I am trying out something slightly curious this year with an empty hive. I have laid it out inside with brood frames and wax foundation and am not putting a brood colony in, just waiting to see if a scout finds it and when a swarm occurs from that colony perhaps they will locate the new queen and colony in there rather than a hollow tree. Many bee keepers say that a nucleus that relocates into a hive out of choice (as opposed to a swarm you pick up and dump into a new hive) ends up being more successful as it is the workers' choice of location so passes their QC tests as to safety, warmth, aspect etc (sun hitting the south facing flight ramp of the hive early in the morning, protection round the side from hedges, open flight path over grass etc etc). Getting up one morning and finding a few thousand bees in your hive which weren't there the day before is something that makes you smile. Especially since a colony can cost you £250 if you buy one (though you will earn money if you go and collect one from someone's house or orchard). Let's see what occurs.
In my home office there's been a weird buzzing noise in the corner for some weeks. A sort of "zub" or "tsub" noise. Not a buzz. A zzub. Not a team hum like a bee hive or a zap zap zap of wasps and hornets coming and going and knocking their lobster-like exoskeletons on the masonry. Last night they were still at it. Zub. silence. Zub. Quite weird high note, lots of nothing then zub. We have regular wasp and hornet issues but this was something different.
This morning I stood outside and checked in the gap behind a wisteria and the gutter. There is a 5 mill gap between the top of the brick and the hanging tiles. Nothing coming out. Then as the sun warmed the tiles they appeared. Absolutely loads of bumble bees. Coming and going where the wisteria has pushed its runners into the tile gap then died back. It's a nest of sticks inside the tiling and a load of fat bumbles are in there. I'm not touching them. They are not destroyers of masonry and they are busy pollinating my late apple blossom.
So far this spring I have not found any wasp or hornet nests. I had a serious purge in the autumn so think I may have broken the cycle. I read in the papers this week that although we venerate honey bees, certain sub species of wasps are far more intelligent than honey bees and more advanced in evolutionary terms. They can reason to a limited degree - transitive inference. Another good reason to use fire, shock and awe on them. I am not surprised to learn this. I keep finding them flying into their nests carrying the heads of the young from my bee hives. They fly in, ignore the stings and attacks from the workers and clamber onto the brood chamber and then find the emerging young - not the pupae which are too hard to dig out, but the young whose heads and thorax are poking out of the cells, just on the day these young bees emerge to get to work. They bite off the head and thorax and carry that back to the nest to feed their own young with. Well absolutely fuck that. This advanced behaviour does nothing to improve my regard for them. https://edition.cnn.com/2019/05/08/us/paper-wasps-logic-scli-intl-scn/index.html