Bees are supposed to live in a hive. When they are not in the hive, it is generally safe to say that something bad has happened. They could have swarmed and left the hive. There could have been a disease. In this case, a bear happened.
The first thing you should know is that Winnie the Pooh has lied to you for a very long time. Bears typically go after brood in a hive, not the honey. That’s the larvae and baby bees before they get their flying license, and they are basically pure protein. (Protip: if you are ever in survival mode in the woods, insects are awesome for you.) So when I saw the scenario above, I was really worried that they wiped out the colony. Luckily, they did not. I’ll hypothesize the incident.
Note in the picture above that one box was still attached to the base and just tipped over. Next to that, the frames from the top box were all upside down in the lid of the hive.
The top box was splayed a few feet from the rest of the carnage. One of two things happened. (1) A bear took a swipe at the hive, knocking the top box onto its lid and tipping the bottom box. It then started digging for brood and knocked the box off of the frames. As I mentioned at the start, when bees are out of the box, things get real, and at this point, they probably got real for the bear. Thousands of bees, freed from the confines of their restful night’s sleep, would have descended upon the ursine intruder. The bear only took one bite of one frame before realizing he was going to have a worse night than a misdiagnosed psych patient in an aggressive mental ward.
Or (2) the chickens are just messing with us.
This was Nick’s first experience dealing with a tipped hive, and he’s going to switch to first person for a little while.
Frankly, it’s a little nerve wracking trying to get a ton of bees back into a box that they were forcibly removed from. I mean, look at that first picture. Now imagine you’ve got to turn those wooden boxes upright, pick up each individual wooden frame (which is currently upside down, not to mentioned covered in bees), and put it back in said box. Also imagine that you’re trying to achieve some level of apicultural bad-assery that you probably shouldn’t, resulting in a commitment not to wear gloves.
Despite all that, things turned out pretty ok. I was only stung once, and it was my own damn fault — a bee was hiding on the back of my knee, and I squatted to refill the smoker. I also only lost one frame of honey, and apparently no brood. I know, ironic since I mentioned that bears go after brood. I just got lucky this time — the bear was probably digging for brood, and the honey was on the outermost frame.
I also took the inner cover off the hive to wash the tipped honey off it. In the process, we took an opportunity to sample some. Let me just say – Delicious! Light, floral, and really rather delightful. After leaving the cover outside (and covered in honey), it became an accidental science experiment in bee identification. At least three different species alighted to clean things up for me.
There are bumble bees, our honey bees, and another skinny bee that we haven’t named yet (yeah, we’re just assuming it’s a new breed we discovered. We’ll probably go with Apis Semonicus or something like that).
It was an exciting afternoon, which allowed Nick to say on a work call “Sorry, I’m running a little late because a bear tipped over my bee hive.”
Coming up next: we jammin! And use the comments if there’s anything about the farm you’d like to hear more about in a future post!