Bees, Bats and Birds at the Archives

As part of our ‘For the Record’ project we need to undertake an ecology survey to look for evidence of bats and birds.  We already know about the herring gulls and yellow legged gulls who frequent the site.  We are pretty sure that we don’t have any resident bats in the old sheds but need to make sure before buildings are demolished to make way for the new strongrooms. 

Meanwhile, last Thursday evening, we had a visitation from a swarm of bees, thus providing the answer to the County Archivist’s favourite joke:
Q: Where does Noah keep his bees?
A: In the Ark-Hives.

The bees congregated on the wall of one of our strongrooms – fortunately outside rather than inside.  We used the British Beekeepers’ Association’s online tool to ‘find a swarm collector’ and local beekeeper, Mike Forster, arrived a few minutes later.  Bees7 Wearing a protective bee-suit, he used a small soft brush to encourage the majority of the bees into a portable brood chamber. Unfortunately the queen was not amongst them so the worker bees re-grouped around her slightly further along the wall.  This time Mike used his smoker to quieten down the lively bees and encourage them up into a straw skep.  Half an hour later the skep and the brood box were transferred into the back of the beekeeper’s car and the bees were driven off to their new home.  We’re very grateful to Mike for this excellent service.

There are several references to bees, bats and birds in the Archives.  These include correspondence about German use of bees as a tactical force in 1917 (D37/1/149), Gloucestershire schools with bee hives in 1924 (C/AE/R5/37) and incidents involving bees and ramblers in the last quarter of the twentieth century (D12676/4/11/1-2).  Bats in churches are referred to in several parish collections too numerous to mention here, as are birds in our collections more generally.  And the records of the Gloucestershire Bee-Keepers’ Association were brought to the Archives recently (D13718), arriving shortly before the swarm of live specimens!

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For details and project updates visit www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/archives/fortherecord

Most of the project costs are being covered by grants and contributions from project partners. But we are seeking donations too. You can do this online at www.foga.org.uk.

Funders and partners

One thought on “Bees, Bats and Birds at the Archives

  1. How exciting! Bees 🙂 When I was a student at Aberystwyth I wrote about a collection at Ceredigion Archives – the records of a plant scientist who had a particular fascination with bees, for obvious reasons. In the papers is correspondence between the wartime Ministry of Food (I think) about its worries that the wives of beekeepers were using their allotted extra rations of sugar, allowed for overwintering the bees, to make jam. Honey was an important wartime extra, as sugar was so heavily rationed, and therefore the Ministry of Food decided to dye the bees’ sugar green to stop it being used for jam. It backfired as the bees made green honey and nobody wanted to buy it! There was a similar story reported recently about bees making multi-coloured honey in France because they were mistaking dye, used for colouring M&Ms for nectar…

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