Bee on my privet

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bees in a Pole - the sequel

  Let me tell you a story. A story of desperation, hard work and perseverance.

  I begins in a wooded lot on the other side of town (not your town, mine). If you read my last post then you have a pretty good idea of what is going on here. I sometimes do silly things like for instance post things in Craigslist like "Will remove bees, swarms and hives for free.". While this generally does not lead to any real difficulties, there is always that one time.
 This, is that one time.
 I post the afore mentioned post on Craigslist. A few days later I get a call. A guy wants me to remove a hive of bees. Now as a beekeeper, a hive is a box where the bees live. He tells me it is  a thriving colony. Great, I say to myself, some nice easy free bees and they come in a hive! After speaking with him a few minutes, I realize this is not going to be as easy as it seems. So I head to the site (You know, the wooded lot mentioned earlier) and size it up.
 I arrive and check it out. Sure enough there is an old steel gate post full of bees. I think to myself, this should not be to hard and tell the guy I will get them out as soon as I can.
 Several scenarios entered my mind on how to successfully remove this colony. None of them ended up being the final conclusion to this epic rehoming saga.
  Here is how it went down.
  A few weeks ago I show up with plans to take the bees home. The bees wanted none of this and refused to go in the pipe so I could close it off. We went home empty handed.
 The night before last I head out there with some proper bee equipment (smoker and such) and smoke them. They grudgingly go into the pole and I screen it up.
  Now imagine this if you will. I have my truck, an inverter (a doohickey that converts 12 volt car electricity to 115volt household electricity), and finally a recently purchased 7" angle grinder with metal cutoff wheels. Also the angle grinder was bought at Harbor Freight. Those of you who have used Harbor Freight tools probably know what is going to happen here shortly.
  I did test this setup at the house prior to heading to the site. It errrr worked-ish. So at the "hive" I hook up said equipment and head over tot he post and get to cutting. Hmmm seems that when I get into it a bit it draws too much power for the inverter to handle. After turning the inverter off and on like 25 times, we give it up open up the hive and head home.
 Last night we return again we screen the entrances. But this time I have a 5kw generator. Hehehe Should be no sweat, right? Wrong. After getting about 4 inches around what is a 30" circumference post the angle grinder gives up the ghost. Ahh Harbor Freight power tools. So I leave the bees screened in and head home.
 This morning I arrive with the sun at Harbor Freight and trade my non functioning angle grinder in for a fresh new one. Again, we head over to the bees. Again I get to cutting. Poor bees. This time, however, everything goes according to plan and I manage to cut all the way around the post. At this point I realize the wall thickness on this thing is 1/2". No wonder it took so long to cut it. I would guess it took at least 45 minutes to cut all the way around the post. 45 long chigger and spark filled minutes. I also took breaks to allow the pole to cool so the bees would not overheat.
 While I am cutting it, I slide shims in the crack to keep the post level while I am cutting and to prevent the blade from pinching. After I get it cut off, I figure I will pick it up a little and have my son slide a piece of screen under it to keep the bees in. Lets just say that the pole probably outweighed me and it did not budge.
 Time to bring out the heavy stuff. I have a roll around A frame that has a 6' I-beam at the top that I can roll a chain hoist on. We drag it out of the truck and assemble it like a giant Erector Set. Now again let me set the stage here. I am on a "paved" road and the post is about 10 feet into the woods. My crane has 6" solid tires. It did not exactly roll into place but we got it. I wrap the chain fall chain around the post and clip it to itself. I begin to hoist it up. Here is where, in hindsight, I could have saved myself a load of issues. Instead of leaving it just clipped to itself, I should have tied I rope to the other side of the chain to balance the load. I didn't and pandemonium ensued. I started up with the hoist and as the last bit of uncut metal separated, the entire post quickly and violently came off the base and skewed at a 30 degree angle. There is now a nine inch hole out of which thousands of very excited bees rapidly exited. We didn't stick around to watch.
 After the bees kind of calmed down, I went back in and attached a screen to the bottom of the post.
 Now, I have to say, these bees are taking all this very well. I have not been stung or really harassed this whole time except once at the very start of this. I am working in shorts and a t-shirt with no veil.
 Getting the gantry in the woods was hard, getting it back out with several hundred pounds of steel and bees was a miracle. Especially with a whole load of bees buzzing all over the place. I would like to take time out to thank my wife for helping get this out of the woods and on to what passes for a road in that place.
 It gets easier now. We hoist it into the truck and tie it down and drive it home. After we get it home I hoist it back out and on to the ground. Unfortunately some comb was damaged and honey leaked out into the truck bed. I kind of muscle it into its temporary place (till I figure out how to get them to move into a lighter and more accessible hive) and open all the screens. They are currently repairing the damage I caused and out collecting nectar and pollen. I am glad they are finally here. I can't stop watching them. They are such a busy hive.
Here they are heavily bearding as the sun hits the post.

A close up of the beard.

A temporary resting place. I should probably level it out.


Here they are still strapped down in the truck.
A really big gate post.

The A-frame. The chain fall is in the bucket.
Look at how thick this steel is!!
The obligatory SHBs lurking in the bottom.
Well, this is where it's at till I figure out what to do with them next.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Pole Bees

 I got a call a couple of weeks ago about some bees in a fence post.  Actually I was told I could come get a hive of bees. I was thinking "Great! A hive of bees free for the taking". After talking to the guy I begin to realize that it is not going to be so easy after all.
 Apparently they are beginning construction on this land soon for a youth athletics park. Just inside the fence is an old gate. A gate the likes of which they do not make anymore. Why don't they make them anymore? Because they don't need to. The ones they made are all still in service. Even the one with the bees in it still works. I think it was for a rail road bed but I am not sure. None the less, this is the heartiest gate post I have ever witnessed.

As you can plainly see, this is not your average gate post. It harkens to the great gate posts of yore.
 I went out one night a few weeks ago to size this thing up. There are tons of bees in it. It is a thriving colony. It is also surrounded by Chinese tallow and all kinds of wild trees and plants.
 My first thought was to cover all the holes then connect a box to the top hole with a short length of hose and slowly fill the post with water and then just take the bees. I am not sure if would even work honestly. I then thought of a bee vac. Again due to the nature of the hive, I did not think it was going to work. A trap out might work but I am pretty sure more bees would move in next spring(As a matter of fact, I might see if I can put traps out there next spring.) plus I would then need a frame of brood and such to get that colony going.
 So then I hatch a plan, a crazy plan, that involved some really big tools. I would cut it off and just take the whole thing home and work from there.
 Last night I traveled to the site. I figured I would just screen the openings and cut the gate off. At that point I would start cutting the pole off at the base and just leave a couple of places to hold up the pole and I would slide screen in there and then finish off the cut. Well when we got there I swear the post grew like 40% or more. I don't remember it being so big. I started clearing around the post waiting for dark to fall so the bees would go in the post and I could screen it over. Well either it is just too hot for the bees or that pole is really full. They would not leave the outside of the pole. They were bearding heavily and also looked like they were washboarding. I think they were laughing at me personally.
 As it got darker we started questioning whether or not we would even be able to get the post in the truck without mechanical help. After I finally got stung once ( I was wearing shorts and a t shirt, my usual bee keeping outfit) as I kept hitting the post with the shovel and I had a very bright headlamp on. I suppose I would have been aggravated as well. I decided that maybe I should have brought some bee keeping hardware.
 We head home beeless. After sitting pondering how to move this thing, I get a few ideas. I have a gurney that I can roll around with a chain fall on it. It has decent size wheels on it but not off road stuff. I figure I could set it up over the hive on some boards and when I have the hive lifted we could just make a plank roadway to the truck. That would require some intensive manual labor and a lot of tree chopping and a few logs needed to be clear.
 As I was pondering this, I notice a name on my Facebook list. Hmmmmmm This guy has a track hoe. I wonder if he feels like going on a bee crusade? I hit him up and sure enough for a nominal fee (he has to pay a driver to get the machine out there) he would gladly load it in my truck with the track hoe. Yay! Hydraulics!
 So aside from some really detailed scouting and a little clearing around the hive I did not accomplish much last night. Well my doctor might argue that all the exercise did me good. Personally Louisiana humidity is pretty rough and I would have rather had the kids do all the digging.
 As soon as I get a schedule together, I will make a new post hopefully detailing the successful transplant of this very active colony.
 Till that fateful day,

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A little bit of honey

I purchased my bees a few months ago, just as everything around here was starting to flower. As I mentioned I purchased a couple of nuc packages. The great thing about them is that the hive is already established  and has brood and egg laying, the whole nine yards. It is just in a smaller hive. Fortunately, the time I installed my nucs into their normal hives coincided with normal growth for a colony. One of my colonies is doing great and I am about to add another deep super to it. The other is doing better and I will check on it this weekend.
 I have been watching the strong hive. It has been storing a lot of honey. Most of the honey is either mixed with brood or pollen or both. However, in the top box, the outside frames looked like all honey. When I went in there last weekend, I found they had capped one side of the frame. When they have caped the comb, it means the honey is ready. Oddly the other side of the comb was not even drawn out. Feeling a bit guilty, I took the frame of honey home.

Isn't it pretty?
Unfortunately, this is a plastic foundation. So I had to scrape the comb off and crush it up a bit and let it drain overnight. To do this I took a battering bowl I have that has a rack for whatever you are battering that sits above the batter. I laid a cheese cloth on the rack then put the crushed comb on top of it. I let it filter overnight and the squeezed the remaining honey out the next day.
 I managed to get about 15oz of honey from that half frame. I am pretty sure they have more now. I might add another box and pull some more in a few weeks if the weather holds up.
 So here it first jar of honey. Thank you bees. : )
A nice jar of honey. Wish I could share.

Monday, June 3, 2013

A bee of another color

Recently my wife asked us nicely (read "forced") to dress nicely and return to a place where she likes to take family pictures. Rather she like me to take family pictures. So as not to stir up and trouble we grudgingly did as she asked.
 "What does this have to do with bees?" , you ask. Well it just so happens that when we arrived at the place, my youngest son found some bees. The site is littered with boulders and large rocks. It is very unusual for this area which is why my wife likes it. I secretly thinks she tells her friends we vacationed in the mountains.
 As kids do, the first thing they did was start climbing all over the rocks. There is one in particular that they love to climb on so they raced to it. When they go there my youngest said "Stay away from there! There are bees everywhere!". Of course, I had to go look at them.
 I have never seen a ground dwelling bee before and was amazed at how they dug their little tunnels and made the entrances.  There were several hundred entrances and quite a few of them were being used. I was right up on them and they just ignored me. So I snapped some pictures. There were really neat to watch.
 I didn't know anything about these bees so I forwarded my pictures to Rusty of (listed as one of my favorite sites). She did all the foot work for me and actually did a post on her site about the bees I found. Now Rusty is a wealth of bee knowledge and I rely on her for actually learning things about bees and beekeeping. She has a real site and server and there is tons of good information about beekeeping on there. One of the things I like most about her is she is not afraid to experiment to try to make her bees happier and more productive. I use a lot of her information. Check it out if you are interested in bees, pollinators in general, or actual beekeeping.  Oh, and here is the post that made me famous I'll sign autographs late.
 Rusty's  hard work and perseverance paid off for me as now I can just read her post and pass on the info. Thanks Rusty.
 The bees we found are called Chimney Bees. They are much larger than honey bees but smaller than carpenter bees, at least the ones I have seen. Also their abdomen is hairy where a carpenter bee's is furry. The dig tunnels in clay type vertical walls and make an entrance that looks somewhat like a chimney. They are solitary bees that live in a community. Seeing them flying all over the place and finding their own nest is really neat to see. I had a lot of fun observing them. If you want to know more please see Rusty's post on her site. She is definitely more of a teacher than me. I consider myself a mere chronicler of my personal mishaps.
 However, I will share some original pictures that Rusty did not. So you are seeing virgin territory. Well sort of. Rusty did get to see all the pictures and she chose the ones she wanted to post.
 Here you can see a bee digging a new home. The clay is grey because she uses a secretion to soften it and smooth the inside.
 A view of many tunnels.
 Bees vs ants. I tried to get rid of the ants. Notice the pollen on the rear legs.
 Ok, maybe not all of these are first posts. I likes this one. I shows the entire community.
 Coming in for a landing.
 Home sweet home.
 Top view of a captured specimen. It later flew back to it's home.
 Front of previous bee.
 Air delivery of pollen. She puts the pollen in the tunnels with the eggs so they have food when they hatch.
After chilling this bee, I placed it on a dark rock to help warm it back up. Notice the tattered wings. She is an older bee.
Chilling them allows me to take good pictures without undue harm to the bee.

Next time, my first extraction.

Till then,