Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bye bye bee bee, bye bye!

Recently our wonderful, garage dwelling, feral bees ran out of space and a drone cut a hole through the interior wall into the garage.  Bees not being the brightest, they then congregated around the rear window to the garage hoping that somehow the glass would disappear and they'd be able to go on their merry way. 

With nothing to do but wait for a mating flight, one drone decided to create a new exit and gets berated by a female worker for leaving the back door open

Unfortunately, we didn't enter the garage for a couple of days and it was cool and wet overnight.  As the bees only knew of their main entrance to the nest, they couldn't work out what to do and few hundred of them died from exposure over night before we realised what had happened.

We covered up the hole they'd made with copper slugga tape as it was all we had to hand, then covered the window with a tarp and opened the door so the surviving bees could make their way out.  Which they did, slooooowly, over the day.  My DH then had the sad task of sweeping up the deceased.

Just to show that they're not fast learners, a couple of days later the exact same thing happened and again we lost a few hundred bees.

Fortunately, I know David the bee man! :)

David and I hatched a plan to remove the bees from the garage and rehome them in his orchard.  We moved some bees from a small hive in his orchard into a larger one, so that we could use this in our plan and then it was on to stage B.

Moving frames to free up a hive, we check carefully to make sure that we haven't misplaced the queen in the process

After suiting up, we blocked off the external entrance to the nest by screwing on a piece of wood.  Underneath this entrance, we set up the small hive on top of my recycling bin to get it as close to being level with the entrance as possible.

Hive is placed on top of the recycling bin (kitchen now full of beer bottles...) and entrance hole in garage is covered up
Now came the completely unknown, where we needed to remove the panels from the inside of the garage wall and see what we were dealing with.

Carefully peeling away the slugga tape...  it's not just for keeping snails out of your veggies!  :)
First glimpse of the comb

First we smoked the bees to calm them and then, using a special knife (forever to be known as David's patented sawy-knife-thing), we cut from the hole the drone had made to the sides of the panel.  This allowed us to lift a flap and take a peek, as well as giving us a chance to better smoke the bees before continuing.

A busy feral  nest

Bees calm, we used a crow bar and the knife to cut around the panel to remove it completely.  There were a lot of combs and a helluva lot of bees, so it wasn't really a surprise that they needed another exit!

David cut out the comb and the bits with a lot of brood cells we carried it around the side of the garage to where we'd placed the hive.  David then held them in place so I could attach them into frames with the ever handy elastic bands, then we placed them into the new hive.  Any left over bits of comb were stuck in a bucket for dumping later.

Luckily, we actually managed to find the queen and capture her in David's little contraption which looks a bit like some sort of hair clip.  Placing this by the entrance to the hive meant that the bees outside were attracted by the queens phermones to the new hive.  The queen was big and healthy, plus the nest was very peaceful, so David wanted to keep the queen with the hive and once we'd removed all the brood she was allowed to enter her new home.

Queenie peeks out of her hairclip trap

Worker bees let their mates know their new address - cheaper than a group SMS
Despite there being some interesting moments, like when a huge piece of comb broke loose and fell on David's back, dumping bees all over him, the only stings we got were a minor one on my hip due to a bee that can only be described as stupid climbing up my jacket and then trying to go down my jeans, and one on David's ankle from the typical bee in shoe hazard.

The clever bees follow the queen into the new hive
The stupid bees don't
After checking behind some of the other wall panels and cleaning out the nest of pieces of comb and a little bit of left over honey, we then had a go at encouraging the bees gathering by their closed up entrance to go to the hive. In essence, this involved smoking them and then sweeping them on to a piece of cardboard so we could dump them at the door to the hive!

Final stage involved leaving the hive in place for a couple of days to give the stragglers a chance to get with the new program, before David came to collect it after dark.  As it was hot, many of the bees decided to sleep outside the entrance to the hive and had to be encouraged inside with some "rain" from a squirty bottle.  Once we'd gathered those we could, the door to the hive was closed and carted down the hill to David's car for their trip to their new home.

Sadly, a couple of hundred bees couldn't be encouraged into the hive and have slowly died of exposure over the past week.  This morning there were only 4 there and I suspect that tomorrow they'll be gone.

The bees couldn't be housed where they were and I do not have a hive, nor the equipment to care for them properly.  Yet I really miss them.  

I miss checking how they are in the morning as a gauge for the day's weather.  I miss their happy buzzing round the garden, looking for bee forage and visiting the insectories my children planted.  I miss visiting the frog pond and seeing groups of them coming in for a drink.

In fact, I feel bereft.

My DH also misses them and has been asking when we'll be getting bees of our own.  It's unlikely to happen in the next year, so in the meantime we will be paying our old friends regular visits at David's orchard and perhaps feeding his lamas or munching on his fruit in the meantime :)

Nom, nom, nom... lolz ;)

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