Turkey Tracks: Moving the Bees

Turkey Tracks:  February 9, 2012

Moving the Bees

Last Thanksgiving, we were in Charleston, SC, with our children.  Both of our sons and their families live within two blocks of each other, so we stay a chunk of time with each family.

My daughter-in-law, Tami, has been a backyard bee keeper for the past year.  And, by year’s end, she had harvested her first honey:

Tami’s hive was in a shady part of the yard, however, and had acquired a worrisome kind of little beetle that can harm the hive.  So, just after Thanksgiving, she and her bee mentor, with the help of her fellow beekeeper Kay, decided to move the hive to a sunnier spot in the yard.

Here’s Kelly, all ready for the move–see the hive alongside the back fence?

Here’s Kay and Tami with the children, starting the smoker:

The boys are ready for the next step of the move:

The bee mentor and his wife arrive, and here’s the whole crew, moving the bees.  Notice Kay’s daughter standing nearby without any protection.  Bees really are not aggressive unless you directly threaten the hive and/or its honey.  They are especially not aggressive if they’ve been smoked.

Here’s the new site–note the sun:

Here’s the hive in its sunny new site alongside Tami’s raised vegetable beds:

But, this picture isn’t the end of the story.

There are two other pieces.

First, all the bees that were out foraging came home to find no hive where they left it.  Hundreds of them swarmed around the spot where the hive had been.  By nightfall, they lit on the fence and on the ground below the fence.  Tami and I couldn’t bear it; our hearts were breaking.  We donned gloves and took a flashlight and scooped up as many as we could with sheets of newspaper and slid them into brown paper sacks.  We then put the sacks, open, next to the hive.  By morning, the bees were gone.  Rejoined, we hoped, with their hive.  We had “saved,” we hoped, hundreds of bees.

Second, Tami thought the bees were ok in their new spot.  There was a lot of activity at the hive.  Bees were coming and going.  But, when she returned from Christmas in Maine, something didn’t seem quite right.  She donned her gear and opened the hive–something one does not do much in the winter.

The hive was empty.  Not a bee in sight.  And all the honey was gone–though she had left two flats of honey for the bees to use over the winter.  The bee activity she had seen were robber bees from another hive, taking all the honey.

She does not know what happened.  Was the queen damaged in the move?  Did a nearby automatic water sprinkler wet the hive?  There was some mold on the bottom layers…???  Was it colony collapse disorder?  Or, had her bees, simply, departed.

She’s ordered more bees and a new hive, since the old one has to be destroyed in case there was a disease present.

She loves her bees, and this loss was huge.  For us, too, as we loved her honey.