Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Talkin' Trash

“One person’s trash is another person’s treasure”
Author unknown

My dad is my beekeeping partner and between our apiaries we have 5 hives.

So he leaves a message on my answering machine yesterday evening…”Hey I got a swarm call, give me a call back when you get home. I’ll tell you about it, and we’ll go get it tomorrow.” I got home late that evening and when I called him back he said the bees were on the 10th hole at the Northshore Golf Course, clustered on a branch lying on the ground. Lying on the ground…easy as pie as far as swam calls go, and he’d already taking a box out there, shaken most of the bees in, and left it there overnight for any remaining bees to go in on their own. By early morning, before they start flying, it should be as simple as screening off the entrance and loading it into the pickup. “Wanna go, I’ll pick you up at 8am?” Sweet! No ladders, no precarious situation, no muss, no fuss! I even debated the need to bring my veil but, as I say, always be prepared, so I did.

So we get there, and he drives over to the 10th hole and points to some trees, “It’s right over there.” Well I’m not seeing it, no box, no bees flying, just golfers and a whole lotta grass. Then he realizes it’s not there. I get out and start looking around, wondering if someone moved it, maybe stole it? Hive theft is not unheard of. He calls his contact, the head of grounds maintenance, who doesn’t know where it went. We flag a ‘marshall in a red shirt’…no, he didn’t see it. ‘Marshall’ then flags a couple of groundskeepers…”Oh, sure, it was HUGE!” as he indicates the size of a football. “We threw it in the dumpster.”

“You WHAT??” I was incredulous that anyone would pick up an obvious piece of equipment, that obviously belonged to someone, that had been located strategically, now containing the bees that had once been a HUGE mass laying on the grass, and without asking enough questions, proceed to throw it into a dumpster. But then that’s just me. I had visions of busted up parts and pieces with a whole lotta angry bees flying around. Good thing I brought my veil.

So we drive over to the dumpster, ‘over there, the green one’ and look down in. Sigh…yep there’s dad’s equipment and the bees. The lids flew off, the frames all dumped out, the box on it's side (nothing broken, thankfully) and most of the bees huddled on a couple of frames. Well I guess to a non bee person that little group of bees would look HUGE. So down I go, thinking I now need a bumper sticker that reads “will dumpster dive for bees”. Thankfully it is the dumpster the grounds keepers use so it just had a lot of plant debris, turf and branches and a pile of gravel which made it easy for me to climb down into it. I’d not have been a happy beekeeper if it was kitchen waste.

Poor bees. I carefully righted the box, replaced most of the empty frames, then began to slowly lift the frames containing the bee clusters, as I looked for the queen. I found her, put that frame in the box, then the rest, and put on the lid. Soon the box began to hum as the bees inside calmed, warmed and signaled to the others still outside, “come this way, here’s home”. Several were still flying and crawling around the debris so we waited and in a little while many more went in. Herding bees is a little like herding cats, so in a situation like that there is no way to get them all. Time to screen it and lift it out. I console myself that maybe those left will go back to the colony they swarmed from.

It’s in my yard now and we fed it syrup. It’s a small swarm, no doubt an ‘after swarm’. Swarming is the bee colony’s natural way to divide when they get crowded. This time of year, the colony it came from has probably already swarmed earlier but still needed more room. So a new queen was made and off they go. She’s small too, so she’s probably not mated yet. Many beekeepers wouldn’t bother with such a swarm, it’s too small to build up enough to survive a winter here. But dad and I go for them all, big or small if we can reach them. And this one came to us just when we needed a queen. My queen died last week. We need to check to see if she laid new eggs before she died, so the colony could make a new one, but the cold rainy weather has postponed an inspection. If there is no queen in the making, we’ll join this small swarm to my hive and all should be well again…providing my hive accepts the new queen and she mates successfully.

Not all is easy in the life of bees.

In Bloom In My Garden Today: Bletilla (hardy orchid), Thalictrum rochebrunianum (Meadow Rue), Lavender ‘Hidcote’, Digitalis, Begonia ‘Bonfire’, Penstemon schmidel ‘Red Riding Hood’, Salvia officinalis (culinary sage), Salvia nemorosa ‘Viola Klose’, Astilbe ‘Bridal Veil’, Baptisia, Tomato ‘Stupice’, Dianthus (Pinks), Hardy Geranium, Peas, Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’, Armeria latifolia ‘Joystick’, Dianthus, Day Lily, Rose, Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’, Saxifrage, old fashioned Coral Bells (Heuchera), Alpine strawberry, Daphne caucasica ‘Eternal Fragrance’ and ‘Summer Ice’

Authors photos


Shari B. (FitFeat) said...

Joan, you are my hero! How cool is this story!? Every single time I read your posts I am amazed at your massive knowledge on so many topics! If I looked at a 'swarm' of bees I would have no clue how to tell which one is the queen. That is so cool! (OK, I said "cool" twice now, I feel like a gushing goober.) Good think you found her!

I can't believe they THREW AWAY your dad's hive box!!

LOVED this post! Love that you do this with your dad - what a fun thing for the two of you to have in common and do together. You need to write a book about a father/daughter team going on swarm calls! I'd read it for sure!

Joan said...

Hi Shari!

Bees really are fascinating and such fun. Dad has totally infused me with his enthuasium! I have a hard time keeping up with him. I love sharing it with him. Thanks for reading!

Cindy said...

oh sigh, I just left my comment via my phone and I lost it.


I was saying, I totally agree with Shari, 100%, even the gushing goober part! :)

This is exactly why I want to get our hive started! Oh what things we or I will learn, and JJ too. I would so love to pass this knowledge onto my boys. Plus we'll have the best pollenated garden around! hehe

Loved your story so much!

yada yada, what Shari said!
ALSO, I did not know bees like Thyme...and I love to plant it, so I am going to plant a few more varieties. I just found that coconut version and I can't wait to try it out! ALSO, my purple poppies are really growing now...can't wait for them to bloom.

have a great day!

Joan said...

Hi Cindy!

I for one, can't wait till you get your meter box bees! Do keep me informed, please. I'm so excited for you and your family. Kids are so great with bees, and if initially afraid, it doesn't take them long to get over it. Bees are so fascinating they get hooked right away when given proper insight/education. I just know you'll be great beekeepers.

Oh and bees do love thyme, so when yours blooms watch for them. You may read in your studies that thymol is now considered helpful in controlling Nosema. Ask hubs about that, and thymol comes from Thyme...duh. I don't know if the bees have any preference over regular thymes or the scented hybrids. Do let us know when yours bloom.

I just know you'll love those poppies, and when they bloom, look for your bees inside collecting the whiteish pollen. So fun!


Anonymous said...

I loved this one. What great information.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous was Christine...ha ha...

Joan said...

Hi Christine!!
Thanks so much for stopping by.

I love it when a reader chimes in!

Thanks for the complements, and DO come back again soon.


Nancy said...

Joan, I loved that story! Great pic of you in the dumpster!!!

Joan said...

Thank you Nancy!
So nice of you to visit and leave a comment!! I hadn't really thought of writing about it till hubby suggested it and the more I thought about the day the more comical it became! Glad you liked it!

Stephen said...

Great story! Thanks for pointing me towards it on my blog. A real beekeeper will go to any lengths to rescue a swarm - and you certainly qualify! :-)

Joan said...

Hi Stephen! Thanks for visiting and commenting! Yes, I agree with you...any lengths. But I draw the line at 40'(12m) ladders and as high up in the trees! haha

Welcome home...I'm sure your bees missed you.