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, January 22, 2016

Emergency Hive

So I put one of my super-dooper flowerpot bait hive/swarm traps out last spring and promptly forgot about it. (Which is so like me!) When I finally remembered to check it in mid-summer, the hive was full of bees and thriving. It weighed about 20 pounds, hanging on a branch near my tiny apiary. I thought that maybe I ought to leave well enough alone rather than attempt to disassemble the bait hive and put the bees in a regular TBH or a Warré hive. I mean what would you do? Try to move 30 pounds of honeycombs and a buncha bees out of a couple of screwed-together paper maché flowerpots and risk damaging the whole colony?

Anyway, things were going pretty good until one morning in November when the thin rope holding the bait hive broke out of the top of it due to how heavy it had gotten, plus a little rain. The whole shebang dropped about six feet to the ground, but remained upright. Now the bees didn't seem to mind this at all, and they seemed to like the larger hole in the top of the flowerpot, it was a nicer entrance. But the weather here in Oregon was getting cold and rainy, puddles were forming on the ground around the crashed hive. I was in the middle of several other dire emergencies, but I knew I had better find them some better place to live -- immediately. I had no empty wooden equipment for them, and no time to use the table saw to build another Warré. I couldn't get to Glorybee to even buy a Lang box or two.

The next day I headed for my local big-box hardware store and got a large plastic bin big enough to cover the bait hive so that it would be protected from the weather until I could do justice to the colony with new digs. Well, in the middle of trying to fit the bin over the top of the hive, I had this flash of inspiration: If I just laid the bait hive on its side inside the bin and put the cover on it would be a very secure box for them to live in. (I remembered that beek wisdom: "It doesn't matter what kind of box you choose, it's what you put inside it.") Wallah, I had an instant bee hive!

It's been about 2 1/2 months now, the bees seem to like living in their bait hive/swarm trap on its side, The plastic bin is waterproof, snowproof, and protects them; and they are wintering over very healthily. The bees have a nice little entrance at the top of the bin where I made a nice big hole in the depression for the handle of the bin. (It's like the entrance is all roofed-over and has a little interior walkway for takeoffs.) I cut drain holes and ventilation holes in the bottom of the bin which seem to be working out very well. Sure, there's not a top bar or a frame/foundation or anything at all inside but the two flowerpots and a mess of natural-born combs. They are starting to build new combs outside between the flowerpots and the inside of the bin walls. They seem not to mind the haphazard nature of the whole set up. In a few weeks as it turns from winter to spring, I'll ask them if they want a regular hive. I can fix them a Biodynamic Lang or a new Warré by then. Maybe I'll rig it up on top of the plastic bin? Maybe I'll do some kind of fancy Frankenhive idea or combine them with another hive? Who knows?

Anyway, just for now, just during the rest of winter the emergency is over. The emergency hive is successful. I might even patent the idea.

P.S. The bees seem to like to land on the paper label on the bin before they climb into the entrance, or they land on the lid and then crawl down into the entrance gap. I'm considering building them a landing board. The bucket on top is the apiary's rain bucket (filled with corks that float in the water so they have a place to stand and drink.) It secures the bin lid so that storm winds don't blow it off. Yeah, it's a little messy around the hives. I know! I gotta rake up the debris from winter and generally police the area. It's still the middle of winter, this is the first day it hasn't been totally raining, and I'm totally into remodeling the kitchen.
 I religiously tend the Boardman feeders though, rain or shine. The bee gals are bringing in lots of Alder pollen right now; and with fair arriving earlier and earlier each year, we can look forward to lots more nectar soon.

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