Okay, so this isn’t directly related to the church’s community garden, but it is about bees at the church, and bees are important for gardens, and I need a place to post some photos, and I’m still running the blog… so there.
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You may know that we’ve had honey bees take up residence in the church sanctuary walls/attic a number of times. The last time (back in October?), we called out Jennifer Scott (The Bee Wrangler) to deal with the hive. Jennifer doesn’t kill bees – she removes and relocates them to bee yards in the region which she manages. It’s better for the environment, better for the bees (obviously), and usually better for the pocketbook. I really enjoyed visiting with Jennifer and watching her work.
A couple of weeks ago, we had some scout bees return to the church looking for a place to set up housekeeping. Jennifer suggested that we set up a “swarm trap” – basically to entice the bees to move into a box, rather than the sanctuary. Jennifer offered some wood left over from a recent removal job – the bees had built their hive inside a wooden column. (You can see some photos of bees in a column on Jennifer’s blog here, or see video of the hive still inside the column on her YouTube channel here. After looking more closely, I’m not sure if that’s the same column that my donated wood came from – I’ll have to ask.) Since bees had been nesting on this wood, it’s already “seasoned” and smells like a beehive – and that should help make it an attractive home.
Today I turned some of the wood into a swarm box – it has the same dimensions as a 5-frame nuc (based somewhat on this design [PDF]), so I guess that’s what I really made. Because of the taper and damage to the wood, I had to build up the sidewalls out of a couple of pieces using a biscuit joiner to get the right box depth. While the side pieces were clamped and drying, I fashioned some bars to sit across the top where the frames would normally hang. I don’t know if the bees will build on them or not, but perhaps it will keep them from building on the lid. (It I knew what I was doing, I probably should have built a top-bar hive, but I don’t really know what I’m doing.) Everything except the lid was pieced together out of wood from that old column. The bottom had to be a little shorter than I would have liked, but there’s still about 3/8″ landing pad in front of the entrance. I can always join on a “deck” to the front if more entrance room is needed.
Tomorrow I’ll fashion a strap to hold the lid secure and put a couple of drops of lemon-grass oil into the box just to make it extra-enticing. Then the trick will be to level and secure it to the roof near where the bees keep sneaking back into the church. Maybe we’ll get us some bees! (Then I’ll have to go work on the bee yard I keep talking about putting in at the church.)
Thanks for your help, Jennifer. I probably went overboard with the simple suggestion you made to me, but it kept me off the streets for the morning.