There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. --- Henry David Thoreau

"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best -- " and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do,
there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called. -- The House at Pooh Corner

Friday, July 17, 2009

It's Hard Out There For A Bee

[Next post from the original first year blog. Edited to update it.]

I have to follow up with a sad story about that oak tree swarming. Just like clockwork the oak tree cast off a swarm right in the middle of the nectar flow. A nice fat swarm about the size of a basketball.

But they ignored the baited Warre` hive I had set up. Instead they headed directly to that same spot in the well house roof that had caused so many problems last year. They slipped in between the roof beams and set up housekeeping between the ceiling of the apartment upstairs (yeah, it's a real nice well house!) and the roof. My friend asked me to see if it was possible to "coax" them back out and perhaps rehive them somewhere else on the property. I was both excited and daunted at the prospect of my first trapout -- I'd have to remove some shingles,and set the one-way escape cone up right in a barely accessible point under the rafters. I had the idea that maybe some Bee-Quick would further entice the queen and her minions to leave. I decided to come back the next day with the proper equipment and get started.

The next morning my friend called and was excited to tell me the bees were vacating the well house and had balled up in a swarm right under the rafter where I had planned to begin trapping them. I hurried over. Sure enough almost the whole of the colony had vacated the interior and were balled up. I spent a while brushing the big colony into my bee box -- it was kind of awkward, what with the almost inaccessible area and being eight feet up on a ladder.

Got stung a couple of times, but I was congratulating myself on how I am starting to get the hang of this swarm capturing thing. I wasn't sure the queen was in the swarm, but I figured I could work out the details after I put the swarm in a hive at home. Either the queen was in there, or she'd just have to make her way out to the rafter area where I could come back and get her later in the day. At worst I could pick up some Bee-Quick at Glorybee the next day and convince her to come along with the rest of the girls.

I didn't really pay much attention to the large number of bees on the ground below, either immobile or slowly crawling in the grass.

I got the swarm home, and shook them all into the Warre', set up a feeding station and a water source. There were some slow bees in the box, so I left them there in the box outside the hive to make their way in. A few more bees were slowly crawling around below the hive entrance after I had everything set up.

The honeybees began dying. More bees were falling from the rafters at the well house that afternoon; and the hive at home was piling up with slowly crawling, dying honeybees. It was only then that I realized that the bees had initially swarmed into and occupied the same area where a year earlier the other swarm had taken up residence. My friend hadn't been able to remove them that time, and reluctantly had had to exterminate them with an insect spray. (The family had not yet been educated about honeybees back then.)

Yeah, I guess that insecticide had enough residue left to terminate this swarm too. I'm sure the queen and her attendants never made it out alive. After one more little ball of dying bees crawled out onto the rafter area, there was no more activity coming from the interior where they had gone in.

I did what I could, ... but really, what can you do that will remedy a situation like that? My friend was upset, and we were all saddened as we watched the poor honeybees over the course of the next few days. Slowly they either fell to the bottom board of the hive or flew off erratically to die out in the woods.

I'm beginning to think that first Warre` hive of mine is a hard luck hive. But that's just some kind of bee karma foolishness, really. Now that it's July, any swarm I catch and put in there wouldn't be worth a fly, as the rhyme goes. I refuse to give up yet.

However, the city bees and the country bees at Ed's rural Eagle's Rest garden are doing just fine. I dunno, I'm still getting a few calls from town to do cut-outs, which I'm ill prepared to do well. But I'll still try to rescue any straggling swarms that come to my attention. We'll figure out some way to hive 'em and get them through the winter if they can't build themselves up on the rest of the summer flow.

Yep ... hard out there for a bee.

No comments:

Post a Comment