Good Beekeepers as Good Neighbors

Good neighbors

Yesterday Nicola and I removed a newly hived swarm of bees from a suburban home (the fact that those removed bees found a new entry point into the same house and may have absconded the on-site hive box only to return to another part of the house is a story for another day. Let me just tell you that I’ll be on site addressing that again this morning).

Here’s what I want to think about today: A man in the neighborhood where I removed yesterday’s bees keeps bees in his backyard. For some reason, I think I heard someone say that he keeps 8 hives. And now all the neighbors are sort of considering this guy the source of the bees-in-the-house problem.

I may have contributed to this blame-the-beekeeper sentiment because when the homeowner told me that the guy right up the street keeps bees, I probably raised my eyebrows as if to say, “Ah-ha. That explains it.” And it may. I mean, bees swarm…and when they swarm in a suburban place with limited trees, I guess they’ll go into the next-best-available empty cavity.

I’m thinking this through because I keep my bees in populated areas, too. I keep about 8-10 hives in my backyard apiary, and though there are hundreds of acres of woods behind my home, there are also hundreds of homes within flying distance of my bee yard. And because my phone has been ringing off the wall with calls from all over the city and all over the state about bees in homes, it’s really on my mind lately.

According to movie “Vanishing of the Bees,” small-scale hobby beekeepers are one of the most hopeful connections in rebuilding the sharply declining honeybee population. So we can’t vilify beekeepers, whose bees pollenate our neighborhood gardens and trees, when bees find a home in a house.

I don’t know the answer to this, which is why I’m writing about it.

And those bees wouldn’t enter a home if there weren’t open, uninsulated cavities waiting there for them to live in. So, I guess it’s just as much the responsibility of homeowners to keep their homes caulked and sealed and insulated against pests.

This post is already way too long. But I leave you, Reader, thinking about neighbors and about the importance of good neighborly relations.



And Who Wouldn't Want to See the Bees?!

On April 27, 2009, I captured the swarm that I now call the Amazons, and it’s mid April again right now….which means I think it’s time to set out the four swarm bait boxes I’ve built in hopes of capturing a few swarms.

I’m not entirely sure where to hang those things. I know I’ll put one on a tree in my own beeyard—near the Amazons because they swarmed a few times last year and landed right there in front of my eyes…right in front of my eyes, but 40 or 50 feet up in the tree…too high for me to reach. It’s a killer to watch your own bees hanging in your own yard like that knowing they’re off to find a new home.

You know, Reader, on Sunday afternoon as I set out to inspect the Amazons with Hannah, a soon-to-be beekeeper, my neighbor John appeared. He saw us getting our gear together, and he wanted to see the bees. He was in shorts, T-shirt, and Chaco sandals. We suited him up. Then Katie, John’s wife called out to say that she was leaving the house and asked if John would watch Johnny, their 5-year old son. So, we suited Johnny up, too, and we all went out to visit the bees.

But in all the commotion, I lost sight of my plans for the inspection, and though we saw many wonderful goings on in the hive, I forgot to do what I set out to do: remove the bottom hive box (because nothing’s happening in there, and it’s one of two remaining 10-frame deep boxes still in operation and I’m eager to get rid of it); and add an 8-frame medium box to the top of the hive for expansion.

Today’s temperatures should reach the mid-60s, and it’s supposed to be sunny, so I plan to quickly do those two things this afternoon.

Johnny and the big smoker
John, Johnny, and Hannah inspect the Amazons

I Love the Term "Beeyard"

In her very sweet way, Deb has “suggested” that we put no more bee colonies on our little hill.

Last spring we began this adventure with one hive. Then two. One died over the winter. We added two. That made three. We split one into two. That made four. We collected the bees from the tree. That’s five. And now we’ve collected the little swarm. Current count is six.

(You know that only 2 or 3 of these colonies will survive the winter. But then, I plan to capture some swarms in the spring, so the number should continue to grow. If you’re reading this post and you live in Cincinnati and you want to keep some bees at your place, let me know.)

And, although all six colonies are tucked into the woods’ edge, they’re still visible from our house. They’re also visible to any neighbors who drive by, and we don’t want to overtax our neighbors’ generosity in regard to bees. There’s always a breaking point, yes?…I mean, at some point some neighbor will say, “Hey. That may be a one or two too many bee colonies on the block.”

Although I think those colonies are spectacular to look at, and I never get tired of watching the bees dart through the woods and our garden, Deb admits she’d probably prefer gazing into the naked woods without having to see the hives.

So, last night after dinner, we went on a little yard walk to see where we can place the swarm hive and any future hives we might add. We decided on a spot behind the garage near the wood pile. The problem with our new spot, however, is that we’ll have to mow around the hives there. I’m not thrilled about that, but if that’s what it takes to keep a few more colonies around here, we’ll do it.

Maybe we’ll let some ground cover take the place of the grass back there. Or, better yet, maybe we can plant some wildflowers there. That would be awesome.