5x12 pentomino tiling
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Bee Day

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So yesterday the dogs alerted us that we had bees up the chimney. We keep the chimney blocked when we're not using it with a board to keep the drafts out so before I moved it to look I phoned the local British Bee Keepers Association swarm collector to see if he could come and take them away. He wasn't hopeful but he came around anyway and confirmed they were bees and not wasps. They were buzzing around the top of the chimney like crazy.

Anyway he said our best plan, as they'd not been there long, was to set a smoky fire under them. That should drive them out ... (and to be fair he wasn't the only one claiming this, Beth found references to this technique on the Web too).

So this morning I togged up with long sleeve shirt, waterproof trousers, wide brimmed hat and midge net and popped the board out. About ten bees came out immediately and made straight for the window but that was OK so I went ahead and set a fire.

But as soon as it started and the paper took the whole bloody swarm came down the chimney and landed on the hearth! Some then headed out across the carpet and up onto the windows. Thankfully they showed little interest in me.

I phoned the man back in a bit of panic and got his voicemail so it looked like I was on my own and I filled the sitting room with Raid which killed a lot of them and stunned a lot of the others.


The scene later: bees covering the whole flat part of the hearth, that should be grey not black,
and many over the carpet of which these are a few


Survivors from the fire trying to get back into the chimney

When he got my call he came around. By then things were like the photos above, and I was still running the fire to keep the remaining living bees out. He said that's what I needed to keep doing and that, so long as the queen was dead, the rest would go soon as the swarm was effectively dead without its queen. He looked through the pile of dead bees, many covered in ash, without a lot of hope but somehow he managed to pick out the queen. Here she is. She's significantly bigger than her sisters and not striped, just plain brown.

That was excellent news as it meant we were definitely going to win. But it still meant keeping a fire going all day. And Beth then fabricated a metal plate so we could block the fireplace while it was still hot instead of waiting until the morning for it go cold like we would normally do.

So that was my day. Next time we get a man in.

Written 28/07/12

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