hornet (Vespa velutina) – also a predator of bees. The following image is actually a European Hornet (Vespo crabro) which has been adeptly neutralised by a swift knock from Andy’s mobile phone, its thorax becoming squished in the process. This hornet is not reviled as much as its Asian counterpart, but is nonetheless not something I am fond of finding near the house.


European Hornet (Vespa crabro)

I put out some bottle traps for the Asian Hornet monsters a few weeks ago, especially near the hives. These are simple devices constructed from 2 empty water bottles and filled to a depth of about 10 centimetres with a mixture made up of brown beer, white wine and a syrupy cordial such as grenadine. These traps do attract other flying creatures (crucially not bees or butterflies), and the liquid bait will contain flies and moths, but essentially they are targeted at attracting hornets. Here is the haul from one bottle after just a few days…

an assortment of hornets from a bottle trap

an assortment of hornets from a bottle trap

The metal grill is back on th hive – this narrows the entrance to the hive, so that, in theory, only the honey bees can gain access. And I’ll be keeping an eye out for a nest – these tend to be spherical, often high up in trees, but also in other sheltered spots. Here is an example of what I’m on the lookout for …

Asian Hornet nest

To end on a happy note, we go back to the chive flowers and a contented bumblebee.


Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) investigating chive flower

What’s the collective noun for ‘swarms’?

It’s happened again! Now we have a third swarm. Just seven days after Jean-Philippe called to ask us to help with a swarm near his hive, he was ringing us again (on the Emergency Beeline). Another swarm cluster was developing in roughly the same place, already larger than the first.

a second swarm cluster for JP

a second swarm cluster for JP

So, with the swiftness of a well rehearsed fire-crew, we bundled the necessary equipment into the Beemobile (a battered Renault Kangoo) and headed off to JP’s house, jesting that a yellow and black flashing light, complete with loud buzzing noise, would be appropriate.

This swarm was slightly more awkward than the previous two, in that it was higher up and the branch it was attached to was too thick to cut with secateurs – so we had to employ the old Shake and Brush into a Hive Lid Technique.

capturing the latest swarm cluster

capturing (and wearing) the latest swarm cluster

This swarm was also a bit more feisty than the others – however they settled quickly into the ruchette (nucleus), and immediately took up the offer of sugar solution. You may notice that we have discovered a new shade of hive paint – a rather attractive lavender colour.

So, this year, we have gone from one hive each, to two for us and now four for Jean Philippe.