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Friend not foe: The mole catcher who gets a buzz out of rehoming pest pals

PUBLISHED: 06:30 10 July 2020 | UPDATED: 08:35 10 July 2020

Louise Chapman, who's rescuing bees as well as catching moles. Pic: subitted

Louise Chapman, who's rescuing bees as well as catching moles. Pic: subitted

Norfolk’s Lady Mole Catcher is normally an unwelcome sight for garden pests – but for one species, that’s about to change.

Under the roof tiles in this house in Hethel were 85,000 aggressive Italian bees. Pic: Buzz OffUnder the roof tiles in this house in Hethel were 85,000 aggressive Italian bees. Pic: Buzz Off

That’s because Louise Chapman, who has been catching moles since 2014, earning her the nickname, has just launched a new business – catching and rehoming honey bees.

Ms Chapman, whose business Buzz Off is based at the Union Building in Rose Lane, Norwich, now specialises in the removal of bees from properties and gardens across Norfolk, which she then, because of the need to keep them safe, rehomes in hives with beekeepers.

It is a far cry from some of the rather more deadly pests she’s had to deal with – previously working in Australia getting rid of crocodiles, venomous snakes, spiders and even wild pigs from people’s places of work and homes.

But being faced with 85,000 aggressive bees, as she was on one job recently at a house in Hethel, is not easy either.

Louise Chapman, who's rescuing bees as well as catching moles. Pic: subittedLouise Chapman, who's rescuing bees as well as catching moles. Pic: subitted

However, Ms Chapman, who was initially an English and drama teacher, is unfazed at dealing with the sight of swarms.

She said: “Mother nature always teaches me many new things every day and for that I am forever blessed. I hadn’t considered that starting my business as a mole catcher would have led me to create a business that really is a game changer for the future of our world.”

When honey bee swarms have set up home in chimneys and wall cavities, rehoming them due to nuisance, structural damage or work prevention reasons is not an easy task, she said.

Killing bees with insecticides is no longer appropriate due to environmental reasons, which prompted Ms Chapman to think of setting up a business which removes, but doesn’t harm, them.

Bees and their honeycomb at a house in Clenchwarton. Pic: Buzz OffBees and their honeycomb at a house in Clenchwarton. Pic: Buzz Off

She uses a drone to view the problem and then thermal imaging to pinpoint exactly where the bees are if inside a chimney or building. Wearing full protective clothing, she then removes the bees using equipment that’s a bit like a vacuum cleaner, sucking them out, straight into a safe bee box to be transported to a hive.

She said: “Sadly, bee numbers are falling across the UK and around the world. Honey bees are vitally important for flower pollination.

“Of the 100 crop species that provide 90pc of the world’s food, more than 70pc are pollinated by bees. It is therefore vitally important that we take care of our bees.”

Bees swarming under the roof tiles at a house in Hethel. Pic: Buzz OffBees swarming under the roof tiles at a house in Hethel. Pic: Buzz Off

The buzzword on honeybees:

As the honeycomb is a food source for bees, any contamination by pesticides or insecticides can have severe consequences.

Once honey bees have created a honeycomb the structure is protected by UK law. The longer a colony is in situ, the larger the honeycomb, which provides a significant challenge for removing the insects and their structures legally and responsibly.

Chemical insecticides are now being phased out or restricted, in accordance with regulations and incorrect removal or illegal treatment of a honeycomb could result in a fine of up to £25,000.

Removing the bees without causing harm to them. Pic: Buzz Off.Removing the bees without causing harm to them. Pic: Buzz Off.

Honey bees naturally swarm during the end of April to the middle of June and can often be seen hanging in trees, bushes or on walls as they travel en route to the new home that they have chosen.

Local bee keepers will happily remove swarms that hang in these spaces, but they cannot help when the bees have entered a building space and have started to build their honeycomb, said Ms Chapman.

A honey bee colony will continue to grow each year. The average size is around 50,000 bees, which has the potential to produce around six litres of honey.

Where the bees end up, safely in a hive. Pic: Buzz OffWhere the bees end up, safely in a hive. Pic: Buzz Off

Louise Chapman, who's rescuing bees as well as catching moles. Pic: submittedLouise Chapman, who's rescuing bees as well as catching moles. Pic: submitted

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