4/22/09

Backlog, March 28th: How I got my bees

Kirko and I went to a house in Marina del Rey and did a cut out. Er, well, he did a cut out and I tried to be as helpful as possible. It was a huge hive, with about 65,000 bees. They were surprisingly docile and though a few did find their way up my pants and started crawling around my legs, neither of us got stung during the removal.

For reference, Kirko is about 6'2" or so.

kirk cutting out the hive

Kirk originally thought we'd need a lot more hive boxes for this than the three I had, since there were so many bees. But recently he went to a bee conference, and he met a guy who didn't bother taking the comb with him, just the bees. For this guy's method, you need a couple frames of brood, and the queen, but you don't need all the comb that has been drawn. We decided to give it a try.

Smoking the hive. We've already cut into it a bit, but you should smoke periodically to keep the bees mellow.

smoking the hive


Here is the underside of cut up hive.

cut up


Here is Kirko cutting some comb with brood down to fit the frame.

fitting the comb


And no, he doesn't seem particularly worried about slicing through some of the capped brood.

cut comb

oh little worker bee!

After we fit the comb to the frame, we tie it in. The bees glue it back in with more wax, and then get rid of the string.

tying the comb into the frame

Within about an hour and a half, we finished cutting out the hive and shaking the bees into their new home. From the behavior of the bees in the hive box, we were pretty sure we had the all-important queen.

Some of the bees from the cut out had fallen and were hanging out on the ground, a little disoriented and unsure where to go, since we had changed the location of their hive. Some of the bees in the hive box eventually stuck out their hineys and started fanning out their pheremones telling the outside bees where home was. Another good sign that we had the queen.

Eventually as many bees as we were willing to wait for made their slow way towards the hive. Those that were left just had to fend for themselves. Hopefully they will find a hive to take them in.

In order to prepare the hive box for transport, we taped a screen to the top, and then the top board on top of that, with a gap to let in air. The screen was meant to keep the bees from flying out. We also stuffed the entrance of the hive with cheesecloth, but then decided they had enough air through the top screen, and also taped up the entrance.

stuffing the entrance

We cleaned up, and loaded the hive box into the back of my car. It seemed pretty safe, with everything taped up, but Kirko advised that I keep my veil on just in case. It was a good idea, since we did see a few bees flying out as we drove along the freeway, and Kirk got stung on his hand during the ride!
But all in all, we made it to our destination intact, safe and sound. Funny that it should be in my old stomping grounds by my alma mater. Kirko had found an old theatre in the West Adams district when a couple ladies called him to get a hive of bees out of a pedestal in their garden. But though they didn't want a hive in their pedestal, they were more than happy to host a hive elsewhere in their garden.

Enter, moi!

Here is Kirko setting them up behind Jade's airstream. He's taken off the top screen and top board.

setting up shop

We decided to add another hive box, just because there were so many bees that we figured they'd draw comb pretty quickly. We didn't want them to swarm for lack of space in the meanwhile.

new home!

There is always a chance that the bees will abscond when they are taken from one location to another. Usually they won't leave brood behind, but you never know. However, if they are still there within six to eight hours later, there's a really good chance they will stay for good.

Well, a month later, and so far so good. They've drawn a few frames of comb and seem to be pretty happy, as far as I can tell. I'm still feeding them sugar water, and will probably do a full hive check this weekend.

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