Saturday, 9 July 2011

Clearing out the pond (and bees)

Keiren spent quite some time cleaning the pond and emptied bucket loads of sludge which have been accumulating for years. Hopefully it will be good for the garden as that is now where it is spread. He also chopped back many the plants around the pond. There were a few nice azaleas which we have pruned hard, hoping they will come again, but it had to be done as everything around the pond had got too large.
The pond is made of concrete and we think it is connected to the gutter drainage on the house, there is a pipe from the house, under the lawn, which leads to a (dried up) waterfall feature at the pond. At one time I believe rainwater would have flowed into the pond but I think the pipe is probably cracked under the lawn somewhere. There are other strange things around the pond these include another drain hole site, which I have no idea what it is for, and a fountain which is not pumped but simply fed from the mains? It is a really peculiar set up and I wonder if it all dates from the time when the water was pumped to the house from the stream.

We think we found the source of the leak in the pond and Keiren spent ages cleaning and drying the area and carefully refilling and sealing it with mortar. After refilling the pond we realised either the repair hadn't worked or there was another leak. One of the lovely features of the pond is a granite bridge across it but this also means trying to find a further leak will mean moving this granite and that will require some machinery. We are a bit disappointed that the leak is not repaired but the pond is now clean and cleared which is a step in the right direction.

Mains fed fountain and patched pond

We are currently having the roof replaced at the house and last Sunday I heard one of the roofers Ross, screaming for help, I knew he was using an angle grinder so I thought he had cut himself, I grabbed the first aid box and ran outside to hear the other roofer Brendon shouting at Ross to get down the ladder quickly. I looked up to see thousands of bees buzzing around our chimney. Poor Ross who has a phobia of bee's and who thinks he is allergic to them was face down on the roof too terrified to move! We eventually coaxed him down and sat him down with some sweet tea until the colour came back to his face and his legs stopped wobbling. The builders gave up working for the day and Keiren and I called our local beekeeper, who keeps hives just down the lane from us, to get some expert assistance. A few hours later- 'Dangerous' Dave as we have now christened him came around with all his kit. Despite no experience at working at heights he proceeded to spend the next 4 hours trying to smoke the bees out of the chimney, periodically spraying clumps of bees off the chimney with a hose and stuffing old carrier bags into the numerous cracks in the chimney. Keiren and I were in continual fear for his safety as well as the safety of the very old and crumbling slate roof! During Dangerous Dave's time on the roof a steady stream of bees were heading down the chimney into the living room, they would then crawl across the room and buzz at the window or fly out again through the french doors. Many of them died as they came down the chimney and we ended up vacuuming bees for 2 days, filling up the dyson.

Eventually Dangerous thought he had done all he could and went home leaving a 'bait hive' in case the bees decided the chimney wasn't a great place after all. Later that evening, many of the bees had re-swarmed in a much smaller clump on the porch and Keiren called Dave again. His advice this time was to kill the bees, he did not think he could collect them and said it was the only solution. Reluctantly, but also in need of being able to have the roof work continue, Keiren dressed in a home made bee suit and sprayed the bee's with Tox wasp spray. It worked very effectively (and quickly)on this group but in the morning we still had hundreds of bees coming down the chimney. We were really sorry that we had to kill so many of the bees and that the rest of them died after their route down the chimney, but it there was little else we could do.

As a footnote our neighbours at the end of the lane had a swarm in their chimney a couple of weeks ago, they quickly lit their Rayburn and that got rid of the bee's. 'Dangerous' admitted those bee's were probably his but did not think the swarm in our chimney was. We are a bit concerned about his beekeeping credentials as he has been tending the hives down the lane ever since we moved in last year but has NEVER had any honey. I think he needs a bit more instruction/practice in looking after the little mites.

I think Dangerous Dave might be better suited to being a fireman