“Bee hotline won’t be buzzing as much this year”

Bee swarm specialist Brian Bush, at his Haddenham home
Bee swarm specialist Brian Bush, at his Haddenham home

An avid beekeeper who owns 15 of his own hives says he got more than 300 calls to the ‘bee hotline’ last year, but he’s not expecting the same demand this summer.

Brian Bush, 65, is the swarm officer for the Mid Bucks Beekeepers Association, which means when he gets a call about rogue honey bee swarms, he and other apiarists head out to collect them before delivering them to members’ hives.

The organisation covers a large area of the county, stretching to Chearsley in the west, Berkhamsted in the east, Winslow in the north and Great Missenden in the south.

Mr Bush said:“We want to thank the people of Aylesbury because we were rushed off our feet last year! At one point, I had a phone to both ear and so did my wife!”

Mr Bush, who lives in Haddenham with wife Nadia, says the high call volume last year was probably down to the mild winter of 2013, meaning a lot more of the bees would have survived the weather unscathed, leading to bigger swarms.

But he is not expecting as many calls this year due to the spread of the Varroa mite, which is estimated to have killed half the bee colonies in the UK since 1990.

The bee fanatic has been interested in the creatures since his mother sold them in Aylesbury as a young woman, but only bought his first hive around eight years ago.

He said: “The ideal swarm hangs down from a tree branch like a big bunch of grapes, so when you give the branch a sharp tap, the swarm falls into the box you’ve got waiting below.

“Sometimes, they’re not that co-operative! They wrap themselves round gateposts and the like.”

Despite some people’s fear, Mr Bush says that bees are often quite ‘docile’ and people should not panic if they see a large swarm.

He said: “Just go indoors, let them settle, give me a ring and I’ll come and collect them.

“Before they swarm, they fill their bellies with honey because it may take them three or four days to find a new hive, so they need the energy.”

For more, visit the website at www.mbbka.org.uk/ or call Mr Bush on 07770 370132.