Monday, March 19, 2012

Know Your Local Bees: A Cautionary Tale, Episode II, Part 1

Saturday, March 17th, did not bring me the luck of the Irish.

I started out without my gloves (they're still lost) and got a sting on my bare left hand. Ouch. Yes, I'm a whiny baby.

At about 8:15 a.m. Mark's phone rang, and since he was out busting beaver dams, I picked up the call. A swarm out in the Steens area, in a 91-year-old granny's ash box on her chimney, right by the front door. Now, those of you who know me understand I have a soft spot for grannies. Apparently the bees were causing enough of a problem for her going in and out of the front door that her granddaughter wanted them gone.

After lunch, we loaded up the truck for a 2-part adventure in beekeping. Part 1 ended up being so dramatic that Part 2 will have its own post.

Yes, friends, it's time for the next installment in "Know your Local Bees: A Cautionary Tale."

Imagine a brick house with a yard surrounded by blooming trees and shrubs: dogwood, wisteria, red bud, azaleas, camellias. "If I were a swarm I'd come here," I said to Mark. "This place is bee heaven."

Little did I know it was far from heaven . . . in the opposite direction of heaven, in fact.

We thought it was a swarm. They said it was a swarm, that it had been around back the day before and had ended up out front.

Mark got set up for a swarm removal.

We had to remove the Guard Gnome to get to the bees.
 Mark got his bush clippers and cut back the bush so he could get closer to the action.
Mark set a hive box close by for scooping bees into.

Unlike last year's cautionary tale, this time he brought his smoker!
As soon as Mark opened the door . . .

he said, "This is not a swarm."

And was he ever right.

But there was a 91-year-old granny sitting on a chair behind her glass door watching the proceedings while eating her lunch. "Move over so I can see," she said to me at one point. So it's not like we could just close it up and tell her to call an exterminator.

Beekeeper Yoga ensued.

My wonderful husband proceeded to carefully remove several large pieces of comb from her ash box, all the while vacuuming bees.

I thought the brood pattern was shaped like a pear. Did I mention it was hot outside?
Once I started cutting the comb and attempting to put it in the hive box, propped between frames, my gloves got so nasty the photo-taking stopped.

Yes, we attempted to vacuum up bees. The first transfer saw them all boiling back out of the hive box, which was reminiscent of last year's debacle. On the second attempt I sprayed them with sugar water while he transferred them, to deter their flight somewhat.

We worked for over two hours, I think. it was over 90 degrees out when we drove away. We left two hive boxes facing each other, with hopes that the queen was in one of them, and the bees would find her. It's unlikely we got her out of the ash box, but we tried our best. If we didn't get a queen, we'll newspaper combine these bees with a strong hive that has a good queen.

The granny said, "You're not going to leave that mess, are you?" (Of course not!)

So we found a hose and sprayed all the dead bees and honey drips from her sidewalk, cleaned up our equipment, and drove away.

Part 2 begins with her neighbor down the road saying, "If you'd have asked me, I'd have told you those bees have been there three or four years."

When will we learn?

An update on Monday afternoon.: the granddaughter called Mark to come and remove the boxes. While he was en route, she called and said she'd sprayed everything down with pesticide. Including our equipment, which will have to be burned. Including the drawn out frames of comb, which are like beekeeper's gold.

All ruined, because she wouldn't wait 20 minutes for him to get there.

All that work for nothing, and the money wasted to boot -- deep boxes, bottom boards, tops, screens -- several hundred dollars worth of equipment ruined.

We're both just sick. So sad.

This bee season is not off to a very good start.

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