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Friday, October 1, 2010

Sadness & Lessons Learned

This afternoon, Aaron and I went to check on the new hive and to harvest honey.  We were both saddened and surprised to see that the new hive was silent and filled with dead bees.  I'm not exactly sure what happened other than a combination of capturing them late in the season with cold nights coming on and they were low in numbers.  I had placed a feeder inside the hive, which they had used, and there was plenty of goldenrod behind the hive, but unfortunately they didn't make it.

Good news was that I had 16 frames of honey that I pulled from the supers on the other two hives.  Aaron and I spun out over 2 gallons from one hive and we have the frames from the West hive to spin out later.  When I pulled the frames from the East hive they bees were very calm and polite, but the West hive was another story.  The West bees were upset from the beginning and just seemed to get worse.  Aaron was a great help in his bee suit as we smoked and brushed the bees off of each frame.

We drove the frames in the back of the truck to the old wash house by the farm house where we were going to spin out the honey.  It has water and screened windows and should keep any stray bees from being a pest.  Well, things didn't go quite as planned.  While Aaron and I were setting up the equipment in the wash house, the bees came a lookin' for their stolen honey....and found it.  When I went out to bring in some frames there were easily a hundred bees buzzing around the back of the truck.  I carefully grabbed four frames and we went to work on them.  There is sure a difference between working with honey when it is 85 degrees outside and when it is only 65!

After finishing those four frames, I sent Aaron out to get some more, but he returned empty handed....why? Because there were hundreds and hundreds of bees swarming around the truck.  It was also at this point that Aaron informed me that I had left the truck windows down...(great!)  I decided to suit up to get the frames and would pass them to Aaron who was guarding the wash house door.  I think we only had about 3 bees sneak into the wash house.  We spun out six more frames and drained most of the honey into a storage container.  Let me tell you, cold honey pours S-L-O-W!!!  As we were extracting the honey we heard a strong buzzing sound and discovered that the bees had found us and were buzzing all around the screen window.    Because we were on a schedule we had to finish up before getting all the frames spun out, so we cleaned up and went to the farm house with a tray of cappings that I was going to pack up to take home.  As soon as we got into the farm house the bees were buzzing at the screen door!  They were everywhere!  Aaron commented how it was like Alfred Hitchcock's movie "The Birds" but with bees.

I decided to suit up again and take the empty frames out to the hives so the bees could clean them up, and frankly I was not going to keep the frames anywhere near the farm house.  I headed out to the hives and sat the frames down for the bees to do their work.  At that point I decided to check the brood frames on the West hive...yes the hive that was upset with me a couple of hours ago.  They were bearded all over the front of the hive still, but appeared calm to my approach.  I popped the top and pulled a random frame that was filled with capped honey.  However, with that action the bees launched their aerial attack!  I don't think I have ever been swarmed like that before.  No stings through my suit, but it was quite an experience.  Aaron had a bit of an experience as well.  He was not suited up, but was standing back about 20 feet, when some bees started buzzing him from the West hive, so he backed up another 10 feet.  However, the bees started going after his hair, so he took off running.  Not realizing his troubles, I asked him to bring me the smoker from the truck, but when I turned around I saw him already about 100 yards away at the machine was later I learned about his encounter with the bees. 

Because the West hive was stuffed with bees, having taken the super off, I decided to put the super back on so they would have plenty of space to live and not try to swarm this late in the season.  I will just leave the super on all winter, though with their numbers dropping as the honey flow ends, they will probably not use it much in a few more weeks.

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