New home for the marsh honey bees.

27th September 2012: This afternoon I went to watch the rehoming of the marsh honey bees.

I donned the top half of a bee suit and accompanied Brenda to the place where the wooden hive was to be assembled.

The bees were waiting in the wooden travelling box that Brenda used to collect them from the marsh yesterday evening. They had all congregated in one corner of the container. Brenda thinks that they were probably cuddling the queen to keep her warm.

The hive base, on its four legs, is positioned on a paving slab. A perforated plastic sheet seals the large square hole in the wooden frame. The perforations allow varroa mites falling from the bees to drop straight through to the ground below. The hive has been flame singed to destroy parasites and viruses that might infect the bees. If  infected with verroa mites, the bees can be treated.

The main section of the hive holds wooden honeycomb frames, and rests on top of the base section. The frames have artificial wax starter-comb substrates fitted; the bees will build their own natural honeycombs on these.

Brenda wired the wild honeycombs from the nest into an empty wooden frame and slid it slowly and carefully into the hive; so the bees felt at home, I suppose.

It was time to transfer the marsh bees to the hive. How will this be achieved? Well, the easiest method might be to tip the bees directly into the hive from the wooden travelling container. This is exactly what Brenda did, after removing a few of the honeycomb frames. The bees didn’t realise that they were supposed to slip gently from the box and drop smoothly into the hive, so they hung-on in there for grim death. A sharp tap on the bottom of the container did the trick.

The bees were soon safely in the hive, but some of them were not at all happy about the upheaval. I found myself taking photographs through clouds of angry bees. It’s a good job that I was wearing half a bee suit! Unlike when they were living on the marsh, or when placed in the travelling container, the bees were no longer quiet; they very noisily buzzed their feelings of discontent. It didn’t take long for them to settle down, though. With raised abdomen and flapping wings, some of the bees dispersed pheromones that announced: “Here we are boys and girls; this is our new home!”

A thin plywood divider, with three slots cut in it, is placed on top of the honeycomb frame rails, serves as the roof of the honeycomb chamber.  On top of this is placed a bee feeder. The hive is finally sealed by a main lid with a brick to weigh it down.

Finished! The bees were moving freely in and out of the front door at the base of the hive. Success!

My images don’t show the large number of bees now living in the hive, nor how many of them were flying around my head.

I have to admit I did get a little attached to these bees.

To celebrate our success, Brenda, David and I sat in the living room with tea and biscuits – lovely! After a nature-related conversation, I took my leave. It was a very nice way to spend one and a quarter hours on a Thursday afternoon. Thank you Brenda and David. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, your kindness and your company. And thank you for the lovely pot of honey.

Hive base, showing the perforated plastic bottom.

Main section of the hive with the honeycomb frames fitted.

Bee being tipped into the hive.

Bees on the perforated plastic floor after being tipped in the from the travelling container.

The original nest honeycombs.

Bee feeder.

Home sweet home. The bee feeder is under the top cover.

The marsh honey bees using the front door of their new home.

One of the nest honeycombs.

25 thoughts on “New home for the marsh honey bees.

  1. Brilliant! A lovely story so well told and photographed. Thanks for sharing with us. What would have happened to the wild nest if it had been left where it was? Sorry if you have explained this already.


  2. Thanks for the update; it’s nice to know they are now safe. Their existing comb seems quite small, was the “bee feeder” there as a supplement to ensure they are able to survive the winter? Or am I misjudging how many individuals there are in the colony (or their appetites)?


    • There were four honeycombs; the image is of one of the smaller ones, James.

      Pollen and nectar are in short supply as it is the end of the growing season, and these bees have a small honey store, so they need an additional food source in order to survive the winter.


  3. Great posting, very lovely pictures. I really love this article, as the production of honey is a very specific and amazing thing of nature. They one reason I will never become a vegan is – honey!


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