Archive for August, 2012

Mistakes Were Made

Chart this one on the “stupid new beekeeper mistake” register: Never remove a frame of honey from your beehive and leave it sitting in an empty box near your hives. Not even if it’s 90 degrees outside and you are sweltering in your beekeeping suit. Not even if your cell phone alarm has just rung alerting you to the fact that you need to go pick up your daughter at camp. Not even if you promise yourself it will just be an hour until you get back to it.

Always make sure you have a plan for what you are going to do with that frame of honey as soon as you remove it from the hive. Even if you have forgotten to ask your beekeeping friends what to do beforehand. Even if the frame is covered in bees. Even if you think that they will just nicely return to the hive if you leave the frame sitting out near it.

Because that is so not going to happen.

Instead, you will return to your hive three hours later, not one. And then only because you are hearing lots of angry buzzing outside your open windows (it is 90 degrees, after all). And what you see will make you think of Walmart on Black Friday. Bees duking it out on the landing board as they try to race into your mostly empty box to be the first one to the honey frame. Several balls of bees rolling around on the top of the nearby hive, fighting over whose honey it is. Bees biting each other. Wrestling. Ganging up on bees that are trying to exit the box. Seriously, you would think they were selling $100 flatscreens to the first 50 bees into the box. It is insanity.

Apparently, that insanity has a name: Robbing behavior. It sometimes occurs in nature, when bees try to sneak or muscle their way into a different hive with the intention of stealing their honey. It can also be caused by stupid beekeepers who have heard of robbing behavior but are somehow unable to extrapolate that they can induce it by leaving a frame of honey sitting around with hopes that the bees will magically drift back to the hive and leave them with a full frame of bee-less honey.

Reality is a harsh mistress. One that demands that you suit up several times on said 90 degree day while trying various and assorted techniques, that you are making up, to get the bees to stop swarming the honey frames and to cease their fighting. You will be about as successful with your bees as you have been with your children, who now are home from their camps and cranky from the weather. And hunger. And some instinctive desire to drive you slowly crazy over the course of 10 weeks.

In your beesuit, in the hottest weather of summer, you will repeatedly relocate the honey frame. To a nuc box with a lid and an entrance reducer. To a different part of the yard. And yet another part of the yard. And another. In hopes that despite the fact that your yard has been described as “postage stamp” by professionals, you will find some hidden corner of it that will confuse the robber bees and let your original bees peacefully make their way back to the hive, as you intended in the first place.

When that fails, you will remove the landing board and cover the top of the box with a piece of plywood. Now, no one can go in or out until they have all calmed down. Time out bees.

Except that these are not ordinary bees, they are extra strong and determined bees! They push the plywood out of the way and continue their robbing behavior. They are starting to feel an awful lot like your children! So you do what any good mother would, you lock them in their room with an artful display of masking tape proficiency, hope they won’t be dead by morning and instead will have LEARNED THEIR LESSON, retreat back into the house and pour yourself a beer.

It is 90 degrees after all.

Angry balls of bees wrestle on the hive top.


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