Friday, April 20, 2012

The Great Bee Migration Continues

The new queen in her cage
Sunday afternoon
The new hive and queen were installed on Saturday.  By Sunday afternoon there was a great mass of bees outside the old hive in the house wall, unable to get back in. That night they formed a huge ball and clung to the dome all night. We checked and took one picture with a flash. The beekeeper came, checked on the queen, who was alive and well, still in her little cage, and he was hopeful.  Tuesday the weather changed from sunny and warm to cold and rainy. The wind and rain got quite hard, and we worried.
Sunday night
By early Tuesday afternoon, the poor little bees were huddled together in the rain, unable to return to the safety of their hive in the wall. They clung to the dome and formed a large tight ball that literally vibrated during the first hours of the rain. Did they shiver as we do to circulate whatever flows through their bodies. We had no idea, and we couldn't think of any way to protect or warm them.
Tuesday afternoon
Later they stopped moving at all. No vibrating, no flying, no anything. The stillness was eerie. But no bee bodies littered the ground below the dome. We checked again the next morning before daylight. They might have been frozen in place, but it wasn't that cold. The Internet didn't tell us about such a situation, and we didn't have any idea if they could survive. By early afternoon it had warmed a little and a few began flying. Hope returned. Happily we shot off another email and picture to our beekeeper friend. He wasn't sure either and passed it on to a more experienced friend.
Early Wednesday
That evening after sundown, another cool one, there were far fewer bees visible on the dome. Were they dead? Had they taken shelter in trees or bushes? Found a new home? We did see three or four enter the new hive, but no large numbers, no swarm as we had hoped.
Almost gone Thursday
Then Thursday came, sunny and fairly warm. The bees almost disappeared from the dome. We waited anxiously for the beekeeper. This time he came in his white suit and watched. Not much was happening, so he removed the top to the new hive to check on the queen. Bees! And the queen had eaten the candy plug in her box and escaped. He took off the screen and peered into the hole. Thousands of bees! They'd moved into the new hive and were alive and well. What excitement! Success.

You'd think, for all our interest and enthusiasm, we'd want the bees, but we've been trying to get rid of them for years. It just seems that such tough, determined little creatures deserve a chance, and we wanted them to find a place where they'd be welcome. So, long live the Queen!


Polly said...

So you've save thousands of lives. Not many people can say that in a lifetime. What a cool story, Ellis. I'm afraid I wouldn't have been so compassionate. Then I would have felt guilty. We have a cedar shake house, and bees love to get under them. Years ago, they burrowed into the office. I can't remember what we did, but I'm sure I felt guilty for a while. I'm afraid to think what lurks in the walls of my house.

Ellis Vidler said...

They're fascinating and have never bothered us. But we've tried to kill them, talked to many people about ways to move them out, and only this one man was willing to try. Looks as if he's succeeded. :-)

Nancy Lauzon said...

Congrats, Ellis! Thanks for the wonderful pics and story, it's a great one. A bunch of what looked like wasps at first glance landed in the tree outside my daughter's house, and some stupid neighbour tried to spray Raid on them. My daughter told them to stop, and called a local beekeeper, who came over. Lo and behold, they were a lost swarm of honeybees, and he was delighted, since that's how he makes his living! He managed to capture them and brought them home. A great story with a happy ending!

Ellis Vidler said...

I'm so glad they were saved. Tell your daughter she did a good thing. Honeybees are disappearing at an alarming rate. We were really fortunate to find someone who could get ours.

Teri Heyer said...

Such a cool post. Loved all the pictures too. I've always had a fascination with bees. I remember as a kid in So-Cal when some bees swarmed on our fence. A local bee-keeper came and retrieved them. Later he came back with jars of the best honey ever. It was orange blossom honey as there were orange groves nearby. Gee, I haven't thought of all that in years. Thanks for bringing back some nice memories.

Ellis Vidler said...

Teri, we always had honey on the breakfast table when I was very young. We lived with my grandparents and someone from their families (western Kentucky farmers) sent fresh honey and sorghum molasses. Grandmother made biscuits every morning. It's so nice to recall those memories.

Rebecca Foster said...

"The Internet didn't tell us about such a situation..." That's the same issue I had when trying to learn about migration behavior in bees. I'm glad I'm not alone! And thanks so much for such an informative and interesting post. I loved it!