I heard the roaring sound again and looked out. Pansy?!! What’s it been, five days? Since a giant contingent of the bees just departed from Pansy, I had a hard time even believing what I was seeing, although, a swarm is pretty unmistakable. Not possible. There aren’t enough bees left to split again. There were.
I was completely expecting Violet to swarm. Violet hive is huge and strong. Both V and P were full of queen cells when I checked them, so I’m sort of hoping for a Violet swarm, but who knows, maybe they needed to requeen.
I was planning to do other things, but I had a swarm to rehome, so I did that instead. I got my outfit on, and set up a box to put them in.
They were so good to me. They balled up at knee level on a branch I could snip, right next to the hive yard. What a relief, and change of pace. Look how easy they’ll be to move! A very small bee ball, but there is also a pile of bees on the ground, almost as many, and still many in the air at this point.After my first snip dislodged a clump of bees from the hanging ball, I got a box. Not too helpful. I placed a stick as a ladder, hoping the ground bees would go up and rejoin. They didn’t.I snipped the main ball off, walked it over to the box,and in they go.I went back to collect the pool of bees on the ground.
I picked up the loose twigs one at a time and knocked them into my box, which really just made them airborne again. Unfortunately, they were piled up centralized on a big dirty root ball. I thought, can I just pull that whole root ball out? Yahoo, I could. However, have you ever tried to yank a root out of the ground smoothly? Doesn’t happen.
I put the root by the hive box and took a break to wait for them all to walk inside, with a helpful twig ladder. I come back out.
The root ball is completely clean of bees, cool. But what’s this?Bees have regrouped on the next branch over!
Repeat: snip, carry, deposit bees in the box. (this is bee shipment #3)There is still a big pool of bees on the ground.This time they are wrapping around a larger piece of wood.
Around this time I notice that there seem to be more bees outside the hive than inside. They are walking out and walking all over the outside of the hive. The sticks inside the box are clean of bees, so I can clean up in there.Now the bees are pooling on the ground where the root ball was, and I can’t imagine why this spot is so interesting. I get the big branch with the bees on it on the box, and then start scooping bees by hand. Let no bee be left behind. Then I bring bee shipment #4 to the hive. Turns out there are many more bees involved here than it originally looked like. Calloo, callay! They’ve gone back inside! The tide has reversed and they’ve chosen to stay, at least for the night. Bees are so neat when they’re swarmed. Tickly, all vibrating and buzzing, but for a change, they aren’t on the job. Bees normally are at work, and tolerate your disruption in the hive because they’re just too focused, mostly, until you really get in their way. Bees in swarm are like they’re on vacation. Not on any mission at all, relaxed. Look at the handful of bees, walking off my hand and in the door. At this point it started to rain, like clockwork (2pm before an evening downpour is apparently optimum time to swarm), so I put a big lid on, sheltering the ball of bees in the box at the threshold, and left them to walk in, now that the decision to stay had apparently been made.
Yay! A new hive! I’ve barely got enough hive parts now to catch one more swarm, should Violet split as I’ve been expecting.
There’s another awesome advantage to having your hives right outside your front windows (I love having the hives so close to the house; it’s often not recommended, but there’s much to be said for the close connection):
When you glance outside, five minutes after seeing nothing unusual, and see that they’re swarming!
It was sensational. I knew right away, because I’d never seen anything like it, and I could hear them roaring, too, from inside. I ran out and took a couple pictures.I always imagined a bee swarm was like, a cloud of bees, grouped together, like a thing you could point to. No. They’re zooming around in straight lines in all directions, buzzing loud like they’re angry (they must really be excited), and they just fill all the air. They filled the visible sky. You’d have to zoom out quite far before the swarm entity would appear like a cloud.
Then the air full of bees started to move.
All I remembered was that I would have to follow them, so I quickly grabbed a roll of flagging tape. Because of course they headed out over the densest, awfullest brush around here. I flagged my way in, thrashing after them, though they were easy to follow by ear – so loud!!
Seriously, ten minutes from “no unusual bee behaviour here”, to gone. Now if I’m going to be retroactively honest with myself, I think maybe one of my hives has split-swarmed before to vistas unknown. because there were times it seemed like fewer bees than there should be in the box when I opened. If they can go that fast, entirely possible.
They didn’t go too far. I got under the epicentre of their sound, looking up at them. They seemed to be concentrating. Their thousands of bodies in flight made a distortion like heat shimmer. And then, sure enough, I saw a crowd of bees starting to form on the trunk of the big maple I was under. That’s where they were choosing to stay. Ok.
Time to go home and google! (yes, first I pulled a couple physical books). I found out some things . Things like that they don’t initially go too far, they just make a temporary stop and send out scouts from there to find a new home. A little like committing to move by selling your home and moving all your stuff out before thinking about where you might go next, or calling any real estate agents. So the cluster of bees in this current temporary location could stay there a few days while deciding where to live henceforward (settling arguments comparing the great view in option A to the third bathroom in option B), or… maybe just an hour. Act fast. Don’t smoke them, do mist them with water (this was so clutch!). They’re full of honey, and docile.
I went back to the tree. The silence was striking, like the bees had turned off. They had all landed, and were quiet. I’d have never found them, visually, if I hadn’t followed them when they were noisy. They were way up on the maple, wrapped all around the trunk in a two foot band, like you might collar a tree to keep squirrels out of it. A band of bees instead of metal would be very effective against squirrels.
I got my long ladder, and climbed it, and learned that I needed another ten feet (twelve actually- I measured later, and the bees were 27+ feet up). Then I made at least six phone calls, to everyone I knew who might have an extension ladder, and a marginal interest in bees. No one answered.
Ok, time to work with what I got. I took apart my 3-way ladder and dragged a section of it up the first ladder, and lashed it to the tree for a second flight.
Just as I started rigging that, I heard a distant clap of thunder. Are you joking? Are you f#$%ing joking!!? (I was answered by another thunderclap, just in case I hadn’t heard correctly). And Really, bees? You picked a rain day? We’ve had a series of thunderstorm squalls the last week, and they move in fast, and dump sudden torrential amounts of rain. Because my heart wasn’t already pounding.
Then I gathered my stuff. Bee brush, string, squirt bottle. A bucket? I went with a nuc box. (spoiler- should have used the bucket- it would have been easier to tie to the tree and to carry down on my arm, or lower down).
Last, I made one more call, to leave “the message”: Umm, if I don’t call again by 4:30, the place to look is at the bottom of a tree, follow the flag line from the beehives. But this time someone answered the phone, and ground support was mobilized:)
Up in the tree, at the top of my ladders, I was quite comfortable. Nice view. I dragged up all my stuff in a couple of trips and stationed it in the branches. I tied the cardboard nuc box securely to the trunk of the tree below the cluster, and started scooping bees and dropping them into the box.
So, this is the good part, and there are no pictures, because trust me, none of this situation screams “Selfie time!” I had lots of things on my mind and God I wish I could take pictures of this! only passed through fleetingly. I really wish – but it was out of the question.
Standing on the top rung I could just reach the bees with my bee brush. Although they were thickly wrapped all the way around, the heaviest mass of them was on the far side of the trunk from me, so I was reaching around and trying to shake chunks of them loose and quickly scoop them into the box.
Bees hate the bee brush (but I couldn’t reach without it – later when they were lower I could just use my hands). They hate it with a fiery passionate fury that supersedes their much touted docility when swarming. I don’t know why they hate the bee brush so much; maybe it tickles. Or pokes. But it incites them to wild rage. It’s actually funny to watch them attack the brush so viciously, seething with hate, uselessly stinging the brush hairs with all their might. But I was attached to the brush – guilt by association, and I took a few stings. The squirt bottle was amazing. I’d feverishly mist around my head when I got a cloud of buzzers mad at the brush, and they’d go placid like they forgot all about it, and settle back down.
After I got a few stings, I went down and got out of tree-climbing-appropriate wear, into my bee suit. Because limited visibility and loose snaggable fabric will be just the ticket! Back up in the cloud scooping bees, my friend arrived at the foot of the tree. I could hardly hear him for the bees humming at my head, like standing next to a big diesel. The ground support was really helpful, though, because he could see the other side of the trunk that I couldn’t, and report if I was making headway (“What?”) , and “Up! Down”, (“What!?”) to get remaining clumps.
It seemed to go pretty well. I was getting bees into the box. Only thing, they seemed to want to come out of the box. It was like a really slow boil over. I’d dump bees in, they’d flow back over the top of the box. I’d scoop them back in with my hands. The upper trunk was mostly cleared – blessedly, they did not move away upwards. They were teeming out of the box and wrapping the tree again lower down.
I went down tree for a break, and because I needed snips. I was shaking, dripping with sweat, suit soaked, feet sore from the ladder rungs, but exhilarated. Seems I was exerting myself to balance and cling to the tree and work.
Back up, now the air smells like rain, the wind is coming up (still thundering), there’re more bees out of the box than in, and I’m getting reports from the ground that masses of them are clumping on the back/trunk side of the box (that I can’t see). I figure the queen must be in the vicinity now, no longer up on the original spot (good!), and I decide I have to untie the box from the trunk and move it down, so that I can sweep bees into the box again.
I have to interject for a moment how awesome this all was (while also being risky and sketchy). All these bees! Individuals, but together, a fluid mass. You never get to experience the hive as an undiluted entity. Unlike when you handle a frame covered with bees, now, the “thing” is the bees. You can hold a handful, a baseball sized chunk, of bees! They’re hot! And vibrating. There is a penumbra of potential energy around them, a considerable power, humming, vibrating my arm. Amazing!
I had to get a grip on the box now, and untie the strings I’d lashed it to the tree with, using knots that I’d tied without the untying in mind. It was all neater than this in my imagination of how it would go. But the box is covered, inches deep in bees, as are the strings, and there are multiple random little maple branches dipped into the box that are now one with the bees- I had to snip those off. I had to reach into the bees to hold the box, and again to expose my knots, and untie with one hand, while supporting the box. The bees are heavy!
I lowered the box a couple feet, and then I had to tie it on again, because I had to hold myself on the tree with one hand and use the other to scoop bees. I never had two hands free. My second tying, one handed, tree swaying now, was much less secure than the first, and I worried the string would give suddenly, and the box drop. I swept the bees in. I was seriously tired now. Almost two hours in, and the soles of my feet were asleep, I was shaking like hard shivers, it was imminently going to rain, and it had just occurred to me that I had NO IDEA how I was going to bring this box down a ladder that I absolutely needed two hands to climb, as it was straight vertical. Not a clue. And I’m watching my string around the box slip further with every movement of the tree.
I was definitely making an effort to keep my priorities straight:
Don’t fall out of the tree
Don’t drop the box of bees
Don’t hurt any bees. In that order! (it’s easy to flinch from a sting or to avoid crushing a bee, and flinches can become slips).
I was hugging the tree and box together, it started to rain, and wanting to cover the box, I realized the lid was out of my reach! I’d moved down, and it was still lodged in the branches above us. I could just touch it using my bee brush. As I was frantically whacking at that, trying to dislodge it, the rain started to pound down in big thumping thunderstorm drops. I realized I had a very limited window left, and I had to get down, with the bees, now. With the combination of desperation, fatigue, and the bee magic vibrating through my upper body as I hugged the box, I kinda blacked out a bit and don’t remember any thoughts or “hows” until it was over, but the lid came loose, I set it on the boiling-over bees, balanced the box on my shoulder and upper arm using my head (cheek and ear to this magical radiating box), and got down. At some point the lid was knocked off and went down on its own.
The rain didn’t last long. The remaining clumps of bees in the tree came into the air, confirming that the queen must be in the box, as the bees appeared to have changed their minds and direction, and were now headed into the box. Yes! When I came back after the squall, they were almost all in.
Doesn’t look like it’s all that dramatic, does it? The bucket is for the rain- there’s a big screen window in the top of these boxes.
WOW! So exciting!
On the bright side, swarm catching will probably be easier from here on out. I’m sure swarm catching events can be much harder than that, but really, I think they are often much easier. Location, location, location! So this was one heck of a beekeeper threshold experience. Next thresholds: being called to collect a swarm from somewhere else, and having a swarm voluntarily arrive. Heard this is a nice place with vacancies.
The story’s not over yet. They still have to get into a hive at dusk, but, that will be part two. I manage that just about as elegantly.
The bee swarm managed to eclipse not only Cotton and chicks first going out on the grass today (old hat for Daisy) and Foxy’s fourth chick (it’s a mom-sitter), but also the arrival of NEW BABIES- GUINEA KEETS! Galahad will be so excited; he hasn’t seen them yet as it was almost dark and they stayed in their box.
It was a huge day! To think it started out with me thinking “I think I’ll call this a day off. Just do what I feel like, maybe get in a nap. ” Ha ha. Ha.
Time for the new bees to go from their nuc boxes (temporary housing), to their forever homes.Sheltered from the rain with a hive lid.
These bees were also midnight bees. They came from a agreat distance, and with the aid of caffeine and chatting on the phone, I did very well on the drive back, until I was 10km from home and the black dogs struck. At midnight there was no one else on the road so I crept, 40kph the last few klicks. My theory was if I fall asleep and go in the ditch, I’ll go in slow. So tired.
I got home and fell fast asleep in the driver’s seat the moment I shifted into park, sleeping next to the boxes of bees belted into the passenger seat until dawn. It was really neat, a different, dreamless but not completely unaware sleep, with the light humming of the bees next to me. Not often one sleeps next to bees, I suppose.
I was annoyed by the ping of rain in the morning, that forced me to move, to put the bees in place on their prepared stands, and cover them for the day’s downpour.
The following day came move-in day.
The four frames in the nuc box get placed into a super, alternating with brood-ready comb frames, and a frame heavy with honey on each side, for insulation.
These bees had built some significant burr comb on the bottom of the frame, so much it wouldn’t go in the super, and I had to slice that off. While I was doing that, always a delicate job, I did the unthinkable: I dropped a frame.
I’ve never done that before. Immediately I heard Klaus’s voice in my head saying to stay prepared (in the event of a sudden sting), and never drop a frame.
I didn’t drop it from very high, it slid before it fell, but with a frame, however it lands is going to be bee side down.
Right away my feet were stuck where they were. I picked up the frame and there was a pool of bees rumbling around on the ground, all around my feet. Not to mention suddenly three times more airborne as a moment ago.
I finished with the other frames, then crouched and started scooping bees into my hand with the bee brush, and dropping them in the super. I got most of them this way, and the rest were forming a group and on the march. Here they are starting up the leg of the hive. So smart!
I picked up the straggling individuals until I could move my feet; the group seemed to have it handled. Amazingly, I did not get stung. More amazingly, not one bee was killed! Not one bee body from the drop. Inside the empty box, the remaining bees are doing the same thing, grouping up, here on the wrong end of the box. The fallen bees have finished their journey in. 20 minutes later all the bees had found their way inside. The other hive went much better. Phew! Nerve wracking, but no casualties. Moving day never goes all well as you expect.
I have woodenware now for another hive. This year I want to get a second nuc, and still be prepared in case hive #1 splits. This will step me up to a different league of beekeeping. A not-yet-serious, but not-quite-casual league. Bees take quite a bit of time and work, more than is immediately apparent, and I´ll notice the difference if I double them.
I was in the apiculture supplier´s retail space, waiting for my order to be gathered up, when the cashier commented to me “That´s so nice, that you still use wood and wax”.
As in, “Isn´t that quaint”.
I was actually startled. I had been marveling at the towers of styrofoam prefab hives, but when she said that, I was hit by how now wood is the exception. That´s why they have to dig it out of the back room. Everything is plastic. Plastic frames, plastic foundation, plastic hive parts now. No assembly, nails, or skill required.
Someone rolled through a minute later inspecting my growing pile of un-assembled woodenware and thoughtfully told his partner that that wood would “probably be nicer, for when you have to burn them”.
Yeah!! On the awful occasion that you have to bonfire hives because of disease, YES, it might be “nicer” to torch wood and wax and wire than 40 pounds of plastic and extruded polystyrene!
This left me thinking:
What is the world coming to?
What about when the plastic runs out?
How awful for the BEES!
If it´s bad for us to drink out of plastic water bottles and live with off-gassing carpet, are the bees supposed to be unaffected in a 100% plastic house, growing from larvae on a plastic bed, living in a plastic box sitting in the sun?
I unwrapped the hive a few days early. Hot weather. By all signs, they wintered well and are thriving.
i ripped the tarpaper off the front, and the styrofoam insulation, and scooped most of the straw out of the bee lounge.
There was a moisture breach and quite a bit of mold on the front corner of the bee lounge (aka eke), but I guess that´s what it´s there for – there doesn´t seem to be water or mold incursion past the inner cover.
The bees are polishing off syrup jars quite rapidly already.
I’ve been assembling bee supers and frames. They look so nice, all fresh.
The idea is that if the bees are ready to swarm this year (so far they are thriving and vital, so I’m hoping for the best), that there will be a move-in-ready apartment conveniently right next door!
My idea is to leave the bottom super empty, maybe a couple frames in the top box, to be spacious like a swarm box. Since I haven’t built a swarm box yet, I need to build supers anyway, and I want to have something ready in the event of a sudden swarm, then this is a better-than-nothing measure.
I was assembling frames in my tiny camper, and stocking them outside, when the robber bees arrived. They were doing their nervous, zigzag robber bee thing, investigating the new wax frames with enthusiasm.
More and more bees arrived (they were uncannily camera shy though). I started to get nervous, and promptly put up a box in the field for them to inspect.
They haven’t made any moves on it, but they know it’s there.
This has been such a drab, cold!, protracted spring, that there hasn’t been a day warm enough for me to make a full hive inspection. I feel like I should. I am heartened that it takes a long time to find a Varroa mite on the bottom board, they are sucking back the syrup I give them, and they have at least doubled last year’s numbers, judging by the comings and goings. So far they seem to be caring for themselves quite well. I hope I can give them a third super in time.
Bee transfer day. In which the bees are transferred from their nuc box to their forever home.
Yesterday afternoon I put together my wooden frames (properly, having been taught how) with wax foundation and build a stand for the hive, etc. It took much longer than I thought, although it was easy, fun-fiddly work, like making balsa wood airplanes, or something. All of a sudden the afternoon was gone. My least favourite part was the wiring. Nothing hard about it, I think I just don’t like handling wire. I used a bar clamp in lieu of a jig to compress the sides of the frames to string them and they all came out sounding like guitars. My very favourite part was melting the wires into the wax foundation with the battery charger. That was super fun. Also the very last step. I’m realizing now that no one but my fellow students will have any idea what I’m talking about here, and I didn’t take pictures.
Other than this one. One frame, all done.
Then I got my tools together and went out to handle my bees for the first time. I wore my suit because I was alone, and these stressed bees have every reason to be tetchy right now, so I did not expect them to be “lambs”, like Klaus’s bees. I moved the nuc box forward with the milk crate and took some time placing and leveling the hive stand behind it. I was glad I had the suit on because I got covered with ants. They are not amenable to being evicted. The ants were irritating me a bit (Leiningen vs the Ants in high school made an overly vivid impression on me. Although ants are pretty amazing too, I don’t like too many of them at once) so I took a minute to calm down before the main event.
And then, anticlimax. Bees were swirling all around the nuc box, confused, but I popped the lid, no reaction. I lifted out each frame and glanced at it and put it in the clean new hive, and that was it. No drama, no stings. Not even any agitation, really. I packed them back up with the feeder jar, which they’ve been ignoring.
For a few minutes, there was a crowd of bees hovering in front of the new hive (Something’s different!). I must have matched the height of the entrance exactly, because they immediately started landing on the porch, in the middle, and eventually began to walk inside. One bee led a crowd walk around up and around the front of the hive, and then they started using it like they’d always lived there. The airborne crowd dispersed.
Until I reduced the entrance with a stick.
All the bees still landed in the middle, which was now blocked, and walked back and forth, but not far enough to find the hole on the right. A confused crowd formed again in the air (Too many new things today!).
One bee found the hole. Another bee came out. A few more bees came in and out.
This was more challenging to them than the hive swap. The majority remained in the middle, frustrated. Eventually, another group walk around formed on the front of the hive. This little stroll up and around performed by a small pack of bees seems to be a marker of placefinding, or communication. It happens fast, but I saw it three times, right as they adjusted to change. Doorway change, specifically.
So, they are installed. I hope they like it here.
There are no guard bees, there is a steady but thin squadron of bees leaving and returning, and I saw some with pollen baskets. They seem very quiet.
I have to say, I could sit around in that suit all day. It really takes care of the horseflies. Very comfortable. The dog wasn’t sure what to make of it though.
My brain is full. I spent two days at a wonderful Introduction to Beekeeping course put on by the biodynamic apiarists of Bello Uccello, outside of Digby. I feel tired with all the information, but also grateful, because workshops are not always so intense or packed full of knowledge.
-PHILOSOPHICAL TANGENT BEGINS- My favourite thing I learned is that bees like to work my favourite way to work. They move around the hive, and do whatever comes to hand (antenna?) within their ability at that stage of their development (as they grow bees have distinct tasks that they capable of performing at a given age). I get that! The days that I’m able to work like that are the best. Do what’s right in front of you, and keep slowly moving forward and doing what’s there, and then as you’re carrying something you run into something else to pick up and end up roaming back and forth all over, and not a thing gets done that you “planned” to do, but so very many things get done that needed to be done, and the experience of doing all that work, and usually working quite hard, is quite relaxing to the mind, and blissfully satisfying.
I have a private theory that there is a great and costly expenditure of energy that happens when you direct yourself to do something that “needs” to get done, that you’ve “decided” to do – to meet a deadline, or an appointment, because it is moving against what you feel like doing. Again and again, experience bears out that moving with the feeling-like-doing produces better results. Like this morning, for instance. I popped up to run the dog earlier than I’d “planned” to, because I felt like it then and had the freedom to be flexible, and the moment we got back from our run the sky opened on us. I hadn’t known if it was expected to rain. Alas, there are so many deadlines, and appointments, and plans, to cope with. We keep on making them. It is very difficult to cooperate with even one other person (partner), let alone business hours, when following the feeling-like-doing can get you into zealously emptying the back shed instead of doing firewood together, as planned, or vacuuming out the truck at midnight when you have to go to town first thing in the morning. However, the feeling of the work, which is supposed to be the important part, is so dramatically better when you work one thing to another until it’s time to sleep, and then if you’re lucky, get up again with energy and without an alarm to do it all over again.
My theory continues, to say that if you could continue in this mode A: everything would get done, including the things you have “planned” B: everything truly not important would fall away C: the rhythm of work to be done would come to match and balance the energy you have for it D: the pattern of work would become more consistent and come into alignment with natural patterns, like daylight, and sleep, and E: eventually you would come to harmony and knowledge of much larger and more subtle rhythms, like time to plant the potatoes, and it’s going to be a long winter. To do this, I opine, would require making no commitments, ever, to anyone, including yourself, to ever show up to anything at a given time; accepting the consequences of all that (essentially not participating in society at all); and to have an extremely patient and accepting partner. Until then, compromise. I will revel in the lone days I am able to work like a bee, moving from one task to the next without the tyranny of a to-do list, and maybe in valuing those times, I can create more of them. -TANGENT ENDS-BACK TO THE BEES!-
Also literally tired, because after the second day of class I drove to pick up my bees in the late evening and then drove another two hours home. I’d requested a nucleus (mated queen, couple hundred bees, and four frames of brood and honey) from Kevin Spicer, and he’d said he’d have one packed up for me (too late in the day to put them straight into my box). I got to his place a little early, and saw a nucleus box, obviously mine, waiting on the porch.
During the workshop we’d spent a lot of time interacting with the bees: observing their behaviour, inspecting the hive, standing in the apiary. Klaus was notably affectionate with his bees, as a whole and as individuals, calling them “girls”, “sweetie”, touching them gently, and obviously always concerned about them. “See this bee?” he would point out to us instructively. “She’s [fanning/guarding/cleaning/transferring pollen]. Isn’t she cute?”
I was usually feeling anxious around his bees, impatient to get them put back in the box, concerned for all the jostling and noise that the great lumbering group of us crowded around the hive were causing.
When I saw that box of bees on the porch, though, my bees, I felt an overwhelming rush of love that I really was not expecting. My bees, that were going to come home and be a part of our family, and I would have to take care of as best I could.
I went to sit by the box of bees and immediately bent over it for a deep inhale, to smell them. Instantly, the bees just on the other side of the screen from my face buzzed angrily. Hey! Cut it out with the wind! At the round entrance hole, where the tap would be if this was a box of wine, not bees, the bees there were desperately trying to push themselves through the wire screen stapled over the hole. The whole box had a sound and attitude of frustration and panic. I sat there with it, watching them, and noticed that some bees at the screened entrance were trying to push out clumps of garbage but were frustrated by the screen. There was a pile of small crumbs they’d already pushed out, but they had bundles of fuzz, fibres and dirt larger than them that would not pass through the mesh and were starting to clog up their hole.
I made a tiny wire hook and slowly teased out some of the garbage through the screen, while the sanitation bees pushed from the other side, and the more I pulled out, the more they brought to the door. They’d only been in there for a few hours, but were already “This place needs sprucing up!” like a no-nonsense pioneer wife. The bee box calmed down a lot while I sat there, happily bonding with them and helping with garbage extrication, New Caledonia crow style.
Two bees were on the outside of the box, crawling around on the screen on top. They obviously believed they belonged inside, and I hoped they would stick it out until getting home when they could be reunited.
Kevin arrived and promptly gave me a tour of his whole bee facility, and then I departed, just before dark, with my box of bees in the back seat, but only one of the two hitchhikers remained on top.
I drove off, then remembered I had to give them water. Drove some more, remembered the bee on the outside had no access to fuel, so stopped to feed her. I made it home before midnight, exhausted, wearily singing Tori Amos and K.D. Lang to stay awake. I figured at least the bees’d get used to my voice.
At home HW unloaded the truck and I slowly carried the nuc box to the house.
Me: There’s a bee on the outside of the box, careful don’t squish her. HW: There’s a loose bee?
Inside, the frames were loose and swinging, so even though I tried to carry them like a glass of water, they were getting jostled and they weren’t happy about it. Bump, bump. Buzz, buzz. They stayed in the house for the night because it was kind of a cool night.
In the morning I had to go out and place them in their new location and release them. It was a cold rainy day, so it would not be transfer day. I set the nuc box out on a milk crate and started pulling out the staples. One staple, and it bent the wire mesh just enough for one bee to pop through the screen.
Poppopopopopopop, a steady stream of bees flowed straight out of that hole, head to tail, did a little crowd walk around on the face of the box, and started taking off.
About this time I noticed the “loose bee” was missing. I went and found her in the house, sitting on one of HW’s shoes, and took her to the door and she slipped right into the box. She made it!