This past week was a very busy bee week….pun untended. Tuesday morning I received a call from an old cowboy down in the town of Porter. He had a tree filled with bees that fell last winter. He had been cutting it up to get it out of the way and came to a halt when he noticed bees exiting a split in the side of the tree. There it sat until Tuesday morning.
He mentioned something to Chuck down at the Knox feed store on Knox Rd in nearby Porter. The cowboy didn’t necessarily want to harm the bees, but if they wouldn’t leave, he would apply diesel and a torch. I gave my “goo” friend John a call to see if he wanted to join me on an adventure….I didn’t see his eyes roll but I am sure they did…….Let me back up, why do I call John a “goo friend”?
I posted a bit of our adventure on Facebook and fat fingered what should have read, “good friend”, but left the “d” off! An observant reader of the post caught the error…….But, it sounded good to me, I mean we are dealing with gooey honey! On top of that that, John was one of the unfortunate senior guys and in this downturn the Company gave him the opportunity to look for another career. Not sure he had being my assistant beekeeper on his list of options. He has been a good sport and we have had some “goo” adventures.
Back to the adventure. I picked up John and we went to check the tree out and figure out what options we had. The cowboy said that the bees didn’t seem too riled up when he was using the chainsaw so that became plan number one. We planned to open the hive with the chainsaw. The split where the bees were entering and exiting the hive seemed very busy! Lots of activity and lots of pollen going in. The log had several other cracks which turned out to be to our advantage. About 3 ½ feet to the left of where I planned a cut was the stub of a forked branch that showed evidence of being hollowed out. That turned out to be correct and helped us out on day two of the removal. Yes, two days for free bees!
At the end of day one…really about 3 hours of continuous work, we had about 14 frames with cut comb rubber banded into place. Operatiing a chainsaw in full gear, awkward positions and on a fairly warm sunny day took a lot of steam out of this 65 year old guy! Our close examination of the tree indicated a possible narrowing on the left end and a massive cluster of bees massed up on the log interior that was void of comb. Our guess was that the queen had run on up into that narrowing and the girls were clustered up with her. Packed up our gear and made plans for day two.
Day two now, in addition to the chainsaw I brought a reciprocating saw for making more controlled cuts. Long story cut short, we wound up borrowing the cowboy’s reciprocating saw as mine was sick and wouldn’t get up to speed. First order of business was to gather the clustered bees. Using sugar water and a misting spray bottle we swept bees into a plastic tub and a plastic feed scoop, “gotta” love a cowboy with lots of tools and equipment. Just guessing we scooped up enough bees to fill at least two packages of bees, maybe more. We were dumping them in on top of the frames and they were pretty much staying put. We made our fine cuts into the narrowing end and realized that we needed to go with the big gun and fired up the chainsaw.
Now luck worked into the equation. Realize now, that I am a rookie and my “goo” friend is a little less than a rookie but learning quickly. I fired up the chainsaw and feeling my way along, advice I heard in a video by a local beekeeper Tom Brueggan, cut out the narrowing portion. It came out in a half pipe like piece about 3 feet long and bees packed solid in the “trough’ like section. Poured and swept the bees into the open top of the box. We placed the top on the box and went about some clean up and organizing tools. John pointed out that the bees were now clustering on the top lid and marching in through the hole. I broke into a big grin and he said it first, “We have the queen don’t we?” Yes we did. It was a first for both of us to witness the “march”. They we packing themselves into the hive body.
Our cowboy kept his distance and watched as we finished cleaning up and putting away our tools. We battened down the top of the hive box, two deeps and a medium pretty well filled with bees and cut comb. I went over to visit with the cowboy as John shed his gear. I had my hood and gloves off while letting the sweat cool me off. About that time cowboy’s brother showed up and I knew him, couldn’t place exactly where but he had sat through one of the classes I teach in my consulting role. So now cowboy, Deon as best I can decipher how he says his name and brother Rocky are visiting with us. Deon has an ice cold Miller Lite in his hand and must have seen me eying it. As any good cowboy, he had an ice chest in the bed of his pick-up with a few more. Wow, that beer hit the spot.
We got permission to leave the hive box in place for a while, until I find the right spot to locate it. That will give the girls time to get comfortable and begin attaching the comb we cut out and placed into the frames.
My “goo” friend and I head out to Navasota to pick up four packages of bees to be installed into four ready and empty hives. 10 minutes into the drive we were at the Hot Biscuit of Porter and yes, they make good biscuits. An hour and 20 minutes later we were at R Weaver’s place and enjoying the welcoming committee.
We were picking up the package bees, four to be exact and hopefully sans hitchhikers! We then turned around and headed back to Kingwood. First stop was at the Dacus place on Russel Palmer Road to install two of the packages. Max was home and came out to observe just as we were finishing up. Max is very new and we put his gear on and gloves to watch. Went very smooth.
Next stop was placing a package in the hive at Mike and Annette’s place. Mike watched from a distance and John reminded me to remove the plug from the queen cage….yes, I forgot….isn’t that what “goo” friends are for. Mike became a lot more comfortable and actually posed next to the hive in shorts, flip flops and a T-shirt……A great illustration that 99% or more of the time bees just want to go about their business while ignoring people.
Package four went to Troy’s place out off Mills Branch Road. Troy was home so I had him suit up and watch the process. He is also very new to bees and very hungry to learn. It went very smooth and again the “goo” friend had to remind me again to remove the plug from the queen cage. Did I say that I was 65 yet?…..maybe. Troy also mention that he just picked up a few empty lots down the street from his house that I can use to expand if needed…..I think I know where the Cowboy hive is going to go!
So, a great “bee” week, a lot of learning and nice successes.