12/24/10

Cut-out for a new beekeeper

Tom, a new Backwards Beekeeper here in Los Angeles, sends this story from a cut-out he did with the indefatigable Roberta a few weeks ago:

So I got an email from Roberta letting me know that she has a line on some bees and asking me if I want in. Now I had a newly installed, yet vacant, hive sitting in backyard, just waiting for a deserving colony of bees.


So of course I said yes.

Obtaining the bees would require performing a cut-out of a previous trap-out Roberta had done back in October.

She told me these particular bees were an angry bunch, which gave me some cause for concern (a man with two daughters doesn't really want a hive of overly angry bees in his backyard), and then she started talking about axes and chainsaws, which gave me a little more concern.

What was I getting into here?

In the end, though, unable to resist the allure of a new colony, I decided to give it a shot.

So early one Saturday morning I pulled up in front of a house in Granada Hills. The first thing I noticed was that where there was once a tree, there was now only a stump.


At this point, the prepared beekeeper would have started to gently smoke the bees. However, I did not fit into this category, the smoker being the one (main) item I had yet to purchase. So I donned my trusty beekeeper veil, peered into the hive to see what we were in for, and waited.

When Roberta arrived we set to work cutting the comb out of the remains of the tree and trimming it to fit the frames. The colony had a fair amount of brood and a little bit of honey. Because the stump was open, the whole process went pretty quickly.

I did manage to spot the queen as as transferred the comb to my hive box.


Now, even though these bees weren't as grumpy as before, we still set the queen aside with a small retinue (just in case some regicide would be needed) as we finished transferring the comb, wrapped the hive box in a sheet, and loaded it into the car.

We didn't have a good way to gather up the loose bees that remained in the stump, so we did leave a small population of workers behind.


But I now had a small colony of bees for my backyard, with about six frames of comb. And later that night after discussing the queen's fate with Roberta, I decided that because the colony was so small, removing her from the throne wasn't really a good idea, so I reintroduced the queen to the hive. She seemed pretty happy about it.

Because of the colony's low supply of honey, I started out feeding them a supply of sugar water and pollen. They took to it pretty quickly, and the workers keep pretty busy flying in and out of the hive. At least they did until last week--the colony is still pretty small, and I'm slightly concerned about their chances after this past week of rain and low temperatures.

—Tom

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