Let the Bees Lead You

Crap. Yesterday I dropped my brand new iPhone and busted the screen. Not to worry…the wonderful folks at the Apple store replaced it right away with no questions asked. (But if you’ve got the iPhone 4, beware: That danged screen will crack at the drop of a hat. I’m thinking of getting a case for it.)

Anyway, I tell you this because I took pictures as I fed the bees yesterday…but I hadn’t yet backed up the iPhone (including those pictures) before Apple replaced it, so I lost yesterday’s photos.

ALSO, Deb and I drove out to the bee tree yesterday and met the arborist I’d lined up for the job. He was already on site when we arrived…and he’d checked out the tree by the time we got there. Once you know the vicinity of the tree, the bees will simply lead you to it. We really like our guy because he’s sort of embraced this adventure. He’s a softspoken Vietnam vet with a really calm presence about him. Cool that he got there early, and cool that he rode his Triumph motorcycle.

If this thing all goes down (literally) as we expect at the end of this week, you’ll see a lot of pictures of David Shaw, Tree Surgeon. And if you live in Cincinnati, call him for an estimate on your tree work. You’ll really like him.

This Bee-Tree Thing Is Following Me Around

You know I went to check out the bee tree, right? Well, for some reason, I thought I was heading to some guy’s house. I thought he had a tree on his property near some field he’d mown down to serve as a picnic area he’d planned on renting out.

Instead, I drove up to a HUGE company in Batavia. I was flabbergasted that I’d envisioned it so wrong. The chief engineer walks out to meet me and takes me back to the very very nice employee picnic area…off of which is a big old tree full of bees.

I told the guy that I couldn’t solve his problem unless they took the (almost dead) tree down…it’s dropping big branches around the picnic area anyway. So, the guy says, “Well, are you willing to get with an arborist and work up a proposal to take the tree down and remove the bees?” I thought about it for a minute. I realized that this thing just keeps opening up more opportunities for me, so I said, “Sure.” And now I’ve got a project.

My beekeeping friends say that this is a bad time to be taking bees from a tree. But this guy wants these bees gone right now…his employees can’t really enjoy their picnic area with all the bees visiting their soda cans and sandwiches.

I could try to talk him into doing all of this in the spring; then again, what do I have to lose by trying my hand at it now? Yes, I could lose the bees. But I lose bees anyway.

Diagram of How to Remove Bees from a Tree or a Structure

Reasons to Let the Bee Tree Be

Good morning, Reader. Amazing that a week can fly by as this one has.

Today I go to look at the bees in the tree. However, I’ve decided not to attempt removing them…unless I can convince the guy who owns it to cut the tree down. He says it’s pretty much dead anyway, and without access to the comb and queen and eggs and larvae, there’s little reason for me to attempt to collect the bees. Why? Well, all I would have at the end of the process is a single generation of bees.

Without the queen I have no egg layer, so the hive can’t propagate. Even if I couldn’t get to the queen for some reason, I’d like to get my hands on the comb because the comb contains all the eggs and larvae with which the bees could raise a new queen. But without access to the eggs or larvae (which is all in the comb, which is all inaccessible in the tree), the other bees have nothing with which to make a new queen, and they will all die out in a couple of months.

I could use the single generation of bees if I needed workers to beef up one of my already-existing weak colonies (and I don’t have any weak colonies…small, yes…weak, no), but in this current dearth there’s nothing for worker bees to do…no foraging, no comb building, etc. They’re all washboarding on the hives right now, and they only washboard when there’s no work to do. Additional workers would simply suck up the nectar and the honey from the hive, and I need that for the bees already living there.

So, if my goal is to build up a weak colony of my own, then collecting the bees from the tree works fine. But I don’t want to do that at this time of year.

All this thinking is good exercise.

Here’s a picture from The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture. If I wanted to collect only the bees and not the queen or the comb or the eggs or the larvae from either a tree or a structure, this is how I’d rig it up.

Diagram of How to Remove Bees from a Tree or a Structure

Bee Tree

I Can Learn, Can't I?

Every day lately, Reader, I get a call about bees. People call me to say they have a swarm of bees in their attic or in their doorframe or in a tree trunk.

They don’t really mean “a swarm.” A swarm is a mass of bees that hasn’t yet found its next home. The people who call me mean that they have a lot of bees flying around…a “swarm” is a technical term, but these folks are using it as a description of many bees flying. There’s a difference. I totally get the mixup and am happy to decipher the terms. What my callers want is someone to cut or trap the bees out of their home or tree.

At first I responded that I don’t do cut outs. I’ll collect swarms, but I’m not in the business of tearing homes and buildings apart to get the bees out. But the calls persist. So now I’m thinking that maybe I should try collecting those bees happily living in people’s homes or in other buildings. Why not? So I don’t have a good saw. Or a great ladder. So I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I can learn, can’t I?

Don’t worry, Reader, I’ll start small. I’ll take the advice of those nice people on Beemaster.com and start with easy jobs…out buildings…waist-high things…etc.

Yesterday I received a call about bees in a tree. I called my bee buddy, Chris, and he’s game to go see it with me. The guy who owns the tree sent me this picture from his phone.

Bee Tree
Bee Tree

I mean, sometimes I start thinking that my days are getting routine…that I’m getting old and that my life is growing dull. Yes, sometimes I think that way. And then these calls start coming in, and I think…Hey! Why not jump in and try some new things that’ll add some spice? So tomorrow I’m going to get Chris, and we’re heading out to see if we can’t get us some bees from this tree. What the hell.

Honeybee

Those Don't Look Like Bees

I put my name out on the internet as a honeybee-swarm collector, and I’ve been getting tons of calls to remove bees from structures…like log cabins, etc. Every day someone calls about bees.

I want to collect swarms, but I don’t do “cut outs.”

However, this morning I got a call from our friend, Don, who said his neighbor had found honeybees building comb in his birdhouse, and I was elated. I am dying to increase my colonies with local, feral bees. They’re healthier. And they’re free. And it’s cool to have them.

So tonight I loaded my car with all the equipment I thought I could possibly need to capture bees from the birdhouse. I mean, I had it all in there. I fired up my smoker and drove to the Korengel’s house with my smoker blowing smoke out the open windows and visions of strong and feral bees coming home with me and building comb and making me some honey. I was thinking of myself as a big bee expert.

But when I got to the birdhouse, I realized that those weren’t honeybees; they were yellow jackets. Shit. I toldĀ Don to tellĀ his neighbor to kill them.

Honeybee
Honeybee
Yellow Jacket
Yellow Jacket