At first we thought they were swarming inside the large stone chimney stack, so after several days of bees appearing in the living room and getting a bit fed up with catching them on the windowsills and window panes with a glass and putting them inside, we thought that if we lit the wood burner and just made a small fire, maybe the warmth would discourage them and they'd go elsewhere. However! Result - no fire, a lot of smoke pouring out of every crack in the wood burner filling the living room to choking point. Hmmm think they've build their nest inside the stainless steel flue! After that we had bees both inside the wood burner and still coming out of the chimney itself (which has fireproof plasterboard and insulation around the flue to keep the drafts out and the heat in). Muggins here was letting unhappy bees out of the wood burner and putting them outside, whereupon those that were not half dead promptly flew back up to the top of the roof and probably came back down the chimney again. As well as the noise and the by then continual sweeping up of half dead bees off the floor they were secreting sticky stuff (honey?) all over the windowsills and it was beginning to get beyond a joke.
Obviously it had to stop, so after a call to the Mairie we were given a few phone numbers to try. One company didn't do heights. Errr, that's no good when we're talking chimney stacks here on a tall house! The other guy said he didn't normally get down our way and to leave it for several days to see if they went away of their own accord; if not, call him again. Well they didn't go so he was called again and thank goodness he was able to come out on Monday to deal with the problem.
I should point out that Mr 'Sam Pic' is not a wanton destroyer of bees - he works with apiarists if there is a way to collect the swarm and move them on. Not possible inside an 8 metre tall stainless steel pipe however.
He also didn't have the right kind of ladder with him to deal with our Nantaise gutters, so plan B had to be put into action. I watched him sit on the roof outside this window and put the roof ladder which hooks over the ridge together, section by section. I get vertigo just watching people on roofs so after that I left him to it and my OH took the rest of the photos!
|It looks so bare without the Mimosa tree now|
|All suited up|
|Rather him than me!!!|
|Putting poison powder down the flue|
|You can just make out a few dark blobs in the photo which are bees|
Mr Sam Pic said that it was very unusual to have a nest actually inside a chimney flue as it's difficult to get it to stick to the soot on the sides. He said the treatment may take up to a week to work and he'd come out again if we still had a problem, included in the charge. Thankfully (for the bees as well as us) it seems to have been instantaneous as we've not had a bee since and the living room seems oddly quiet and still. We have to leave the nest to dry out for several months before getting the chimney sweeps back to clean it out before we can use the wood burner again in the autumn. Thank god it's May and thank god we have back up central heating! Cost: €120 plus the cost of the chimney sweeps again - they were only here in March!
So if you are reading this and you live in northern dept 35 or dept 22 and ever have a problem, he is your man for dealing with wasps, hornets, bees, rats and processionary caterpillars/moths (Tel: 0800 10 10 26). Now apparently is the time to put out pheromone traps for the pine processionary moth and he'll charge you €160 to do so. It might be cheaper to look online for the traps yourself! We have them in our pine trees but as they haven't taken up residence inside the house I'll leave them to it, but I am well aware of the problems they can cause and know exactly what they look like, having encountered gazillions of them crawling in procession up in the Pyrenees mountains.
Overall a sad tale but here's something he said that was interesting. "You could get a hive" he said. "Oh no, we've thought about that and decided that beekeeping would be just too time consuming and like having another kind of livestock to look after" replied my OH. Ah but apparently no, you can install a hive and just leave them to it - you don't need to collect the honey or DO anything. It's just a dry shelter for them to use and they'll get on and do their own thing and it will discourage them from looking inside your house walls or chimney for a place to make a nest! Food for thought and something I am going to look into.