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To bee or not to bee, that is the question.

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We have had a dream to keep bees for some time now.  Ever since we moved to France all those years ago, it was always our intention to one day have our own bees.  But the time has never been right, until now.  A few months back I got a message from a friend:

“Are you interested in buying a couple of used bee hives in good condition, only used for one season.”

Our response?  “Yes please!”

So we picked them up just before Christmas and they sat in our entrance while we worked out what to do with them.

During the confinement we finally had more time to work out how to set them up.  It was a bit of a jigsaw puzzle as we had to dismantle them to get them in the car when we’d initially picked them up from my friends.  We looked up a few videos on how to assemble them and think we got it more or less right.  Gary cleared and prepared the area at the bottom of the land where we planned to keep them and installed the bee hives there. 

Now we just had to find some bees to live in them…  We were in the middle of lockdown with no chance of either visiting anywhere or ordering any through the post.  Yes, apparently you can actually order bees online!  We decided to have a go at getting the hives populated naturally and  looked up how to lure bees – it is possible that the bees would just find the hives and start a colony, but not that likely.  However, we thought it was worth a try.  I made some “Bee lure” out of beeswax, olive oil and lemon grass essential oil, Gary spread it across the to top of the hives and waited.  Nothing happened.  So we waited a bit more.  Still nothing happened. 

Gary applying the bee lure to our hives

Lockdown was lifting and so we could have tried to look into ordering some bees, but to be honest we were so busy catching up with work and trying to make up for the financial loss of the last few months, that we just didn’t have the time to look into it properly. We had resigned ourselves to accepting that maybe it would have to wait until next year…

Anyway, some friends (Alex and David at Chez le Moulin) who live nearby knew that we were looking for bees.  They mentioned this to a friend of theirs when they had met with him and asked him to keep an eye out for any swarms locally. Just 2 days later he messaged them to say miraculously a swarm of bees had just appeared on the olive tree outside his chateau.  Alex messaged me to ask if we wanted the bees.

“Errr, yes of course we do” was Gary’s eager reply. We weren’t sure how to do it, but we were keen to learn.

So the next day we went with Alex and Dave to the chateau to meet our new bees and their temporary guardian.  We parked in the car park and walked into the courtyard of this magnificent Chateau. 

“Look at that lovely Olive” I said, not realising that it was the very tree the bees were swarming in.

While Gary and Dave suited up, Alex and I tentatively approached the swarm to take a closer look. We were amazed at how calm and placid they were, there was no hint of aggression.  The owner supplied us with a rather lovely Buzet wine box for the boys to rehome the bees. 

Gary suited and booted
Brushing the bees into the Buzet box

They took the wine box up to the swarm and started to gently brush them into the box.  They were both a bit apprehensive, not having done this before, but it was amazing how easily the bees just moved into the box.  Once the queen was in, the rest followed. We waited a while to allow the whole swarm to enter into the box and had a glass of Buzet while we waited.  Well, it would have been rude not to. Then, we travelled home with a wine box full of buzzing bees in the boot.

It was starting to get dark when we got home, so we left the bees in the box overnight and decided to try and transfer them to the hive in the morning.  Meanwhile, we looked up advice on how to do it – what would we do without Google and YouTube?

The next morning, Gary took the box of bees and sheet down to the beehives.  He placed the sheet in front of the hive, right up to the entrance and bravely shook all the bees out of the box onto the sheet.  He had borrowed our Daves’ bee suit just in case they became aggressive. (It was just as well he did, because a week later he had a really nasty allergic reaction to a hornet sting.) However, our new colony of bees were not at all aggressive and just seemed eager to get into their new home. It was amazing to watch them all entering the hive.  It took about an hour or so, but now they are buzzing in out nicely. 

The hives are situated right next to a flowering sunflower field and a stream, so absolutely perfect for them.

We were amazed to find that the bees had left a gift in the buzet box… a small piece of honey comb – they must have been raring to go!

Here they are now settled in their new home. I think they seem happy and we are certainly very happy to have them.

The bees happily settled in their new home

Looking forward to some delicious sunflower honey soon… off to look up what we are supposed to do now!

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