I drove 8 hours to the family's old farm to get problem bees out of places they shouldn't be. It was a trip that had good Zen, stepping back in family history. I hadn't been to the farm in over 30 years.
Loaded up the truck with 3 KTBH's for cutouts, had to bring my own food, water, and power sources. And I really wish I'd remembered my tent.
I arrived in the evening, so I decided to do recon of the area. To do that, I needed my .38 pistol loaded with ratshot. Rattlesnakes are a big big problem here. So off I went as the Armed and Dangerous Beekeeper. My Zen was packing heat.
First, I went to the overgrown barn where there was a hive under the loft. On the way, I spied bees coming out of the tractor. I took note and moved on. When I got to the barn, I heard nothing. I did find an old half rotted deep that was my grandfathers. It looked homemade, the frames found nearby didn't fit. Kind of neat to walk it the footsteps of one's parents and grandparents. Apparently my grandfather kept 4 hives North of the barn in the 30's and 40's.
In the middle room of the barn was a deadout hive. Lots of ripped cappings. It had been robbed out, likely after they died. Doubtful a starvation (no dead bee butts sticking out), my bet is on mites. SHB couldn't kill this hive IMHO.
Now I have to admit, I'm a bit of a wax freak and saved as much as I could. So I promptly got my knife and went to work cutting it down. The comb was tougher than I thought so I broke out my smoker, fired it up hot with wood and heated my knife. Oh my my, cut like butter. I tossed it into a large trash bag and was done in under 30 minutes. Felt like about 6-10 pounds. I'd guess I'll get 4 pounds rendered. If only all cutouts were so easy...
On the other side of the farm I found the hive in the drum, but not the big problem hive under the trailer. Looks like a second deadout occurred over winter. So I've come out for 3 but 2 died, yet I get to add one from the tractor. I think of it as 2 strikes, with an free walk.
The drum hive looked like a cakewalk. Pop the lid, cut the comb, and its done. The hitch was how to suspend the drum top while I cut off the comb. I headed to bed thinking how it could be done. Then I realized I forgot my tent. The 2 trailers were uninhabitable due to critters living in them for years, so I slept in the back of my pickup. My Zen was cramped.
Come morning, I took a walk and checked out the drum. Too early for the foragers to have left, so I take a walk for an hour and a few pictures
At 10 I figure its a good time for the cutout, so I get too it. I decided my best plan on the drum lid is to flip it upside down with the comb. So I check it for brace comb and find none. The plan works like a charm and I shoot a video of it. Its done in 50 minutes. I scored about 12 pounds of a very thin, light amber honey. I'm thinking its likely mesquite, but maybe prickly pear.
I see one or two queens emerging during the cutout, for some odd reason I don't bother catching them, just transfer them over. When done, I left the lid off and put the KTBH on top the drum to get them all in. I picked it up at nightfall. It was the world's easiest cutout.
Video part 1 -
Video part 2 -
Video part 3 -
So that's done, time for a break. I kicked out my old hammock and took a nap. Then I got hungry and decided to use my smoker as my stove, fired it up, dropped in a can of soup and heated it for 10 minutes. Tasty, my Zen was well fed. I love beekeeping.
Then off to the John Deere Tractor hive. This hive is about 50 feet from the house my father was born it. Kindof neat, I thought.
It was in the fuel tank. I had to cut thru a cover to get to it, then cut a flap in the tank with my borrowed Sawzall. I'm now a convert of cordless sawzall. It was amazingly fast.
When I finally get to see the hive, it was bizarre. My first reaction was that they were Central American sting-less bees that make the crazy hives. Looked like there were two separate comb collapses over time. Not unexpected if bees attach to hot metal. The hive was totally cramped, only 20 Sq inches were left in a 30 gal fuel tank.
The Video of the tractor hive is here
For a hive that was utterly packed in, it had very little brood comb. I found that puzzling. I think I only got 4 combs. I found 2 queen cells near the back in the honey, also unusual.
The pattern was spotty, but I didn't smell foulbrood. The rest was honey, about 25 pounds. I spilled honey everywhere, and being outside I expected robbing to occur. Don't know what to do about that, as I didn't have enough water to clean up such a monster honey mess. Oh well. I cut thru the mess, and found my state of Zen. Life was good that day.
Upon completion of the cutout, I was hot, sweaty and smelly. So I walked down to the river, like my father and grandfather did 60 years ago, stripped down and jumped in butt naked. Darn, the Colorado is cold!
I washed myself, my honey soaked gloves and beesuit. Then dressed up and meandered back up the path to the barn. Halfway there, I stumbled upon a rattlesnake. It saw me before I saw it, maybe 15 feet away. I counted 5-6 rattles, the brute was 3 feet long. I reached for my pistol, then remembered I'd left it in the truck along with my camera. darn darn darn. I had ideas of honey roasted rattlesnake cooking in my smoker. darn. I moved on, the snake moved out of my way. My Zen was restored.
Back at my hammock, I decide it was time for another nap while I waited for dusk. It was a good decision, as I was driving till 3 am that night. My Zen was rested.
Inevitablly, day turned to dusk, and the drum hive played nice with the bees all inside. The John Deere hive was more difficult, but it came around. I duck taped the bars to the body for transport, then hit the road to my apiary. My Zen was weary, but I scored 2 hives and a touch with family history again.