"There's quite a few bees in the wood shed", said Dave one morning.
It's not unusual for this to happen. Every year a keen foraging bee will sniff out my stack of super boxes (the bit of the hive where the bees store their honey and where I steal it from) and invite a few of her sisters along for a robbing party. If there's so much as a drop of honey clinging to the frames in the super boxes the bees will find it. However, on this occasion as soon as I got within six feet of the wood shed I knew that this was no robbing party, but an illegal rave. A peak under the lid at the top of the stack confirmed my suspicions that Dave's "quite a few bees" was a full on swarm!
Obviously, given my far from perfect track record as a beekeeper, my first thought was that my own colony, purchased for the princely (or should that be queenly?) sum of £150 just two weeks earlier had done a bunk while my back was turned. Bees do that sort of thing. Just because they can. But no, for once I was in possession of someone else's bees instead of the other way round. The scout who found my stack of super boxes will surely be nominated for "Scout of the Year" at the annual colony awards, for not only did she find them a home, but a fully furnished show home with a well stocked pantry. At the latest they could only have moved in three days earlier, but the ever efficient worker bees must have been hard at it from the off, cleaning up the mess of the previous occupants, making the cells nice and shiny, getting their queen popping out eggs to order. Unfortunately for them, this show home was spoken for and I was the white suited busy body coming to evict them. Unfortunately for me, this was one of the hottest days of the summer yet and after two hours in a beekeeping suit I was as hot and bothered as the bees, and probably just a little bit stinkier. It was worth the effort though - now the colony has a new home in my apiary and I have a new colony in my apiary. Everyone's a winner. Except for the lost flying bees. You can move a colony, but you can't re-program the internal navigation system of the bees quite so easily. For the next few days Dave would report "bees in the wood shed again", "there are still bees in the wood shed", "how much longer will there be bees in my wood shed". Each evening, as the temperature fell, lost, hungry, docile flying bees would form a small cluster on the hive parts I'd deliberately left for them to sniff out. So each evening I carried said hive part to the apiary, whispered a few words of encouragement, carefully brushed the bees back into their hive, then pressed my ear to its side to listen for the sound of the homecoming party.
I love having bees again. I really must make more effort to stop accidentally killing them.