Last Saturday I was working on my allotment, near my bees, and heard a loud hum. I looked up and saw a swarm of bees that quickly moved over my head towards the woods beneath Landport Bottom. I jumped on my bike and tried to follow them but they were too fast and disappeared quickly towards their destination. They were not my bees but from another colony, excitedly and purposefully creating new life.
The air is warm, the nectar flow is on and swarming season is upon us again. Perhaps because of the decline of the honeybee, we now have over a dozen new natural beekeepers in the Lewes area. They keep their hives, often home made, in gardens, allotments and on roofs. Seeing themselves as ‘bee guardians’ rather than ‘honey farmers', they work on a very different basis to conventional beekeepers. They leave most of the honey for the bees to overwinter on, they try not to open up the hive without good reason – especially taking care not to disturb the brood chamber - and allow their bees to swarm as a natural part of the cycle. As a result, swarming is on the increase, thanks to natural beekeeping, as well as from the increasing number of wild bee colonies in Lewes trees, chimneys and eaves. So swarming in May and June will become a more common occurrence.
There’s fear and projections attached to swarming bees but really they are almost always docile. For example, last year I captured with my bare hands a perfect swarm hanging low from a small tree on Talbot Terrace; the children loved watching me do that; it was a community event. Swarming is abundance itself, the honeybees’ natural way to reproduce and break disease cycles. So if you see or even hear about a swarm of bees, stop to celebrate and marvel at them, and note where they land. Then ring one of Lewes’s swarmcatchers, who will transfer the bees to one of the many Lewes people who are waiting to start keeping bees naturally. Write these numbers down: swarmcatchers Adrienne Campbell 07774793158 or Mike Millwood 07971216075
photo: Natural Beekeeping Trust