An emergency team of bee-busters were scrambled from Horsham to Crawley in a bid to rescue a vibrant nest of honeybees from a back-garden compost bin.
The large colony had been thriving a few weeks earlier - but mysteriously only empty honeycomb and a small cluster of stragglers were found in the garden bin in North Road, Three Bridges.
Homeowner Nigel Betteridge said: “I’ve been watching them going in and out for nearly a year.” He said he remembered neighbours closing their windows when the original swarm arrived. “I’m gutted they didn’t make it.”
Nigel, who felt protective over his swarm, left the busy bees in peace - but experts say that, sadly, wild colonies don’t often survive without a helping hand.
“Weakened bees can’t fight off disease,” said beekeeper Andy Campbell, who noticed hairless and wingless bees stumbling about in the nest. “We try to save them but sometimes it’s just too late.”
Central Sussex Beekeepers Association says that bees pollinate up to 84 per cent of everything we eat, and have been crucial to human development - yet alarmingly, bees themselves are now in serious decline in the UK and around the world.
Association team leader Melvyn Essen said: “Bees have fallen victim to pesticides, and have lost much of their natural habitat.
”Beekeepers feed and re-home honeybees, and have treatments to help them resist disease.”
Experts say that with proper care, a strong colony can make 30 - 60 jars of honey in one season, and pollinate plenty of fruit and vegetable crops along the way.
Anyone who notices honeybee activity or sees a swarm, can contact a swarm collector through www.centralsussexbka.org.uk or www.bbka.org.uk
“It’s a free service,”says the beekeepers association, “and the sooner the call, the greater the chance of the bees’ survival.”