Saturday, March 17, 2012

On the road again. . .

We're headed to Caledonia to see if some bees can be removed from a grandmother's house. Her granddaughter is worried that the granny will get stung.

It's March 17 & 80 degrees. I predict this will be Swarm Week 2012.

False Starts and Lessons Learned

Good morning, Saturday!
Our first swarm call ended up being no swarm -- just holly bushes that had been buzzing with happy bees in such numbers the homeowner thought it was a swarm. Or two.

Our second swarm call came the next day, and resulted in a drive to Caledonia. Unfortunately, upon arrival, Mark found out the supposedly massive swarm had moved into the man's house. Interestingly, now that they were in there, he didn't want them removed -- they were the second colony in his house, after all. More power to him, but as much as I enjoy bees I don't want them living in my walls.

The third swarm had Mark driving to the edge of Alabama on Friday night in a circuitous route because the GPS sent him to the wrong place. He'd been anxious to use his new swarm retrieval tool and finally got the chance.

He had bees in the bucket and bees in the screened box attached to the vacuum (yes, he has a bee vac built by the shop teacher from Kossuth). It was a huge swarm of bees.

When we rounded the corner to get to Bee Hill, our first problem of the morning was clear: beavers.

Persistent beavers plug up our drain in an attempt to make themselves a lovely pond. Of course Mark didn't have his beaver-dam-busting tools on the 4-wheeler -- it was loaded with bee stuff. He was annoyed.

He had to put the 4-wheeler in 4-wheel drive to get up the muddy bank of Bee Hill. I was wishing I'd had more coffee before this adventure.

As I attempted to take artistic pictures of clover (fail), I got stung on my left hand. Boo. I didn't take many photos after that because, well, my hand hurt and we had a serious case of learning the hard way.

One of the hives from our Heritage Academy art class project.

Preparing the hive to transfer the swarm.

Pouring in the bees.

The bucket was heavy, there were so many bees. Unfortunately, even though Mark had screened ventilation for them, there were so many bees they couldn't get enough air, and a couple of large handfuls of bees were dead. Mark felt terrible.

Then, the bees got really upset, as one would expect after spending the night in a bucket ghetto, gasping for air. I was already stung (that is, marked with "STING THIS" scent), so I tried to stay away from the melee that ensued -- bees were in the air, all over Mark, and landing on me with alarming regularity. Now, when I have gloves on and haven't been stung already, I feel relatively calm about this process, but today I was unnerved and anxious to finish up.

After Mark put the bees in, he had to take the bees out to scoop out the dead ones -- too many carcasses for the bees to push out on their own. We don't know if the queen survived.

By 8 a.m., we were back at the house and discouraged. The list of "shouldas" began. We should have put the bees in the box last night, in spite of the dark and need to move them the next day. We should have known there were too many bees for the amount of air and warmer night temperatures. We should have known we were violating their concept of space. We should always have an extra box with us, even when we're sure we won't need it . . . because we will.

We should have had more coffee.

One good thing -- we hope -- is that many of the frames we put in the beautifully painted hive box already have wax and honey. So, the bees that survived will have immediate access to food, and the queen (if she survived our novice treatment of her) will have a place to lay eggs.

We're hopeful, but a bit disheartened at the same time.

While I was typing, Mark's phone rang. A swarm call . . .

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

First Swarm Call of the Season

Birney Imes called Mark tonight -- two swarms on the same street in Columbus. We'll get his gear together tonight & he'll go first thing in the morning!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Diamonds are a bee's best friend

My friend Jana sent me a letter (yes, the kind in the mail) with information on this stunning ring.

Don't worry, it's not my style!

Thanks, Jana!

Image from