First, I have become a beekeeper over the last year and a half. I am still learning something new quite frequently. I will eventually post some of the story on how I got where I am, but my new neighbor wrote the following from his perspective and I think it is important to take in others’ perspectives on me. It helps me evaluate whether or not I am completely off my rocker. Based on the following, I just might bee… sorry for the stings, Jimmy So here goes:
Bee Quest: by Jimmy
On Friday March 28, 2014 I was working in the backyard on the pond and taking a few pictures with my new macro lens configuration. After a few minutes I walked over to talk to our back fence neighbors Dillon and Elizabeth. Since his bee hives had been in yard for about 2 weeks we talked about how they were settling into their new home. As we talked I asked him how that garbage bag got up in the tree. His response was that it was not a bag, but rather a squirrel’s nest of sticks. Dillon made a closer inspection and found that it was not a squirrel’s nest but a bee swarm. A group of bees from one of his hives had followed the queen to a limb 30 feet from their hive. So, in answer to the question of how the bees were settling in – “Not well, they want to move.”
You may have picked up when you met Dillon that he is a bit of a free spirit. When he saw the swarm he went into overdrive. [Note: Jimmy hasn't seen me when I am drinking coffee and excited about doing something yet.] His objective – gather the swarm and put it into one of his vacant hives. Dillon has three children and a wife. Two of the children, the youngest (a 2 year old girl) and the oldest (a 9 year old boy), along with his wife started chiming out “you’re crazy!” The middle child (a 7 year old boy) was ready for an adventure. He wanted to catch some bees. Dillon started recruiting his family for help. The 7 year old, Cole, wanted to help and ran off to the house to get on his bee suit. There were no other offers from the rest of his family.
With a little sense of adventure myself and having once gathered honey from a wild hive, I told Dillon I would help him. Dillon and Cole donned official bee suits. I donned a makeshift bee suit. However, we all had official bee net hats and bee proof gloves. Here we are discussing strategy for a moment as Cole stands at the ready.
The goal was to gather the swarm and move it to a vacant hive. Therefore, the bees 15 feet up in a tree needed to be brought down and put in a box. The plan was to use a ladder and an 18 foot tree trimming saw. The three of us each had a job. I was to use the trimming saw with a hook to grab the limb with the swarm and shake it. Dillon stood on the ladder with a box to catch the falling bees. Cole was to hold the ladder. Here is the plan in action.
The crowd watching our antics were at a safe distance. Levi and our neighbor Gary stood at the gate in our backyard and watched. The remainder of Dillon’s family were looking out the second story window of his house. Dillon’s wife was apprehensive about his swarm gathering plan. He told me with all confidence that “She’s nervous because she hasn’t seen me catch a swarm before.” After a brief pause he said, in fact, he had never gathered a swarm before.
As the saying goes, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.” First bees don’t fall in a straight line. Since they can fly they go where they want. As I shook the limb some of the bees did fall into the box, but many flew. As I shook the limb bees started covering Cole, Dillon, and me. The bees did not phase Cole. He was game for anything. He was fearless. Since both Cole and Dillon had on official bee suits the bees did not bother them. My makeshift suit was not as good. I was the only one to be stung.
I continued to shake the limb with the swarm. Dillon continued to catch the falling bees. As we gathered the bees all I could think of were the red neck’s famous last words, “Hey watch this.” [Note: I think he means me...] After 30 minutes of bee swarm gathering, it was apparent. We failed.
There were a few bees in the box, a lot of bees in the air and still a large number hanging onto the branch. We packed up the bee gathering tools that evening. The next morning the bees that had been put into the new hive had moved back to the tree limb. The swarm was still in the tree and the new hive was empty. In the end it turned out okay. We had a good learning experience; no one was hurt and only a few bees died. Also, I got a whole new respect for 7 year old Cole. He was fearless. He had a great time and was game to do it again. Dillon came away with new respect for the bee swarm. Me, I learned that my patchwork bee suit was mostly effective, and that the honey gathering process Dillon invited me to help with should be a much calmer and controlled process. The real payoff came the next morning when Dillon brought me a bag of hot biscuits Elizabeth had made and a jar of honey.