The Bee Tree Adventure: Part Three

Once we had all the comb out of the tree and banded into frames, though, the bees didn’t want to move into their new boxes with their comb. They clung to the tree trunk or flew around aimlessly. I started to look a little aimless myself. I mean, what the heck do you do now? How do you encourage thousands of bees to go into a box? Dave and Kyle sort of looked to me like, “What now?” And I remember saying to them, “I have no idea. I’ve never done this before, you know.” I like that we were all in this together.

We were looking for the queen, of course, but that’s hilarious. I mean, this was not a very stable environment for spotting the queen…and I’m not so great at spotting the queen, anyway…especially if I’m actually looking for her.  So, we started taking handfuls of bees from the tree and putting them into the box. That’s a very very very very cool feeling—to have that many bees vibrating in the palms of your hands. For some reason, I think of it as a very sweet thing that they trust you. Of course, they didn’t stay where I wanted them, though. They flew around instead. I just kept hoping to plop the queen down in the new hive boxes so I could watch the other bees happily following her in there. Didn’t happen.

Fortunately, Dave remembered that we had his neighbor’s home-rigged bee vacuum with us, and Dave had brought a generator with him so we could use the vac in the field. I was so relieved that we had a next-step plan.

Dave started vacuuming bees from the log…the vacuum gently sucks up the bees and then deposits them in a special box built by his neighbor. After only a couple of minutes, we began to see some different behavior from the bees.

It was almost unbelievable…I’m like, “Are those bees all trying to get in the box?”

Suddenly those bees we hadn’t yet vacuumed were going from the log to the box and trying to crawl into a little hole on the side. And, I swear, they started pointing to the hole and fanning their wings as if to say, “She’s in here! Go in here! This is our new home!”

We have no pictures of this. Deb had left us already, and I haven’t yet received a video from Dave including this part. But it happened.

The Bee Tree Adventure: Part Two

Sorry to have left you hanging there, Reader. I went on a little vacation into the north woods. You can thank me for bringing all this nice weather home.

So, Dave and Kyle strung some rope to give tension and guide the tree as it fell; then Dave cut a notch from the tree trunk. As he did his opposite-side cut, the tree fell perfectly into the field.

David Shaw cuts the bee tree
David Shaw cuts the bee tree
Bee tree cut at the base of the bee nest
Bee tree cut at the base of the bee nest

Fortunately, we guessed correctly and cut the tree just at the base of the nest (funny…I say “we.” I don’t think I had a thing to do with this decision). Then, Dave and Kyle used their truck to pull the downed tree out into the open field where we could work. Before we got to the bees, though, the guys cut and hauled away the rest of the tree. That gave us plenty of clear room in which to work. Next, Dave and Kyle cut away at the tree trunk (and hauled away the pieces) until we exposed the top of the nest. So, all we were left with in the field was the section of trunk containing the bees.

At first, the bees were calm, but soon they began to pour from the tree…they weren’t flying so much as they were simply coating the interior and the exterior of the exposed log.

Bees leave the hive
Bees leave the hive
Bees leave the hive
Bees leave the hive

Deb was using my camera to snap these shots, but she didn’t have a bit of gear on other than my hat, so she didn’t feel comfortable getting too close at this point…which means we have no pictures of the comb as we cut it and placed it into frames. I think Dave is making a video (see the helmet cam he’s rigged up?), and I think that’ll show things up close. We’re just waiting for him to figure out how to use his new editing software.

We filled 15 medium frames with comb containing larvae and capped brood…there was absolutely zero honey…my theory is that when we first began cutting into the tree, the bees engorged themselves with whatever honey was stored in their comb. This is their behavior when they sense trouble or before they swarm—they immediately begin preparations for having to leave their hive behind, which means filling up with food enough to get them settled into a new home.

We used rubber bands to secure the comb into the frames. But once all the frames were in their new hive boxes, the bees didn’t want to follow them. Instead, the bees absolutely coated the inside and the outside of the open log. And once the comb had been removed from their home, they began to fill the air.

Here’s Dave’s first video:

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.