Anyone would have gotten a kick out of my encounter this morning.
The same colony that gave me a “warm greeting” a couple weeks ago during a feeding jar exchange lit me up today.
I’ve been moving some of the 5-frame nuc hives over to 10-frame equipment lately. This particular hive is just gangbusters and had outgrown its stack of three 5-frame deep nuc hive bodies. I was going to move them over to ten frame equipment 2 weeks ago but EAS pushed me into a compromise position – I ended up adding one more 5-frame deep hive body.
So, today I approached the stack of four 5-frame hive bodies with the goal of transferring them to two 10-frame hive bodies. Knowing their previous attitude, I made up my mind I’d treat them with textbook preciseness and tick off all of the finesse points I’ve learned in my eleven years of beekeeping. Surely this would be a good test of my expertise.
Proper smoking front entrance and through a crack created as I eased open the migratory cover. Allow to settle, and eased open the cover. Surprisingly there were a lot of bees and they had been busy filling those frames I had just placed two weeks ago. I transferred the frames into the awaiting deep positioned alongside the nuc hive. I remove the now empty nuc hive body and set aside without brushing so as to not stir up any bees needlessly.
The bees were much thicker in the next hive body. I smoked myself well and across the top bars before entering. Frame after frame of capped honey surprised me as I was hoping I’d be moving some brood into that waiting first 10-frame deep. After a few pauses to smoke myself, my gloves, and the top bars I was beginning to wonder if maybe this wasn’t going to go well. After all I had 2 more nuc hive bodies to go and they were already beginning to roar.
I decided it was just as well moving forward since returning the ten frames already moved would probably be just as disturbing.
Given the first ten frames were all honey or nectar, I moved that hive body off the new bottom board and away from the action. I then placed an empty ten frame hive body on the new bottom board to receive what I knew would likely be the brood nest.
This is when things got interesting. All beekeepers know there is a certain speed at which things must be done within a hive. Too fast and the bees object, too slow and they get restless. Both too fast and too slow create unhappy bees and an unhappy beekeeper. As I started into that third nuc hive body, after a gentle smoking, they started serious objections. After each frame removal I had to step away and smoke myself, gloves, and jacket. Once again I removed the empty nuc hive body without shaking the remaining bees or brushing so as to not stir or create more discontented flying bees. But they were on my hood at this point and my smoking now extended to my pants legs all the way down to my ankles. The new beekeeping pants I was so thrilled about because they were light and airy were now a handicap and I had already taken a few stings to the legs. My jacket was holding them off but they were velcroed to my arms and veil. Walk away and smoke.
At this point I had to reload the smoker as I had unloaded most of it on myself since starting this hive. One box to go I told myself as I re-smoked those pants again.
The last five frames met with more and more objection and while my PPE was taking a beating it was performing well except when my skin would touch the fabric and the embedded stingers would then come in contact with my skin and burn. More walkaways and self smoke. At last all frames had been moved. I slid the new 10-frame hive over into the spot of the old nuc hive and moved the last nuc hive body along with bottom board and a couple pounds of bees to the other end of the 10 foot hive stand. The bees covered the upper edges and top of the new 10 frame equipment and refused to move down after a bit of smoke. I decided I needed to complete my effort and retrieved the 10 frame hive body that contained all the nectar and honey and placed it on top making some attempt not to crush bees by sliding it into place. Probably a fail but an attempt nevertheless.
Now to shake the bees from that last nuc hive body and bottom board. I had already decided the bees in the other nuc hives bodied would be allowed to return on their own. The air filled with indignant bees on returning the bees from that last nuc hive body with a shake. I figure half went into the new hive and half went on me. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Damn thin pants! With every movement I was brushing against embedded stingers in my gloves and jacket.
I placed the inner cover and telescoping cover on them and, unlike other colonies I have transferred, these bees did not get their reward of a jar of sugar syrup. Sorry, no time for niceties.
Jumped into my truck and I hightailed it out of there. One hundred yards away I stopped to secure the contents in the truck bed, remove my PPE, and any clinging bees. I’m soaked with sweat so I drive up the local fast food place to claim my 99 cent iced coffee as a treat and head home to put my gear away.
As I remove equipment out of the truck bed I am attacked by more bees – apparently my tee shirt, along with sweat is heavy with alarm pheromone.
After battling a few bees I am finally able to go inside and count my stings. Looks like about 20 but it’s hard to tell as some look like stings on top of each other.
I think I’ll leave that colony alone for a week or two.
Next time I’ll move the aggressive colony down to the end of the hive stand first and place the receiving hive in the place of old colony. Lesson learned.
Bees 1; Larry 0
Sheryl B said:
Larry, what an ordeal! 20 stings too many! I hate working bees like that. I think last time I was working some like that I ended up abandoning them for a bit while I went home and changed into my spare bee suit. I was at least able to go back and put them back together.
Thanks Sheryl, Yes, sometimes one has to know when to walk away. This wasn’t as bad as it sounds. The PPE and even those thin pants caught most of the stingers and I got less than the full venom payload. By supper I could hardly see any signs I had been beaten up. This doesn’t happen often. In fact I don’t think I’ve had this many stings all season. I’ll overwinter this strong colony and come spring I’ll split them four ways and the queen shall be removed.