This is serious - read on to the end!
In May 2009 one of our Wisborough Green BKA members was asked to look at some bees in a barn with a view to removing them, as there was going to be a family event held in the barn later in the summer. I am well known locally for removing bees from difficult places and the member felt she couldn't do it herself, so wanted advice. On arrival I was shown the end of the barn where the bees were. They were going in several holes and on seeing where the structural woodwork was, I soon realised there were at least three colonies involved.
I though I would use it for demonstration purposes and arranged for 6 other beekeepers to help. We removed the weatherboarding to reveal 4 colonies, although one wasn't worth saving. It didn't make sense to me that bees would nest so close to other colonies that would compete with them for food. I have taken many wild colonies, but have never seen so many nesting so close before. Even during the time we were removing the bees there were several other places on the barn that scouts were checking on. There were 11 swarms or colonies that were associated with the barn in 2009.
At about that time I was asked by the Editor of Bee Improvement Magazine to look at an article submitted by BIBBA member John Harding, with a view to putting it on the BIBBA website, that I was web editor of. In amongst the article was reference to "geopathic stress lines", giving John's findings that bees placed on them have a lower varroa count than those that aren't. I did a websearch on geopathic stress lines and was a bit confused by the results. Some sources suggested they were the same as ley lines. I remembered that about 30 years previously I had read a magazine (not beekeeping) article about ley lines and that some creatures were attracted to them, others were repelled. I had a chance to pass close to John Harding's home, so I visited him. He told me about his findings and how with several hundred colonies he hadn't treated for varroa for several years. He got his divining rods, that were made out of coat hangers and showed me how he picked the lines up. I tried and to my surprise I picked up the same lines he did!
When I returned home I made a couple of divining rods, tried them out and headed for the barn. One ley line went through the end of the barn and several crossed it in exactly the same places as the bees had nested. I subsequently realised the barn was on a high concentration of ley lines.
I made several calls to John Harding to discuss what had happened and he wasn't surprised at all. He told me that oak trees also grew on them. I did a bit more research and found that ley lines were rediscovered in modern times around 1920 by Alfred Watkins, who had written several books about them, including "The Old Straight Track". He is also credited with being a founder member of Herefordshire BKA.
I know very little about ley lines, only that they are some form of energy that comes out of the ground. Searching for information soon involves you with the spiritual side that I have little interest in. I have to say I'm still a bit sceptical as there are several elements that I struggle to understand. Ley lines are very straight and quite narrow, most of those I have found seem to be about 1ft or less wide, being at random. I have followed them across large fields and my guess is they are very much longer.
My technique for finding them is simple. I concentrate on what I am looking for. On many occasions I have concentrated on other things as a control and I have had no reaction from my rods. I have tried to find other things and am in general successful. I am in no doubt that you have to practice regularly.
Now back to bees. Since 2009 I have checked every place I know where a swarm has settled and everywhere a wild colony has set up home. They are all on a place where at least two ley lines cross, usually more. In July 2011 I was called out to a swarm on the ground. It was where at least 8 ley lines crossed. In February 2013 I was asked by an ecologist to look at a "wild colony in a tree". When I got there it was in the branches of a tree that had blown down and the nest was in the open. I found it was immediately over where at least 13 ley lines crossed. It was only a short distance from houses, where there were many better places to build a nest. I have seen many honey bee nests that have been built in the open, all of which have a higher number of ley lines crossing through them than those in cavities do, suggesting the concentration is like a magnet to them. The least I have come across is 8, the most the 13 mentioned above.
I have checked several hundred sites and I haven't had one negative so far. I have spoken to beekeepers who say they always have swarms settle in the same places. I have a pretty good record of finding them.
I place all my bait hives where two or more ley lines cross and am very successful in catching swarms.
I have removed a large number of wild colonies where they have built their nest in a site they have chosen themselves. The direction of combs varies considerably, even if in the same wall as another. I soon discovered the combs are built in the direction of one of the ley lines. I am now able to predict the possible directions as they follow the ley lines. This is before I am able to see which direction they are in.
In July 2015 I visited the Dover and District BKA to give a Bee Improvement Presentation. They had a Top Bar Hive in their apiary that we looked at. The bees had built the combs part way in the direction of the top bars, then veered off at an angle of about 30-40°. I had a hunch the bees had changed direction due to a ley line, so I got my rods out of the car and to my surprise I found 5 ley lines passing through a point a couple of feet away from the centre of the nest, with one in line with the direction the bees had built the stray comb, with none in the direction of the top bars. We moved the hive a couple of feet, but rotated it in line with the ley line the bees had built the stray comb in. The person in charge of the TBH removed the comb that was in the "wrong" direction and I had an email a week later saying the bees had now built the comb in line with the top bars.
As an engineer I have always thought the work on bee navigation and communication done by Karl von Frisch didn't explain fully what was happening and there may be more to it that hasn't been discovered. For an insect to be told by another insect how to visit a food source a mile or more away and return with pinpoint accuracy is incredible. It seems likely it may need some more help. Now let's take the situation in the U.K. at least. I have checked John Harding's theory and all the naturally grown oak trees I have checked are on 2 or more ley lines, many on 4-5. Many wild honey bee colonies nest in cavities in oak trees. My thinking is that ley lines and other markers are likely to be fixed, but the sun, that is central to the discoveries of von Frisch is constantly moving. Could it be that as ley lines are straight the bees are using all this information together? In no way am I trying to discredit von Frisch's work, merely suggesting something else may be enhancing it.
I have only ever seen two drone assemblies, once in my early beekeeping years and one in July 2013. The latter was over so many ley lines it was impossible for me to count them all. Could it be that both drones and queens follow ley lines to the assemblies?
I suspect there have been many attempts to research ley lines, but there is little reliable information - I wish there was. I know what I am finding, but I have no explanations. I have done some tests to show that I'm not finding water pipes as some think.
What I need to do is to check on colonies during the summer to see if there are any queen cells. If I can, that would probably impress me. It might even impress the bees too!
I have checked a number of wasp nests to see if they are built on ley lines. I have found some that have been on one, especially if they share the same cavity in a wall of a building with bees, but so far I have not come across one that is in a position where two or more cross, as happens with honey bees. The vast majority of wasp nests I have checked are not on ley lines, suggesting to me that wasps don't use ley lines in the same way that honey bees do. I don't believe bumblebees do either.
I have been asked to do several talks on the subject and I have now developed a lecture on it. If anyone is interested in it as a subject for an evening event or a convention please email me.
I'm grateful to John Harding for bringing this to my attention. It has added to my interest and possibly further understanding of honey bees.
A note for the sceptics
I am not particularly good at divining and only use it for my own purposes. I can absolutely guarantee that what is written above is truthful. I understand why you may not believe in ley lines and I respect your view. I understand how difficult it is to deal with something you can't see - I was sceptical once. There were many at the time who disbelieved von Frisch's discoveries and some still do.