Worse Beekeeper Ever!

Laying in bed last night reflecting on the evening and feeling more than a little sore from the events my wife mumbled sleepily to me “.. you shouldn’t do beekeeping in a hurry…*snore*”. I had to admit she was right (please don’t tell her), if you don’t have time to dedicate to complete a task, however it pans out, leave it for another day.

Remember the swarm trap that was occupied on Sunday?http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpI1uw6s5Q0

I thought there weren’t many bees in there. “Probably a small cast swarm…”, “probably a queen cell I missed in my own hive….”, was what I told my wife. Well…. I was wrong. There were a LOT of bees in that box, and they reeeeeaaalllly didn’t like me!

Here was my evening (numbered list of mistakes below):
I decided I had a little spare time so thought I would collect the bait hive 1This is the location I had a full bait hive stolen from in May so I didn’t want to leave it there too long. It is a little remote and only accessible along a farm track on foot or by bike. So I cycled out to the bait hive in my bee suit 2It felt good cycling out there as this is where I collected my first swarm last year when I “became” a beekeeper. I had moved another full bait hive the night before with no trouble at all. They were quiet as lambs and although I had lit my smoker just in case I didn’t need it so felt a little silly. So this evening I didn’t bring a smoker with me 3I thought I could maybe put the bait hive on my bike seat and wheel the bike to the apiary location but that wasn’t going to work. So just like last year I corked up the entrance 4. and carried them the 3/4 of mile to the apiary. Remember I am wearing the beesuit, though not done up it was still rather warm 2. This should have been my first clue as to just how many bees were in there because it was very heavy. By the time I reached the apiary I was hot, sweating, and aching 2. I left the bait hive at the hive site to settle whilst I jogged back to the bait hive site and collected my bike, to cycle back to the apiary 2. 2. 2.

Buoyed on by the ease of the previous evening’s transfer I decided to move the bees into their new hive 3. 5. BAD IDEA! From the second I took out the first bar 6. things were not good. The size of the colony meant they were comb building on all 9 bars of the bait hive having only been in there 1 1/2 days. So removing the end bar disrupted the cluster and must have rolled some bees against one another…. they did not like this. They boiled out of the bait hive making a noise like water hitting a hot skillet. All I had with me was a water mister spray with some peppermint oil in it. I was quickly covered in bees who were ready, willing, and able to show there displeasure for the treatment they had received that evening. I misted the air liberally in order to discourage the flying bees and hopefully mask the alert pheromones with the peppermint oil. They were having none of it. A group had rallied together on my arm and were tunneling up my gauntlet stinging as they went. A few had managed to master velcro and had gained access to the zip at my neck and found a sweet spot at my throat for stinging. Having got all the bars roughly in place I beat a hasty retreat to regroup. I grabbed my bike and cycled home shedding angry bees into the wind on the way, there I grabbed my smoker 3. and got it lit before heading back to the fray.  I managed to get the majority of bees into the hive without much more fuss, the evening was cooling and having already moved the bars the cluster was intact and in the hive. There were still a few hundred bees on the bait hive walls which I was not going to try and brush or bang out. I put the bait hive on its side in front of the hive. The bees still in the bait hive will have to overnight there and move into the new hive in the morning when there sisters show them the way. I returned home aching of muscle, skin, and pride and soaked in sweat and shame. I fell into bed with a greeting of “…what took you so long?” from my wife. Having described my evening she imparted her sleepy wisdom only to leave me awake and thinking of all my mistakes… oh, and I forgot to put the bins out!

1. Never try and “fit something in”. Have the time or don’t do it.
2. Take your bee suit in a bag. It may be easier to wear it rather than carry it but on an evening where it is 17oC with high humidity you will sweat, and bees do not like it.
3. Never assume just because one lot of bees is calm one evening, another will be the next. Every colony is different. Over-prepare, it is better to feel a little silly than a lot sore.
4. Although this bait hive does have vent holes drilled in the side it would have been better considering the heat and humidity if I had placed mesh over the entrance instead.
5. These bees should have been left to settle in the new location for a day or so before attempting to move them into the hive. Placing the bait hive so the entrance is in front of the new hive entrance means that when you perform the transfer any bees oriented to that location will return to find the new entrance in the same location. By putting some grass in the bait hive’s entrance it also prompts the bees to reorient.
6. There were no spacers at the end of the bait hive so all bars were for comb building. This isn’t usually a big deal as it takes a colony a while before they have built across 9 bars. It is better though to leave a spacer bar at each end (~5-10mm) so you have access to each end without having to remove a comb building bar and disturbing the bees.

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6 Responses to Worse Beekeeper Ever!

  1. Hey! That’s my title and I’ll fight you for it (see my latest post)! Hey ho, as one of my friends would say. We get there in the end, slightly worse for wear and a few angry bees clinging to us, mind…..

  2. Julie says:

    You’re writing is just wonderful, and I look forward to every post!

    I have a feeling that you’re going to have a lot of people writing in to claim the title of Worst Beekeeper Ever. You’ll need more than a naughty step — more like a detention room. 🙂

    How are the stings? Ouch! Hope you are healing up well. This weekend, my son got stung on the foot, and I used a paste of equal parts vinegar, baking soda, and meat tenderizer. He said the pain was completely gone within seconds. I don’t know what you use, but thought it might be something to try.

    • deweysanchez says:

      I always look forward to a new post of yours as well. Sting-wise the pain goes almost straight away for me. The main issue is the itching. It drives me crazy for days afterwards and if it gets touched, rubbed, or perhaps scratched it spreads.

  3. Julie says:

    “Your” not “you’re” — I really need to proofread.

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