To update the story of Allie's poisoned beehive: this is what I found, when I got to Allie's house. Thousands and thousands of dead bees, littering the area in front of the hive. There were tons of bees, dead in the grass, but my grass photos weren't particularly clear. Dead bees in the grass look remarkably like dirt. Trust me when I tell you that there was a six-foot-square patch of dead bees, right in front of the hive.
Allie and I suspect that someone came into her yard and started spraying the entrance of her hive with insecticide. The bees released their "alarm pheromones" and more and more bees poured out of the hive in response. The spraying probably continued until the bees overpowered the sprayer, and stung this person so much that they ran away.
Here's what it looked like inside the hive. A carpet of death. Horrible and senseless.
Honeybees are not aggressive toward humans. Robb and I keep two vigorous hives in a small urban back yard, and none of our neighbors have ever complained about trouble with bees. In fact, when we gave everyone honey for Christmas, most everyone was surprised that we even had bees (our immediate next-door neighbors already knew, of course).
I had a heavy heart, and low expectations for Allie's hive. Robb and I had packed up a frame of freshly laid eggs, from one of our hives. The idea was that if any bees survived, they might be able to raise a new generation of young from those eggs. Furthermore, if Allie's queen had been poisoned, the bees could potentially raise new queens from the donated eggs. Robb and I placed the frame of eggs, and the "nurse bees" that were tending the eggs inside of our swarm-catching box, and I drove out to Martinez, to see what could be done.
The bees hummed in the back of my car, and I thought dire thoughts about bees and humans.
Considering the carnage evident at the entrance to the hive, I had no expectations of finding any live bees, so you can imagine my surprise when I opened the hive up and saw large numbers of bees, going about their business. I had anticipated finding only a few survivors, mostly going through their death-throes.
Allie had identified a particularly secluded part of her yard, that would be unseen by any neighbors, and Robb had provided a new "landing board" for the bees. We figured that we ought to replace any of the wooden parts of the hive that might have been sprayed with insecticide.
Once we determined that there were live bees, I did a cursory inspection of the hive.
Astonishingly, I spotted Allie's queen.
I was shocked. I never see my own queens, and yet somehow, Allie's queens always walk right up to me. Queen bees are larger than their daughters, and move with a purpose. Combine that with the fact that the sun was setting, and you get this blurry photograph. (The queen is centered on the bottom of the frame. She's larger and redder than any of the other bees.)
In the end, I added the frame of eggs to the hive, along with the nurse bees. I'm unsure if Allie's bees will accept my bees in their hive. There may be a bit of fighting, but at least there are some uncontaminated eggs. We agreed to leave the existing honey for the bees, hoping that it was far enough away from the spray to be safe for bees.
Allie spoke to the captain of her neighborhood watch, an imposing hulk of a man, who turns out to be a huge friend to bees. She plans to file a police report. She'll be improving the locks on her gate. And she plans to speak to all her neighbors. She's figured out a way of phrasing things so that the innocent ones will be alert to trespassers, and the guilty ones will be paranoid about the police. We had a good laugh about her alternate plan to go door-to-door, pretending to be fundraising for some good cause, and look to see which neighbors have bee-stings all over their faces.
So, we're cautiously optimistic. I'll go back next weekend, to check on the bees. Hopefully, I'll find a colony of bees, rebounding from this attack. What we're not clear about is how long-lasting the poison that was used on this hive might be.