Monday, July 8, 2013

Sometimes it's best to walk away...

     For the past few years we have been working with an apartment complex that always attracts bees.  This year they took us up on the suggestion of leaving bait hives on the roof of the building, near where we extracted bees previously.  Early in the spring, with clockwork simplicity, we collected two swarms in them.
This swarm is approx 4' wide
      Then our bee-enthusiast contact, John, called me about a "gigantic" swarm hanging on a tree at the entrance. Piggybacking on his enthusiasm, and needing a break from painting, I asked my neighbor Steve if he was up for an adventure.  He grabbed his camera and we crossed town to what we assumed would be an easy job.
First attempt
     John said he had a ladder set up and caution taped up the space.  It was a 3-legged, 15 foot orchard ladder and the hive was still 8 feet above it.  First I tried to attach the box to the top of the ladder and pull the branch down so I could shake the bees in it.  But I had no maneuverability and the branch wouldn't move.
     So we put the box on a white sheet on the ground (to help the crawling bees not get lost in other debris) and we rigged up a scoop at the end of a paint roller extension and we began whittling down the swarm, two cups at a time.  And it was a big swarm, possibly double-queened.  I would fill the scoop and pass the apparatus down to John's assistant and she emptied it on the sheet in front of the entrance to the bee box.  Luckily, on the second or third scoop, I apparently grabbed the queen because they began that adorable marching behavior, identical orientation and military-neat formation.  Each subsequent scoop followed suit.
The mesmerizing behavior when they know where their queen is
And that's the addicting part that keeps me going up ladders I shouldn't, over a skull-smashing pavement that should have deterred me, in swooning heat and falling perturbed bees who only naturally stung whatever was still exposed (my wrists).  The excitement and enthusiasm of a teeming group of people, in addition to the bees,  distracted us from the real danger I was putting myself in.  It's another version of what Joey calls my "reckless abandon" which usually refers to wild leaps while snowboarding on powdery soft days.  I was lucky this time
     We captured about 2/3 of the hive, but the rest stubbornly clung to the branch far out of reach no matter how much I shook it with an extension trimmer/saw or practically barbequed them with smoke in a can on that handy painter's extension pole.
Trying to smoke them off the branch
    After two hours, we went home with the majority, only fully grasping, as we were putting away our refuse, that I really should have done just that: Refuse to go up that ladder.  I'll admit it was fun and I have since verified that we got a queen and they are perfectly happy in our apiary.  BUT, I really should have taken my own safety into account.  There's a reason Joey is so hesitant about taking on a new bee job.
     Somebody has to.
     Who knows, maybe they would have moved into one of our bait boxes if we'd given them a few more hours, or at least moved on somewhere else like the ones I left behind did......

Follow up: The ones I left behind moved into the building and were very harassed and uncooperative about staying in our box on removal.  no easy solutions.

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