Well it just doesn't get boring does it.
So I was rubbing Buddah's belly saying I need a queen bee, when my wife smacked me and said if you rub my stomach and make another reference to Buddah, you will need something besides a queen bee.
But my prayers were not unheeded. I went to the beekeeper meeting on Friday and asked if I could get a queen for my hive #2 which has a failing queen and is mainly laying drones.
I must remember to name my hundredth kid after Michael Bush. He was right about my hive.
Well as I asked at the meeting for queens I was given the phone numbers of two people who needed swarms removed. I have noticed that the retired beekeepers have a very evil grin as I get the phone numbers. Something tells me that since they have been there done that, they can't wait for me to have another one of those character building experiences. The only thing that bothers me is that at 38 I would prefer someone younger get the character points.
But who am I to refuse the miraculous offerings of Cthulhu. So I immediately take the wife on a roadtrip to Bok Tower
and do nothing about the swarms as I would rather be stung by bees than by bitchy wife. So I went to score brownie points and butter her up before I go and bring two swarms to the house. After spending a really nice day at the gardens and having a very nice time and taking lots of photos
On the way home I called the numbers and made arraignments to at least come out and look at the swarms. I promised nothing. Because if any of these are AHBs I am gone. My wife promptly proceeded to question my sanity and wonder if having me baker acted wasn't out of the question.
Swarm 1 is a hive living in a hollow tree trunk about 10' above the ground.
The neighbor is threating to remove them with whatever weird chemical concoction he can make up. Also the owner is in his late years taking care of a ill wife and isn't in great shape himself. He doesn't mind the bees but if they get his wife it could be a very serious issue. I ask for directions and the color of his house so I can recognize it when I arrive. He laughs for a few seconds and says it's tan like every other house in the area. Every house is exactly the same shape and color. It was scary.
When I arrive I take a look at the hive it is in a mangrove tree. Did I mention there are laws protecting these trees? And cutting them down can lead to large fines and possible time in PMIA prison. Unless the tree is dead. Did I mention that the tree was torn apart by Hurricane Wilma and that hadn't had a leaf since then. However it was a home for termites for a while. So to all the NSA and Florida code enforcement officers I just want to repeat the tree was dead and had been for a while. If the NSA or code enforcement officers have any further questions you can contact me under my real name John Clayton, currently living somewhere in New Jersey. ;)
So I find the tree has only one entrance for the bees and it doesn't seem like a large hive. I go over my plans with the nice man and explain that we will have to take a chainsaw to the tree. He understands. What I will do is put screen over the entrance and cut the section of the trunk out and haul it home. I will cut the remains into small size pieces so his kids can take the remains to the garbage. The remaining stump he will need to call a professional for. While he is at it to call a exterminator and check for underground termites. If they were in the tree for a while they are likely to be anyplace. And if the exterminator doesn't find anything that is great and if he doesn't maybe he finds it early.
Now I am going to make a run to home depot and then go to look at swarm 2 and evaluate that. I tell the owner I will come back closer to the early evening so most of the bees are home.
Off to swarm 2 as I continue my trek of contributing the the greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and drive my van to the next swarm. Now this is a little different. One of the members of the beekeeper association is going with me on this as it is his friend and the property owner will be at church. Did I mention I was doing this on Sunday. I will have to sacrifice extra virgins as a penance if I could ever find any.
I meet up with the gentlemen and we head over to the house that has the bees. Now I don't have a lot of rural knowledge but I have never heard of a duckbox. I know what a birds nest is, I know what a bat box is. However I had never heard of a duckbox. Interesting box. Basically it is a nuc box that is vertical with a large hole in it that is suppose to be for ducks. However in this case there are bees in it. Lots of them. The hive is about ready to swarm. There are three other duckboxes near by. The bees keep this up and they could have their own condo/homeowners association.
I have a discussing with the beekeeper gentlemen. He has five hives and is retired (from real job) and thinks five hobby hives is enough. And since he heard I needed a queen, this seemed like a good idea on how to get one. However since I mention that I have one other swarm I need to remove. We agree to delay this for a week. Here is some more as to why. The nest is 25' up and nailed to a tree. It will take some extra work to get this one down and I would prefer to do it while the homeowners where home. I will come on a saturday so maybe they won't think of me as a completely godless devil child. Hopefully they won't discover my allergy to holywater.
So after my trip to home depot and a couple more points of sheer manliness by purchasing items to make a bee trap. I then promptly went and picked up my source of free labor, my wife. I also grabbed the chainsaw. I own a chainsaw not because of some latent desire to be a lumberjack but because hurricanes tend to put trees in a horizontal manner in my yard and I am to lazy to glue them back together and prop them back into an upright position. So I actually have a chainsaw. I have used it to cut ficus and several other trees that decided to relandscape my yard. I don't consider myself an expert with a chainsaw and I have a scar from hitting my leg with a running chainsaw that would also indicate my professional level of tree trimming. Did I mention I grabbed the chainsaw and none of my gloves or eye googles. Darwin awards is going to base a reality show on me.
So I head back to swarm one. Now here is where you learn that native trees to south Florida are resilient to hurricanes usually because they are hard wood with big root bases. And on this day I will learn that mangrove wood even on a dead tree is a very hard wood and dull chainsaw blades don't cut it very well. Also Home Depot employees don't like it when you sneak in 30 seconds after they have closed the doors just so you can get your replacement chainsaw blade.
Mangrove trees are still hard to cut even with shiny new blades especially when they are put in backwards. However once installed correctly you can expect that mangrove wood will still not make for an easy cutting situation.
Now tall trees and short ladders and lack of googles and gloves are the secret fantasies of OSHA inspectors and emergency room doctors but alas my demise or rewards of being maimed or crippled were not to happen today.
I placed the hardwire mesh around the trunk of tree and used liberal amounts duct tape. I only saw about 20 bees on the outside so I managed to trap most of them inside. I had stuck a small stick inside to gauge the depth of hive in the trunk and went about a foot past that and marked it for cutting. I cut small sections at the top trying not to slip or fall with a running chainsaw as the sun was in my eyes but the wind was at my back so the sawdust was blown away from me. The sections came down piece by piece and all seems to go well. Now I had tied a section of rope around the section that contained the swarm. I did this so as to not to let the section fall and thud into the ground, thus basically ruining my chances of getting a good hive or queen.
Now in basic science class I learned about pullies, fulcrums and large heavy objects in motion. Can you see where this is going? While managing to avoiding the thud issue the large tree trunk swing I created managed to remind me that a tree trunk hitting the ladder at 2 mph is fast and heavy enough to let me be reminded of another science class lesson, gravity. Fortunately I had the chainsaw off by that time and was able to toss it to the side before the moment of impact. But I have a shiner on my left leg above my knee to remind me that parachutes are a good idea even at 8 feet.
I lowered the trunk and asked the wife if she would mind carrying the whole thing to my van. She said she would but if she did I would expect this level of performance from her all the time. So I helped carry the trunk to my van. One of the things I had picked up at Home Depot on my earlier run was a refill on my propane tank. Hmmm let's see here if the bees get lose in the van and I wreck with the full propane tank will I need a new paint job on the van? These are not important questions.
After loading up the trunk I finished cutting down the tree and cutting it into small sections. I cleaned up and went home. Now my brilliant idea was to take a 2.5" vacuum hose and connect the hose from the swarm in the tree trunk to the second hive. I would drill a hole in the back of the hive and connect the hose with a piece of the cardboard cutout and ductape to the trunk which I would lean against my chair so it would be close to it's orignal position. I sprayed the bees with sugar water and cut an opening in the screen and attached the hose. I hoped all would go well.
Well this morning I had to leave work early to go to Tampa. It was a nice foggy morning. Fog equals moisture. Moisture equals lack of stickiness. My wife called me when she got home this evening and let me know the hose had fallen loose.
Well maybe the bees will stay anyway. Who says God has no sense of humor.Swarm 1Swarm 2