Bees Relocated for Historic Re-Roof

A RARE SPECIES of wild bees living in a historic roof have been moved to a new home during conservation work to replace the 200-year-old roof.

The re-roofing projecting at the National Trust’s Plas yn Rhiw manor house in North Wales, is believed to be the first time in over 200 years the roof has been replaced. The project was made more challenging by the need to find new temporary homes for the bees.

Five colonies, each of about 50,000 Welsh black honeybees were living in the roof of the building. Thought to have died out in all but the most remote parts of northern Britain, the black honey bees were rediscovered in 2012. SwarmCatcher, which specialises in the safe removal and relocation of bees collected and moved the colonies to hives nearby.

Historic Manor

Seventeenth century Plas yn Rhiw is a historic manor house on the Llŷn Peninsula. It was made over to the National Trust in 1952 with the unique condition that the bees in the roof should be cared for. The terms of the donation stated: “We earnestly wish that the wild bees be undisturbed. May all occupiers of the property be requested to refrain from using poisonous sprays and preparations for the control of pests and advice on harmless methods be sought.”

While Plas yn Rhiw lies in its own milder micro-climate on the Llŷn Peninsula than might be expected in a coastal location, it still faces high winds and heavy rainfall.

Over the last 200 years the slate roof has been repaired in small patches, but recent severe weather has caused it to deteriorate. Now requiring a complete new roof, the work will be carried out in sections. The existing slates will be reused where possible as well as over 4,000 new Welsh slates from the Penrhyn quarry.

Bees in the Roof

It is uncommon to find bees in roof spaces, and more typical with old houses for bats to be accommodated when new roofs are needed.

Plas yn Rhiw is home to common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle and whiskered/Brandt’s bats which are also being protected during the re-roofing project.

In addition to maintaining access for the bats which roost in the roof, additional small gaps around the eaves and under the slates at the ends of the building will be carefully added so the bees can return to their old home.

The beekeepers will then bring the hives back to Plas yn Rhiw’s orchard later this spring and allow the bees to find their own way back into their former home.

Once completed, the newly watertight roof will also allow the house to become more energy efficient, reduce the humidity risk to the collection and redecoration of the rooms worst affected by the failing roof.

>> Read about more historic re-roofs in the news

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