'Extractors' remove bee colony of 18,000 from historic building

Honeybees in the hive

Honeybees in the hive - Credit: Tim Wylie, The Apiarist Atelier

Almost 20,000 bees have been removed from a historic North Walsham building.

A bee expert suited up in white coveralls to dismantle the colony at The Cedars in New Road - the Grade-II listed address where pub chain JD Wetherspoon earlier planned to open a branch. 

Bees at The Cedars in North Walsham being removed by Tim Wylie from UK Bee Removers.

Bees at The Cedars in North Walsham being removed by Tim Wylie from UK Bee Removers. - Credit: Tim Wylie, The Apiarist Atelier

The colony had been there for eight years and had grown to as many as 65,000 bees at its height last summer.

Tim Wylie from UK Bee Removers, who removed the colony at its winter size of around 18,000 insects after being contracted by North Norfolk District Council, said: "It was quite a long extraction, but it's thrilling to get another colony of bees successfully relocated, especially at what is a challenging time of the year for the colony.

"This challenge was compounded by the fact the bees needed to be kept stress-free, 'quiet' - not flying - and warm.

The bee colony at the Cedars in North Walsham under infrared imaging.

The bee colony at the Cedars in North Walsham under infrared imaging. - Credit: Tim Wylie, The Apiarist Atelier

"It is critical that the young bee larvae are kept warm, as they are easily chilled and can die, so I keep the bees on the comb and in doing so keep the larvae warm and alive too.

"The building had remained empty for some time and therefore the room temperature had to be raised from an ambient temperature of 6C up to 20C with additional insulation and baffles added to keep drafts to a minimum and retain heat."

The bee colony at The Cedars in North Walsham behind the wooden paneling.

The bee colony at The Cedars in North Walsham behind the wooden paneling. - Credit: Tim Wylie, The Apiarist Atelier

Honeycomb within the paneling at The Cedars in North Walsham. 

Honeycomb within the paneling at The Cedars in North Walsham. - Credit: Tim Wylie, The Apiarist Atelier

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Mr Wylie said that such extractions usually happen between late spring or late summer, but steps were taken to keep the bees as "unstressed" as possible so the bees could be removed over winter and the restoration of the building could go ahead.

The colony had collected behind wooden paneling upstairs in the building. 

The bees were taken to join Mr Wylie's other colonies in west Cambridgeshire. The colony will be given time to expand, and the bees will eventually be transferred into a full cedar hive.

The Cedars, also known as Cedar House, is being refurbished by the district council as part of a £3.2 million High Street Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) scheme.

Honeycomb within the paneling at The Cedars in North Walsham. 

Honeycomb within the paneling at The Cedars in North Walsham. - Credit: Tim Wylie, The Apiarist Atelier

Capped honey and pollen stores transferred to frames. The bees had already consumed

Capped honey and pollen stores transferred to frames. The bees had already consumed approximately three quarters of their stores. Approximately 7kgs of stores were recovered. - Credit: Tim Wylie, The Apiarist Atelier

The council wants the building to be a flexible space for businesses or community organisations looking for a base in the town.

Talks with JD Wetherspoon started in 2014, but the council said last year the pub chain had been "unable to commit to purchasing the site".