Monday, January 18, 2010

Honey Bee Colony Update

Hours have been spent reading and researching what can be done about these honey bees in our downed oak. Like an old mother hen fraught with desire to keep her brood safe, I was on the phone this morning right at 8 am PST. We have bee experts and a local organization that can set you up with all the bee equipment you want or need if you desire to become a beekeeper. Although they do not personally collect bees, they have a swarm list of people who do and I was given two names to call this morning, but first referred to an expert in one of their departments. That conversation was brief; basically she said there is really nothing you can do right now.

My first swarm contact was a very kind older-sounding gentleman, a keeper of bees himself, who offered the following:

I'm not interested, because you can't collect bees this time of year, and it is not beneficial.
You must wait until spring to start a hive.

It is a risky proposition, for you must be able to collect the queen.

With our freeze a couple weeks ago I lost two hives.

If there is not enough honey they will starve to death.

My suggestion this time of year is to just call an exterminator and spray to get rid of them.

WHAT?! I gasped! The gentleman was apologetic, but said he saw no solution for the problem. Graciously, I thanked him for his time. Needless to say I was rather distraught. I simply could not imagine that nothing could be done.

Call number 2 was very brief. The man indicated there was no way of knowing whether the queen was damaged and there really was not much he could do. He further said, Likely you can't save them.

Last night we had rain and a sizable windstorm (recorded 39 mph at 8 pm). The wind was howling as our dinner guests left and as we were about to call it a night, I asked my husband if he would mind... to please make sure the tarp is secure. (I'm laughing now as I write for, bless his heart, he is so good to me. Admittedly there have been times I've been described as a tough ole gal, and that comes from having to be over the years, but I will admit to the ache in my heart and some tear-filled eyes more than once this day. My thoughts turn to Chubby from the Little Rascals when he said, Oh Miss Crabtree, there's something heavy on my heart". Laughing at myself is truly my best medicine.) So on with the saga.

How can it be that nothing can be done? I've seen them. Early this morning we walked down the drive and peeked in; they weathered the storm, are alive and well and working. I need to talk with someone else.

The folks were happy to give me two more names from the swarm list. This time, a pleasant younger-sounding gentleman, who was just on his way to work, would be happy to come by and take a look and advise as to what to do; we could keep the log or he would take it if it could be moved.

Pat arrived and accompanied by his lovely little daughter. After inspecting the log, he explained that we had a Colony of bees that likely has been here for several years and estimated at least 6000 to 8000 bees. They are active, yet calm, and importantly he felt the queen was still there. There was lots of honey for them to eat and he felt assured they would survive. The honeycomb was damaged from the fall, but the bees would stay and work and repair it. He came equipped with burlap and tape, and he assured me that I would still have honey bees. (smile) Did you know it takes the bee 6000 trips to a blossom in order to yield 1 teaspoon of honey? How remarkable is that? I wonder what I'll be thinking the next time I place a teaspoon in my cup of tea?

It has been an extraordinary day: two new people were introduced into our lives, a father and a little girl, the latter with whom I had a delightful opportunity to become acquainted; they enjoyed one of my fresh blueberry bran muffins; this man and his young family will be using half of the fallen oak to heat their home; we have a promise of a jar of honey from our bees; and these lovely creatures are with someone who has the same faith as we, and that is that they will survive.

My husband said that it was not just a motherly instinct to take care of them, but also the human instinct that something can be done.