So much has happened in the bee yard this week. The interesting thing is, all the events are important and for a bee keeper thrilling. I have so many new photos to share with you as well as adventures to relate. I can’t decide where to start, but I think you might be wondering why I named hive #3 the “Rita Hive”. If you are short on time I’m warning you, you are about to be stung by a rather lengthy story. Continue reading if you will.
My only partially free day this past week was Friday, after eleven in the morning. I was looking forward to a little free time but on Thursday night Mr. F called to see if I wanted to assist him in removing a hive from a water meter box, in the ground. He’d received a call from a man who couldn’t work in the part of his yard where the water meter was because it was buzzing with bees. We weren’t sure what we would encounter when we arrived but we headed over around eleven on Friday morning.
Upon closer inspection we found a very healthy colony of bees happily and busily living in the water meter box. Donning our bee suits and toting the smoker we lifted the lid to the box and discovered the bees had built comb onto the lid as well as filling the entire box with comb, eggs, larva, and honey. We knew there was a queen present by the number of freshly laid eggs and young larva, visible in the comb cells. Being the experienced bee keeper that he is, Mr. Floyd brought all the necessary tools to accomplish removing the hive surely and safely.
He began the removal by cutting off the comb from the lid of the meter, cutting it to fit a frame and securing it with rubber bands. This is not a hard task but it tugs on your heart-strings as unhatched bees are lost in the process. After filling two frames with the natural comb he informed me it was a little hard for him to get down on the ground and that I would be removing the remainder of the comb from inside the meter box. Whoa, Nellie! What you should picture at this time in my story is, thousands of bees buzzing around the yard where we are working, bees crawling and flying all around us and many staying inside the box to guard their hive. Literally thousands of honey bees, gentle and calm but concerned for their well-being.
Being ever mindful of not harming even one bee if I can help it, I got down on my hands and knees to begin the removal of the comb from the meter box. This requires using a hive tool, much like a mini crow bar – to break away the sections that the bees have adhered to the box with bee glue, also known as propolis. Now you realize I am sticking my hands and arms, up to my elbows into this meter box to perform this task. I am feeling so protected hidden in my bee suit and I jump right in. Moving slowly, deliberately and cautiously all at the same time I sever the first piece of comb from the box. Success encourages me to continue until I have removed every piece of comb from inside the box, without the loss of even one sweet bee. As I pull out sections of comb we patiently observe each piece for the resident queen, but we are down to the last piece of comb and we have yet to spot her. As I pull out the last piece I notice it is full of honey. I tell Mr. Floyd that I see delicious honey oozing out and he makes the comment, “the queen doesn’t like to walk around on honey”. This is somewhat dismaying as it’s the last piece and we’ve yet to locate the her. I handed him the comb and stood up to help look. Knowing she doesn’t “like” to walk around on honey and this frame is nothin’ but honey I’m feeling a little disconcerted since I don’t need any more orphan bees moving in. But lo and behold we spotted her walking around on the other bees – not the honey, mind you – and I gave a little shout of joy! Once she was in plain sight we had to capture her and put her in a little queen cage. Mr. F. left me holding the comb to acquire the queen catcher and instructed me not to lose sight of her or let her fly. Right!! How the heck do you make sure a bee doesn’t fly? Thankfully she just wanted to hang with her ladies in waiting and he returned with the queen catcher. The queen catcher is a little contraption that resembles a hair clamp. He opened the hinged catcher and placed it over the queen, enclosing her in safety, not to escape or disappear. Then he placed her in her queen cage and handed her to me to place amongst the court awaiting her in the hive.
Once I placed the queen inside the hive I moved the hive closer to the meter box and after a few minutes the bees began to make a mass exodus from the meter box into the hive. They can smell their queen. Mr. Floyd told me to help them by sticking my hands down into the box, gathering the bees in my gloved hands, and dropping them into the hive. I was enamored by the feel of their tiny wings beating against my hands. I can’t describe the feeling of little, rapid, exquisite wings beating against my hands as I lifted them out of the box and into the hive. I’d like to try it without gloves – someday.
After assisting as many bees as I could capture in my bulky gloves into the hive we left for about an hour to give the remaining bees time to head on into the hive. When we returned there were few bees left roaming around aimlessly. We completed closing the hive and netting it for transport to my bee yard.
Later in the day we moved them into my bee yard and I promptly began thinking of names. My adoring hubby said,”you should call it meter maid hive”. Not being fond of that name I asked him if he knew the names of any meter maids. He retorted with, “Rita”. Ah ha, lovely Rita meter maid sung by the Beatles on their Sgt. Peppers album. That’s it Queen Rita reigns over hive #3 and she is lovely, healthy and productive. After an evening of rest in the queen cage I released her from her temporary throne to the joy of all the bees in hive Rita. It’s good to be queen!
Besides being thrilling and adventurous removing bees in a situation like this is calculated, full of problem solving, hot, exhausting and requires great patience. It took us over two hours to complete just the initial removal of the comb from the box, then another hour to wait for the bees to move on in and another several minutes to prepare them for the ride home. When I next write a bee page I’ll tell about the attempted capture of a swarm of bees. I’m discovering that it’s never dull in the life of a bee keeper.