Friday, June 18, 2010

Day One of "The Colony" trap-out

I've mentioned a few times a colony of feral bees that I'm going to try to get out of a tree. Well, today was the day. I had all my supplies, including a screen with an escape cone, a loaded staple gun, a hive box (complete with frames, bottom board, and top cover, all strapped snugly together for safe transportation), and one frame of eggs, uncapped larvae, and some honey and nectar at the top.

The Colony (capitalized to emphasize it's large numbers) is situated in the bottom 3 feet of a beautiful Catalpa tree, in a downtown park. It is tucked snugly into a split in the trunk. I can see why the tree would be so inviting. It has a large canopy of thick, heart-shaped leaves, and blooms with huge bunches of beautiful white flowers, for well more than a month so far. The bees really don't need to travel far at all to find nectar and pollen. Plus, it's situated in the downtown area, which has plenty of residential gardens, a river, and the Dow Gardens (a large botanical center), all within a mile of their cozy little home. Unfortunately, people have complained about the bees, convinced they are going to get stung. I've spent quite a bit of time around this colony already, and they barely seem to notice me, even when I'm snapping flash photography in their home.

So, this evening, I loaded up all my supplies and drove over to the park. I pulled on my veil, and hung my jacket nearby, just in case. Then I smoked the entrance, just a little, to distract the bees. I then started to staple the screen on the entrance, and suddenly, the bees were not distracted. They immediately started to buzz angrily all around me (I think it was the CLACK of the staple gun). I retreated a few feet, till they felt I was far enough away, and pulled on my jacket and gloves.

Then, it was back at it. I stapled the edges of the screen onto the bark of the tree. Much to my surprise, the bees were still able to squeeze around the srceen by following the contours of the bark. No amount of stapling was going to do. I quickly ran to the nearby Ace Hardware, and bought some expanding insulation foam (something everyone I've consulted suggested I have on hand anyway), and raced back. In the 5 short minutes I was gone, the bees had completely coated the outside of the screen. I sprayed the foam around the edge of the screening, creating a (hopefully) impassable barrier. Then I pushed the hive box, complete with one frame of brood and eggs, up as close to the screen trap as it would go.

Now, the theory is this: the bees will leave the hive to go forage, and will not be able to get back in (thanks to the escape cone). They'll immediately look for a new home. Luckily, I've placed a nice, clean, dry home right outside their door, and it's even got a starter family inside, just waiting for someone to tend to them. The pheremones released by the uncapped brood will tempt the bees in. Then, they will stay to care for the new eggs. Now, since they are in a hive with no queen, they should immediately set to feeding one (or more) of the new eggs a diet of Royal Jelly, which will cause her (or them) to develop in to queen cell(s). The first to hatch will destroy the others, and will be accepted as the new queen. Then, after a few weeks, she should mate and start laying, and, voila'! instant family.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of places this can go wrong. Since the hive is right smack in the downtown area, it could be vandalized, damaged, disturbed, or poisoned. Animals could make a meal of the bees in my box, as there may not be enough to protect the box. The bees may decide they don't like the home I've given them, or may not make any queen cells. Maybe, everything will go spot on, but, then when I open the tree back up to let them steal the honey stores, they may move back in, against my will.

All in all, I've been a beekeeper for about two months. This is the first trap-out I've attempted. I'm still convinced a cut-out would work better, but I just can't justify destroying such a beautiful tree. Besides, even if I knew what I was doing, it still might just fall apart. Only time will tell.

1 comment:

  1. I know zilch about bees except that I like honey. I feel a part of your hobby and you are keeping great records. Your bro likes pcs and cameras. Love your Grams