A Squirrel, a Swarm, a Mess, and a Success

My husband was in China all last week, so he took Friday off.  Lucky for me because I don’t know what I would have done without him!

For starters, when I returned from running errands my husband and son #1 came running up to me to tell me we had a squirrel in our backyard.  Now, this may not be news for many of you, but our neighborhood doesn’t have squirrels.  It was all built about the same time, so everyone’s trees are about the same age–and not big enough to be attractive homes for squirrels.  We’ve lived here 11 years and NEVER seen a squirrel in the yard.  Until today.  He was mostly chillaxin’ on the fence, squirrelbut at one point he decided to hop down.  Onto the beehive.  Not his brightest move, a little puff of bees flew out, but they didn’t seem too upset.squirrelbeeThen about 30 minutes later, we were all having lunch when the hubby said, “Wow, the bees sure are flying.  What’s up?”  Aw, hell.  It looks like they’re swarming again.  Not unheard of in spring for a colony to swarm twice, but I had no idea they had a queen already!  Wonder what they don’t like about this hive?  How much space are they lacking?  Ugh.  I really need to get in there and have a peek, but doing it on the day they’ve swarmed probably isn’t a good idea.

We start watching for the bees to clump somewhere.  The gardener next door is looking at us with a nervous smile.  He’s wondering what the hell is going on and when he can get his wheelbarrow that’s parked in the corner which is now under a cloud of bees.  Hubby explains that they’re swarming but says we don’t know exactly when they’ll be gone. Less than 30 minutes, probably.

We can tell what direction the bees are heading, but are not seeing them clump anywhere.  My poor neighbors are slamming their back doors.  I now feel not only embarrassed but like it is somehow my fault the bees are “out again”…..  And then I find it.  About 4 houses down and 30 feet up in a poplar tree. Our friends let us scout out the cluster from their backyard and it’s obvious to me that we’re not gonna get these girls back.  Hubby and son are disappointed and try to talk me into it, but logic prevails and the swarm will be gone for good.  I fleetingly consider putting a baited hive in the woods at the bottom of the street because I would bet money that’s where they’re headed.  But what would I do with THREE hives?  Ugh!  Maybe I could sell them…..

So, I figure swarm or no swarm, I need to have a look in that hive and see if I can get some of the issues worked out.  I suit up and my husband grabs his camera. I am convinced he will be documenting my demise.  I open the hive and things look okay so far.  There are about 4 empty bars at the end, so I’m a bit ticked at the dramatic ploy for more space.  I pull a few more bars off and see an amazing sculpture of comb that has dropped to the bottom of the hive. It was hard for my photographer to get a good angle because the bees were very agitated and had been taking pot shots at his face.  But believe me when I tell you this thing looked like it had been built by Frank Gehry.
   comb2 comb
The bees don’t seem to mind and are still working it like normal.  My previous foray into the hive to place some spacer bars and encourage straight comb seems not to have made much difference.  There is crazy comb going every which way, much of it has dropped off the top bars and is precariously sitting upright but only as long as you don’t want to move it.  Dang.  I apologize to the bees, but this stuff is going to have to come out.  The bees can build more and, hopefully, I can convince them to build it straight.

Deep breath. I now have to reach into the hive and pull out bee-covered comb.  Most of it has nectar in it.  Very little is ready as honey.  Only 2 or 3 brood cells–and those are drones.  After pulling/scraping the comb out of the hive and brushing off the bees, I managed to fill a 2-gallon bucket with beeswax.
comb3 honeyhive
I went ahead and pulled the rest of the bars looking for a queen.  Even though I have kept the boys out of the backyard today due to vindictive bees, I call them back in when I pull a frame and find a bee hatching out of its cell.   Such a neat thing to see a bee being born–plus he mugged for the camera!
beebirth beebirth2Found some queen cells, but no Royal Highness.  So, we are going to hope that these bees who stayed behind are going to raise themselves another new queen.  Weird times in the beeyard, folks.  As I put everything back together, I tried what is called “checkerboarding” the hive–placing empty bars between two bars of straight comb.  Still gives them more space, but encourages them to build straight without cross-combing & making a mess.   It’s nice to see the very first bar is almost fully drawn out in comb.  This is the bar that I harvested honey from in the early spring and put back.  My gloves are covered in honey/nectar/live bees/bee parts/grass/beeswax, you name it. But I am finally finished.  This has certainly been my longest stint in the hive. While I’m out there I get our tape measure sticky, too, and take measurements so we can build a second hive this weekend for the first swarm.  I might as well take a peek at them, too, since I’ve got all my gear on, but that’s a post for another day.

*drumroll*……AND ZERO STINGS!!!

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