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boywonder

House Bee
Joined
Sep 7, 2013
Messages
291
Reaction score
205
Location
Loughborough
Hive Type
14x12
Number of Hives
11
... and sorry if that sounds facetious - it's not supposed to.

I would appreciate your collective and individual advice here, please.

Today, a village neighbour (we've been in the village nearly 20 years now, and he over 30, and we've never met; which is bizarre in itself) knocked on my door to introduce himself...about a swarm... his... but it's more involved than that.

Having subsequently spent the last few hours with him (on and off), I would happily say the chap is a bit of a legend, and at At 87/88, he's in very fine fettle indeed. However, he is caring for his nearest and dearest, and I think (by his own admission) some things have gone to seed...

Including his bees - where he was (again by his own admission) never a 'real' beekeeper. A scientist and a thoroughly knowledgeable man, for sure, but no awareness of e.g. bee-space and other elementary matters.

So ... long story short ... I went, and I found a bit (lot) of a mess there. He thought he had one living colony, in the middle of his garden ("not inspected in 6 or 7 years"), but, as I later discovered, he also has a few boxes in a wooded area, which he thought were unoccupied, but are clearly not.

The swarm (which, when I arrived was 40ft up in a tree) moved on whilst I was putting the ladder up (typical!) and migrated to this area - which is how I discovered it.

See the video here: https://vimeo.com/433026441

I had a look inside the two hives on either side, where bees appear to be entering from the roof or corner. These are established colonies, and I suspect the swarm has issued from one of these. See the lovely wild comb in the roof of one (attached).

The middle box (where I believed the swarm was migrating to) seemed to have been uninhabited, with all wax eaten/degraded, frames rotten, 4 inches of composted vermine poo and e.g. an old wasp nest (also see attached).

This ALL needs sorting out, URGENTLY, IMHO. Not least:
- for the wellbeing of the bees
- the amenity of the neighbours
- my own reputation (as the local suspicion is that every bl**dy swarm is mine - which is categorically not the case)

The old boy appears really grateful for my help, and I hope to build a relationship there. However, whilst (strangely) he would be delighted for me to take the "captured" swarm in that middle box (box and all), he does not seem minded to accept any help to sort out the root cause, which are his three other boxes which are a total, total, unmanaged mess.

He says he will sort them / rebuild them, but I fear he has neither the time nor the skill.

Where would you go from here? All thoughts very, very welcome. Thanks in advance, Craig.
 

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Why not gently suggest that you sort them out together. You may have to do most of the work but have him there suited up explaining why you are doing each thing and ask if he has a differing view. Discuss suitable ways forward and point out the issues of vermin and the risks of possible disease, i.e. foul brood, to other beekeepers in the vicinity. I feel that he may feel worried about his lack of care of his hives, inability to really do something himself and a little embarrassed. It probably took a lot of effort to approach you in the first place. Its your move next! you may have the start of an excellent working relationship.
 
... and sorry if that sounds facetious - it's not supposed to.I would appreciate your collective and individual advice here, please.

You would be a saint to take that on. I find it difficult to see a viable outcome. Lots of his kit would need repair and new stuff needed eg. wax foundation etc. Would he be willing to pay for that?
Sorry, I would not take it on.
 
Keep him as a friend.

He will probably not appreciate your interfering...... slowly slowly catchee monkee!
 
Yes I agree with Brian Bush's suggestions. I suggest to you take /accept his swarm and offer to go to help sort out just one hive in return as "payment" for his generosity. Then you might be in a position later to ask if he would like a second hive up and running; and perhaps you could get him to come and 'help' you with something first. Its got to be a softly softly non patronising approach in anywise if you do anything.
 
So .. all he wanted was the swarm removed ? Strikes me that, if they have not been inspected for 6 or 7 years:

1. He is happy with the situation.
2. He probably won't want to change.
3. He may not want the hassle of colonies that produce honey.
4. These bees are survivors .. without human interference.

It will, possibly, take a gently, gently, approach and I reckon trying to change him is probably heading for a brick wall.

My suggestion would be:

a) Praise his bees as valuable survivors.
b) Avoid criticising his way of 'keeping' them.
c) If you are up for it .. suggest that you 'help' him by managing his colonies for him on the basis that they could generate a honey crop which you could share .. if you do all the work perhaps on a 75/25% split and any splits/swarms become yours. Something of a simple contract in writing would be a good idea.

If he shows resistance ... walk away, not worth the hassle. The bees have survived and will continue to survive without your interference - you have the perfect excuse for any swarms that are found in the village, if you took over the colonies any swarms would then DEFINITELY be blamed on you.
 
Should be a call to the SBI in my opinion.
What would happen if he had to go into care and the property was to change ownership?
I'd be really interested in what varroa load they have after no treatment for so long.
 
Take the swarm as offered and bang out. He knows where you are and if he wants help, he knows where to get it.
 
Yes I agree with Brian Bush's suggestions. I suggest to you take /accept his swarm and offer to go to help sort out just one hive in return as "payment" for his generosity. Then you might be in a position later to ask if he would like a second hive up and running; and perhaps you could get him to come and 'help' you with something first. Its got to be a softly softly non patronising approach in anywise if you do anything.

I agree with this. The poor man has only time to deal with emergencies if that if the truth is known, but probably in his mind still want to be a beekeeper. If it were me and he could not see me from his house I would just do it. I guess it would be easier for me to get away with it being a woman.
 
Should be a call to the SBI in my opinion.
What would happen if he had to go into care and the property was to change ownership?
I'd be really interested in what varroa load they have after no treatment for so long.

You might be surprised ... mine have not been treated for longer than that ... although I keep a very close eye on what is going on.
 
Should be a call to the SBI in my opinion.
What would happen if he had to go into care and the property was to change ownership?
I'd be really interested in what varroa load they have after no treatment for so long.

So lets recap on the facts as we understand them to be:

The guy goes and knocks on a fellow beekeepers door offering a swarm;
Said beekeeper gratefully accepts the swarm and goes to collect;
In amongst all of this, said beekeeper discovers more beehives and bees, a discussion is had and offer of assistance declined;
Said beekeeper then goes and involves the "authorities"

Possibly not the best course of action if you want to win friends and influence people........
 
So lets recap on the facts as we understand them to be:

The guy goes and knocks on a fellow beekeepers door offering a swarm;
Said beekeeper gratefully accepts the swarm and goes to collect;
In amongst all of this, said beekeeper discovers more beehives and bees, a discussion is had and offer of assistance declined;
Said beekeeper then goes and involves the "authorities"

Possibly not the best course of action if you want to win friends and influence people........

Agreed.
 
Sadly the elderly chap needs help but sounds like he is reluctant to accept any interfering, accepting the swarm only relieves an issue temporarily until the next time.
The elderly chap needs to realise that a more permanent solution is required and a hard fact is he needs to relinquish his hold on the bees and either retire from keeping them or accept proper help to maintain one or two hives only so as not too cause issues for neighbours and beekeepers a like in the local area.

Sometimes one needs to be blunt and be cruel to be kind, a good sit down and hopefully a honest/sensible chat about the situation with him is in need. Explain the issues about swarms and the affect his actions are having on the community and others putting the spot light/blame on you and others. If he isn't willing to accept help or listen then walking away might be the only answer, other wise you may not get much peace.
 
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... and sorry if that sounds facetious - it's not supposed to.
I would appreciate your collective and individual advice here, please.
.
He says he will sort them / rebuild them, but I fear he has neither the time nor the skill.

Where would you go from here? All thoughts very, very welcome. Thanks in advance, Craig.

His apiary may be a reservoir of disease. He might be very grateful for a gentle suggestion that you help him give up beekeeping.
In which case I would kill the bees by spraying soapy water and then have a bonfire.
Other beeks in the neighbourhood might be grateful too.
 
I would imagine this might be a bit of a cry for help. We don't know either of you so it's hard to tell but I would just build up a relationship with him and see where you go. I know at least two wild colonies in my village so this isn't much different but it is probably good stock if it hasn't been treated. You might get some new colonies out of it, a new apiary site maybe, or if he really doesn't want any help then leave him to it.
 
You might be surprised ... mine have not been treated for longer than that ... although I keep a very close eye on what is going on.

Yes, that was my thought. It would be really interesting to find out.

When I mentioned the SBI, I was thinking from a consensual advisory perspective. Perhaps the old boy might accept "official" advice that he and Boywonder could then follow up on together.
 
When I mentioned the SBI, I was thinking from a consensual advisory perspective. Perhaps the old boy might accept "official" advice that he and Boywonder could then follow up on together.

It's an all round difficult situation and really only feet on the ground and a listenng ear with some empathy will yield a wayforward .. Engage Enlighten Educate Encourage Empower ... the last resport .. Enforce..

Takes me back to my consultancy days ...
 
Thanks all. Really good thoughts from everyone who has responded.

I took the swarm this morning. I don't need any more bees of my own, so I'm not too precious about the outcome; but I do hope (as with any swarm) they are viable, disease-free and do not abscond.

When I got there this morning, the old boy was practically on the doorstep waiting for me, had snuck out with a torch, late last night to see how I had closed and strapped them up, and has also asked me to call him later for an update.

So, as many have said, this does feel like a bit of a cry for help. I intend, I think, just to build up a trusting relationship, and see if he responds to any gentle hints and suggestions.

If not, so be it. I'll certainly not push the issue, nor patronise him. I'd like to sort it for the neighborhood, though. The recent prime swarm I had land in my boxes in the garage is a happy bonus for me, but, when swarms set up home in a neighbour's chimney (which happened at least twice in the village last year), it's just a nuisance, and, I fear, gives us all a bad name.

Sent from my Pixel 4 using Tapatalk
 
That is so sweet. He may appreciate the human contact as well. Hope you become bee buddies. It is lonely being a carer. Well done you.
 

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