I took my little sister out to Lili’s urban farm this weekend while she was in town. She played with rabbits, caught grasshoppers to feed to the chickens and ate an entire cucumber right off the vine. I also suited her up to go look at Lili’s bees. Our only mission was to swoop in, add a box to Queen Beatrice’s growing hive, and leave them be. I went out without a smoker, because with Delilah or LaDonna, this would have been a very simple, carefree mission. Not so with Beatrice who is named after Lili’s mother, enough said!
Lili had told me some stories about how her dog, Kayla, had been stung, and how she too got a warning when she walked too close and interrupted their flight path, and one more where her lawn guy got buzzed and stung several times when mowing the lawn. I knew that different hives had different temperaments, but I didn’t really realize the implications of all that until Saturday.
So I sent Jacquelyn over to stand behind the hive while I carried the empty super over to the hive. No smoker, although I was wearing gloves and all the proper gear of course and Jacquelyn was in a veil with pants and a sweatshirt and I instructed her to put her hands in the sleeves.
As soon as I took the top of the hive off, bees started pouring out of the hive. They were everywhere. I started to get nervous and turned back to Jacquelyn who, despite my fear, looked pretty enthused. But as I took off the inner cover, I told her to walk calmly back to the house. The bees were everywhere! I was starting to second guess a lot of previous decisions like not having a smoker to calm the bees and get them off the hive body so I didn’t squish them when I installed the second story, but mostly I was wishing I didn’t have a huge hole in the knee of my jeans.
I dropped that box right on the hive as quick as I could and put it all back together in record time, literally, this whole process from start to finish could not have been longer than 45 seconds. I wanted to get the hell out of there.
So that is my lesson for this week: Always be prepared for everything. Lili’s bees are a bit more aggressive than mine, but they are not too aggressive. Had I been prepared as we were last time Lili and I did a hive inspection of her bees, this mission would have gone fine. You also never really know what your bees have been through when you weren’t around. If bees encounter a raccoon or other animal the night before, they may still be on-guard the next morning. When hives are too aggressive though, you do have a few options, one is to requeen your hive. I am no expert at this because the only re-queening I have ever done at Hendrix was when we were pretty sure we didn’t have a queen anymore. But generally, I think you either seek and destroy your queen and then introduce the new queen to the hive, or you let them fight it out. I told Lili I would look into it so we would be prepared in the future if we ever needed to be.
I took Jacquelyn back home and we did a photo shoot in front of my bees. I was excited that she did not seem even a bit aprehensive toward the idea of bee keeping, but she does like honey! She also loved our chickens more than I thought she would. She’s gonna be an urban farmer in no time!
Tonight I am going to harvest 6 more frames of honey. We are almost out of our first stash. More to come…