Until a couple of weeks ago, when I found them again.
When the cottage was being built, we needed a separate water spur and meter off the mains. So a hole was dug in the drive and a small lockable green plastic man hole cover was placed on top of it. The lockable idea was a mistake, because at some point during the build someone needed to get at the meter and the lid was just wrenched off. Ever since the cover has had a gap where the lock should be. The water hole is partly on the drive behind the house but tucked away under overhanging elm and cornus branches from the bank below Monsieur F's field. Weeds grow up round it and it gets forgotten for months. But I thought it was time I cleared the weeds.
And there they were. The bees. Going in and out of the gap where the lock should have been.
So it was time to call Heather and Jim again. Because there was no way anyone was going to be able to read the meter.
Yesterday afternoon, in warm sunlight, the bees were moved to their new home.
The water meter hole cover.
The bees going in and out.
Puffing smoke into the hole to help keep the bees calm.
The comb was heavy, weighing down the lid and it needed quite an effort to lift it. First sight of the comb.
Transferring the comb to the hive.
Removing some of the hive frames so the comb will fit.
In lifting the lid unfortunately some of the comb broke away because it extended right to the floor of the chamber. So there was more comb to lift out and transfer to the hive.
The bees were active all round us. However, the buzzing was always benign and we never felt threatened. We didn't see the queen but the bees very quickly started going in and out of the hive, which implied that she had been transferred with the comb.
A few bees stayed in and around the water meter hole and began to form a cluster, so we wondered (briefly) if the queen was still there. We decided it would be good to leave the hive overnight and for today so that the bees could settle. Our friends will close the hive tonight and take it away when most bees will be back from foraging.
This morning the hole is largely empty. The bees have just been cleaning any residual comb still in the hole.
And there was even some comb with sweet clear honey oozing out for us.
Thank you Heather and Jim. A great job done.