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Swarms! Leopardskin pillbox hat, nesters and bird walk!

Date posted: Tuesday 18th May 2021

Well, huge excitement for the beekeeper last Sunday morning – as we were enjoying an early cup of tea at home an email arrived to say that a swarm had been located at the back of a plot near the beehive area. Action stations and up we went at the double to find this swarm in a tree, quite an unusual shape. Bee suit donned and a successful collection with the swarm quickly relocated into an empty hive in the beehive area.

Then, two days later, as we were working on our plot Jem was alerted to another swarm in a rose bush on a plot further along! So a fast track practical learning curve about swarms and how to collect them, and two hives have become four, with all doing well so far!

As well as the two main swarms, there was a smaller ‘afterswarm’ that located itself in the buddleia by the compost toilet; Rose managed to retrieve it and has given it a good home.

“During the spring and early summer a colony of bees will expand rapidly in numbers and, if the conditions and food supplies are good, will reach a stage where the colony becomes overpopulated. Scout bees will go from the hive looking for new nest sites in the vicinity so that when swarming occurs some of the bees will have identified possible locations for the new nest.’ (The BBKA Guide to Beekeeping, Ivor Davis & Roger Callum-Kenyon)
‘A honeybee colony swarming is a natural process. It’s the colony reproducing by the old queen leaving with some of the bees. They leave their hive and find somewhere to hang in a cluster until the scout bees decide on their new home. Most swarms often occur on warm Sunny days in May to the end of July, between 11am – 4pm Often there is a peak on a fine day after poor weather when temperatures approach high teens. A real honey bee swarm can be dramatic involving many thousands of bees in a large noisy cloud, however they normally settle into a cluster within 15 minutes. Expect to be asked for a photo if you ring a beekeeper.’ (Honeybee swarms www.bbka.org.uk)
‘The characteristic loud hum from a swirling swarm of bees is one of nature’s striking phenomena. A swarm commonly settles as a ball hanging from a bush or tree before moving on when a new permanent nest site has been found. Left alone, a swarm is quite harmless, and should move on in a day or so. However, it is valuable and if it needs to be removed, it should be left to beekeepers. … Honey bees in a swarm are usually very gentle and present very little danger. They can be made aggressive if disturbed or sprayed with water. As honey bees can no longer survive in the wild, it is important to collect swarms and return them to the care of beekeepers… it is…important to save swarms as there is a shortage of honey bees following the disastrous winter losses in the last couple of years. A swarm can be put into a bee hive and become a productive colony. Many new beekeepers, and some of the many people who have taken up beekeeping this year, start out with a swarm. We need all the bees we can get.’ (Epsombeekeepers.co.uk)

And if that wasn’t enough excitement, a few weeks ago during plot inspections someone alerted us to an unusual nesting place, in one of our vintage pumps! As we were looking at it a blue tit flew into the narrow slot on the top, emerging shortly afterwards down the spout! And then a couple of days ago Flora showed me the temporary squatter in her shed – a robin has taken a fashionable liking to her hat as the perfect nest site. It flies in through the narrow gap at the top of the shed door… Nothing if not good taste for our local robins!

And we were delighted to resume our Bird Walks, led by Jon on 25 April, when a small but dedicated group of us logged almost as many as the first one we went on, way back in December 2109! We were fairly sure that we saw a peregrine flying over, possibly from the site on the Council building in Kingston. These are what we saw in or around the site:
Goldfinch
Magpie
Starling
Jackdaw
Crow
Blue tit
Stock dove
Ring necked parakeet
Peregrine falcon
Feral pigeon
Wood Pigeon
Wren
Robin
Herring gull
Greenfinch
Mallard
Cormorant
Blackbird
Great tit
Long tailed tit
Dunnock
Greylag goose