Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Moving the Bees

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This past spring, our backyard bee population got a little bit out of control.

I had the bright idea to solve this problem by offering to host beehives at some of our neighbors' homes.  They'd enjoy the bees, I'd do the work, and we'd split the honey.

Seemed like a good idea, right?  Unfortunately a summer of tenacious illnesses meant that I was a neglectful beekeeper.  Also, one of my bee "clients" turned out to be terribly afraid of bees.

So, last night, Robb and I suited up and removed the hive from that neighbor's yard.  We built cardboard lids to cap the individual boxes, and wrapped all of those boxes in old bedsheets.  We tried to be as methodical as possible, considering that we were working in the dark.  (We needed to do this work when all the bees were in the hive, so that we'd actually collect as many we could.)

Overall, this worked reasonably well. The bees were not particularly happy with us, but we kept them fairly well-contained.  Hive boxes full of bees are incredibly heavy and awkward to carry.  Despite our efforts at capping the boxes, angry bees still got out, so I couldn't brace the sheet-wrapped boxes against my body.  We were working in a dark garden, trying not to trample the homeowners' artichoke plants.

Remarkably, nobody got stung until we were back at our house, and had the hives re-assembled.  Bees got inside of the hood of Robb's bee suit, and stung him on the neck and scalp. Once bees sting, they release an alarm scent that tells all the other bees to come defend the hive.  If a bee stings you on the head, there's a good chance that her five thousand friends are going to come racing to do battle on your head.

We got the hive set up, more or less.  The bees were agitated, it was dark, and we were running out of calmness.  We ditched our beekeeping gear in the back yard and called it a night.

We'll deal with the last of the clean up in the light of day.


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A few further thoughts: There's a reason that beekeepers traditionally wear white suits. To my way of thinking, this has everything to do with being able to see if a bee is crawling into the crook of your elbow, or between your legs.  I need to buy pale colored pants.

Robb needs to get a bee suit with an attached hood.  His current hood has a not-very-effective drawstring, that allows bees to crawl inside his clothes.

I also need to resist the urge to "do a little bit of cleaning up" whilst wearing my pajamas and flip-flops.  Bees can and will climb up inside my pants, which is both uncanny and potentially dangerous.

3 comments:

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

You're brave! There was a guy here in the mountains a couple of years ago that disturbed one of his hives in the dark. He learned the hard way that bees can be more aggressive after nightfall if they're disturbed, and they had to life-flight that beekeeper out! I'm glad you were able to keep your girls more or less contained though. I'm just not sure I would have been brave enough to move bees in the dark! We'll need to think about our hive set up before spring too, as we had more than our fair share of swarms here last season, despite splits!

Trina said...

We still have a spot for a hive if you want to move one! :)

Jessica said...

Bees! Oh, I have been really tempted to start up beekeeping, but I think for now, I'll just add to my ever-growing bucket list, hehe.

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