Friday, April 15, 2016

Rescuing bees from a Collapsing Barn

The old barn had shifted suddenly off its foundation about 18 inches. The owner wanted to save the barn but a colony of bees had lived in the corner for about 25 years. He hired me to remove them.

To the left is the nest, located on the 2nd floor in what was once the granary. To the right notice the biggest white faced hornet nest I've ever seen. I'm glad the hornets were gone.
The nest was obviously occupied for many years, although the colony could have died several times with new swarms moving in. That would hardly be noticed by the people. This is a typical colony size—5' tall and 2' wide. Also typical are the long droopy combs at the bottom irregular comb near the top.
Early in the year the population is low and easy to manage. By July this comb would be totally covered with bees. If I knew how, I'd add arrows to the photo to show drone comb, brood comb, honey comb and last year's unused queen cells.
You can see irregular fault lines in the honey comb where sometime in the past the comb became too heavy, stretched, then was later repaired by the bees. Lots of last year's honey is left in this colony. I'll render about 60 lbs of wild honey from this colony.
Bees are generally easier to handle in the spring. I removed a large portion of the colony with no protective suit or gloves. The owner helped the entire time without any protective clothing. We both tied at 4 stings each for the afternoon's work. I'm filling the box, lower right, with combs of brood. There are thousands of baby bees developing and discarding them would be a huge set back for the colony. I filled a large plastic bin with honey-filled comb and another one with empty comb to be melted into beeswax.
Cutting out brood comb.

The brood needs almost the same temperature that a poultry incubator provides, so I keep as many bees on the brood comb as possible and I brush more off into the hive to maintain the proper temperature. The rest are vacuumed into a special vacuum that doesn't injure the bees and in the evening I poured them into the new hive. The homeowner wants to become a beekeeper. Since he stayed through the entire process, got stung and still shows interest, I have no qualms about giving him the bees once I've established them in a movable comb hive. I like his one comment, "Beekeeping is a lot of work, isn't it?"

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