Rev Christina Bradley and her Bee-Team have raced to the rescue of an Armagh woman whom home was over-run by 30,000 bees which had nested in her chimney.
Keen apiarist Mrs Bradley, her fellow swarm catcher Hugh Holmes and contractors Eamonn Morgan and Rory McGeary arrived in full protective gear and with specialised equipment to rid the house of the bees that had blocked the chimney and were causing havoc in the Ardmore Crescent home of Mrs Brigid Smith.
Hugh and Christina worked out the method of extracting the bees from the chimney (it had been blocked by a honeycomb) and managed to save 20,000 of the buzzers to create a swarm in their own hives.
Said Christina, minister at Armagh Road Presbyterian Church, “Armagh Housing Executive was very supportive, and concerned for the life of the tenants and for the conservation of the honey bees. They provided a cherry picker so that the contractors could get at the chimney and remove the ‘rose’ cover.
“And while Hugh and I directed operations, the cover was removed and we managed to take away the swarm, although a shovel full of bees had died and they also had to be disposed of. We had all the necessary equipment, like a water spray bottle, bee-brush, a smoker, smoker fuel, cardboard boxes, bed sheets and protective clothing, plus a commercial hoover, chimney rods, a chimney sweeping brush and his beekeeping gear.”
Thankfully, when the chimney cover was removed, all the bees were close to the top, the queen bee was still in situ, surrounded by her workers. And after four solid hours of hard work, they managed to remove the bees. Sadly, many had perished over the weeks through the toxins in the soot, for it is thought they inhabited the chimney in May.
The team swept down the chimney, having blocked the fireplace downstairs. But there was no sign of honey, the bees seemed to be starving and hundreds were buzzing downstairs. But with great skill, the apiarists managed to form a swarm, they teased 20,000 bees into a box and the job was done.
Said Christina, “We cleaned up, put the sitting room back in its original shape and left with all our gear and a couple of cardboard boxes with buzzing bees, some of which managed to escape on the way back to Portadown!
“We had managed to catch the queen bee and that meant we could proceed with the project and establish a colony. Armagh Housing Executive were terrific. As well as relieving the family, they were very environmentally conscious.”