Bees, Snakes and Smelly Pine Martins

There is nothing that can prepare you for the horrors of bees, snakes, lizards, dead birds and pine martins falling on you in the middle of the night. Especially when they smell like a battlefield trench.

Bedroom Ceiling

For some unknown reason, the previous owner had decided to pine clad the ceiling of one of the bedrooms. The window in the loft had been leaking, along with the gutter leaving it to sag down in places.

The moment a crow bar was inserted into the ceiling, the silence in the room was broken. HUM!!!!

Out of the crack emerged hundreds of bees and soon the whole top floor of the house was buzzing!

I was stung on both hands and on the belly. Luckily, as stings go they were pretty pathetic with no swelling or even itching afterwards. So, I ventured straight back in and pulled down the whole ceiling as quickly as I could.

However, I didn’t expect to get almost knocked out by almost 250kg of Pine Martin nest just a few feet from the bee colony. There’s 5 wheelbarrow loads of nest in the photo below.

In the Pine Martin nest was everything from walnut shells, corn husks, hay, snake skins, lizard skeletons, bird skeletons, wasp nests, acorns, magazines shreds, bottle tops, nails – basically all sorts.

The smell was absolutely incredible. If you’ve ever smelt a rotting dead badger, or a 1970’s Council toilet, you’re getting the idea. France was in a Class Orange Heatwave, which helped ferment the stall urine smell even more than normal. It was so hard to breath, even with a face mask, I forgot completely about being smothered by huge & feisty bees.

Being Sunday, we asked a lovely lady selling honey on the local market about moving the hive and she told us it wasn’t a good time to move it, being summer, but it was definitely still possible. We needed to find a proper Bee keeper to move it. – So we did.

A day later our hero Arnaud, a local Bee keeper came in his van, all dressed in the proper kit and very efficiently removed virtually all the bees in the room.
I bravely filmed in the doorway, passing tools and bags when necessary, whilst Mandy ‘observed’ from the far end of the Lake.

The problem we had was there were still bees inside a hole in the wall and there were still bees flying around the garden. Therefore, come night time those bees would come back inside looking for Queen Bee. If the Queen’s nest was in the wall cavity and not in all the honeycomb that Arnaud took away, then we had a problem.

Over the next few days those remaining bees might try to re-establish a new colony or they might disappear of their own accord. Some of course would unfortunately die.

We made nearly 3 jars of honey with a couple pieces of honeycomb that Arnaud left behind. Unfortunately we don’t have a spinner or even a filter so we just left it to drip into a jar.

A day after Arnaud’s departure, we weren’t that sure he’d got the Queen. The remaining bees seemed rather agitated. They’d split into several groups and collected on the skirting, ceiling and behind the radiator. As soon as you went into the room the noise level rose significantly and they swarmed.

Luckily, 48 hours after the colony had been removed the signs were slightly more promising. Firstly there were fewer bees, secondly they were less feisty and were gathered in one spot.

As the days passed they spent more time outside, than in. It seemed that Arnaud had indeed taken the Queen. We were in luck!

On day 6 we’d been out on an extended lunch and walk to find a small swarm of bees above a cherry tree in the garden. Inside the house was totally silent without a bee to be seen! – What should we do?

We panicked and closed the window. We went into the small hardware shop in the village to buy a tiny can of expanding foam. There wouldn’t be anywhere near enough foam to fill the hole but that wouldn’t be our goal, we simply wanted to temporarily block off the hole.

With the hole sealed the bees around the cherry tree returned to the hole in the wall for around 10 minutes. We stood watching from down below. Then in the space of about 30 seconds, they flew back to the cherry tree, then carried on flying, never to return. – We hope they found somewhere nice!