Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Taketh away and giveth to

Hello out there,
The original name of this post was going to be "Trouble in beeville!" but then a miracle happened.

So because you can read you may know we went on honeymoon in the last couple of weeks. While we were gone my bees were invaded by the wax moth (Galleria mellonia L.)

The wax moth enters the hive and lays eggs which then hatch into larvae that eat until there is no more to eat. The larval stage spends it's time burrowing through the comb eating the wax and other debris it encounters until it can spin a cocoon until the final adult stage where then it flies out of the hive to mate starting the cycle over again. Joy, hurray for them.

As it turns out this was a disaster for Hive 2. I discovered this upon a check of the hives which usually start with a peek from below just to see 'whatever'. At ground level when you stick your head up under the hive you can see some of the comb, smell the hive and hear them buzzing which is a good indicator of their mood ie. Chainsaw = upset, slight humming = all is well.

Anyway so I'm there staring upward and I hear nothing but an individual buzz just ever so often. Hmm. I blow up into the hive which usually starts the chainsaw, but this time nothing happened.My heart sank, I felt a chill and thought the worst. And despite how I like to be right, I was right in my flash-of-a-thought estimation of the destruction I was about to witness.

Pitiful is a word that describes what I viewed when I took the inner cover off of Hive 2. Looking down into the frames all that could be seen was webbing and darkened wax. There were cocoons in all the corners and many larvae were moving about no doubt jockeying for more destruction. I lifted the frames out and they were so light, very different from a comb full of brood and honey.

I was revolted. And angry. And sad for my bees. There were maybe a dozen bees clinging to the only remaining comb not wrapped in webbing. Huddled there, lost with no queen, they waited for death. Stranded like castaways, too young to leave, too old to become queen they waited for another to arrive with nectar for them to process to honey. They waited for eggs to tend which would not arrive. They waited. And then I arrived. Can you imagine the dismay? "Oh it's just the smoke god."

I tapped them off of that comb and onto the front porch of the other hive. They entered and were probably ok as 'drift' occurs quite a bit and a random bee can be accepted by a hive usually with little or no problem. At least they will have something to do and I was happy for them.

Speaking of the other hive they were a bit better with one frame of comb infested with larvae. The other 4 frames were still ok so I just removed it and looked for the queen whom I found so that's much better news.

Part 2 - A phone call away
By nows I've depressed you and I'm sorry for that. You show up here for a good time and that last story was a pretty depressing thing to hear about but I have news. Good news.

Today I got a phone call from a friend and fellow firefighter in my town about a swarm in his backyard. Knowing I had bees he wanted to know if I wanted to come get them. The price was right and of course I said yes as I had read volumes on how to catch swarms and due to the events from the previous week I took it as a sign.

Whoowee I was a bit nervous. I was armed with the best academic knowledge the internet can belch forth, but still, you know, you ain't seen nothin' til you're down on a muffin as it were. I had my Tyvek suit, bonnet, smoker and (now) spare hive. I also packed along a spray bottle full of sugar water to spray on the bees to give them something to do while they were being snared.

I drove up and was met by his two sons who had discovered the swarm. I was escorted to a good size oak tree where the swarm hung on a branch about 7 feet in the air. It was almost silent and there were only a few bees buzzing about. The rest all clung to each other under the branch, waiting (we've been here before haven't we?)

As a side explanation don't be afraid of swarms. If you see a big ball of bees in a bush or tree they are traveling to somewhere else probably. They are calm and have only one thing in mind--stay with the others. They conserve energy and ball together for warmth as well. Just don't go up and try to put them in a box and you'll be ok.

Ok back to the story. So I took a hive that I was going to collect them in and put it under the branch. Then after donning the bonnet and Tyvek suit I lit the smoker. Once near the bees I started to squirt them with the sugar water and I could see the swarm kind of shiver every time a squirt hit them. I took a frame out of the hive and was using it to scrape big balls of bees off of the branch and into the hive below. It was awesome! They couldn't care less about what was happening to them being all covered in sugar.

It took many mini balls of bees before most of them were off the branch and into the box. I brought the hive down to the ground where I got some help putting the top on while I held the hive. And that was it. I had a big ol' box of bees ready for transport.

So mother nature took and then gave. Yin and yang come together again. The world did not end but continued as it always has. For me once again I have to remind myself that things are going to happen, good things and bad things, but always things. This is life and and you can spend it worrying about the bad things or enjoy the good things. You decide which you like best.

To end this story I put the whole hive on the hive stand. It's plugged for now (meaning the front hole has a stick in it and the top is covered so they will stay inside.) Hopefully in a few days when I check them they are still calm and have moved in (we've been here too haven't we?)

I'll let you know what happens no doubt. Thanks for stopping by!


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