Saturday, April 14, 2012

We Have Our First Bees!

A couple days ago The Other Mark called to say he had responded to an opportunity to remove a colony of bees from someone’s house. The notice was posted on the local beekeeping group’s listserv and he jumped right in to say we were on it. We loaded up all the equipment we could think of that we might need and headed to the home to check it out and possibly even do the removal right away.

When we got there it was sunny and warm enough that the bees were flying in and out of a hole in the siding waaaaay up on the second floor.

Fortunately the wall was an exterior screen wall and was easily accessible from the narrow, top-floor deck. After some discussion we decided to postpone attempting to remove it for a couple of days to wait for cooler, overcast weather and an earlier morning start.

So, this morning we packed up again and headed to the home. When we arrived a peek over the wall revealed that only a couple of guard bees were outside the opening and none could be seen flying around. We had listened with a stethoscope previously to guess at the extent of the colony and planned to start removing siding boards at the bottom and work our way up to try to catch the queen if she ran down when the wall was opened.


We all know, of course, that no matter how you plan, there are usually some surprises along the way. When we removed the first siding board thinking we were going to be looking at honeycomb and joists we instead were confronted with a layer of plywood sheathing.  It’s apparent on the left where the wood is damaged from the moisture of the hive inside.

Fortunately the homeowner had a circular saw and with a few deft cuts we were back in business and had the wall open. The colony appeared to be limited to the outermost space between the joists.


With the wood completely off, we could see that the honeycomb hung approximately three feet down. The Other Mark started cutting off sections and we bundled them into frames with string and rubber bands and placed them in the hive bodies we had brought along.


Since this was when things started to get really busy and really sticky, I didn’t take many more pictures of the process. The homeowners, however had front row seats behind the window and watched the entire rescue, taking pictures and fetching us the occasional useful item.  During the time we were working, the bees were remarkably gentle. There were moments when there were quite a few flying around us, but I only noticed a couple times that they were bumping my mask. I didn’t get any stings and The Other Mark had only one fingertip sting when he was cutting.

The colony turned out to be four layers of comb and in the end, we filled up two ten-frame medium hive bodies with lots of comb full of eggs, brood, honey and pollen. They’re pretty messed up at the moment so I hope the bees can clean up and sort things out in their new home. We’re not entirely sure we got the queen but think she might have been in one of the first clumps of bees we dumped in the hive body. Fingers are crossed.

The homeowners couldn’t have been more gracious. When we were all done with the rescue  they served us lemonade and we tasted the honey from a clean section of comb that Mark had saved. It was delicious—sweet and remarkably floral!

We securely taped together the hive and drove it to our first apiary where we’d prepared to put our package bees.  This hive has been christened Mary in honor of the homeowner. She wanted to keep the bees alive rather than have them exterminated since she’s become aware of the plight of honeybees over the past several years. The bottom two blue hive bodies contain the comb we removed from the wall. The one above it has empty frames in case they decide they still need more room to expand and the top on is where we placed the comb we couldn’t fit in the boxes for them to clean out and utilize.

After they’ve had some time to settle in we’ll check to see how they’re doing, hopefully finding eggs indicating the queen is in there, alive and well. For now they’ve got a big enough task reorienting to their new surroundings and just figuring out how to get in and out of the hive.

2 Responses:

Anita said...

What a great way to get your first colony! I'm so glad the homeowner called a beekeeper and you got to save those bees. I'm sure they are going to love their new home and your wonderful gardens.

Mil said...

Great education! Now you know how to do a cut out!