8/29/2013

Breaking Bees

On my hitchhiking trip to Maine, I wanted to stop in Canada. I had never been, but sadly, I'd forgotten my passport. So no Canada. As luck may have it though, my father was going on a fishing trip to the Northern Frontier with some of his good ole boys from work, on a "business trip" (that is, to drink beer while holding a fishing rod). And upon my request, he invited me to tag-along.

After a wonderful week angling in Canada, I went home to the tipi. Before I'd left, I'd been doing hive inspections, on my honeybees, twice a week. They were all quite literally busy as a bee: building new honeycomb and collecting gobs of honey, nectar, and pollen.

Upon returning home (I had been gone nearly two weeks) what I found in my hive was devastating. One of the honeycombs at the front of the hive had been torqued, knocked off center. Thus, the four proceeding honeycombs were constructed with a matching angle. This slant was sharp enough that as it dominoed through the other combs, nearly half of the last comb attached to another top bar (laments terms: this was really bad!). In the end, I had to remove all four combs. I probably could have saved at least half of them, but I was inexperienced. It was my first major hive surgery, and I was sloppy.
It's a bit hard to express quite how sad I was at a) taking my bees honey before their first winter and even more so b) what I mess I made going about it. I accidentally killed hundreds of them in the process.

Trying to repent for my sins against the hive, I returned the sections of comb that contained brood to them. I didn't know if the larvae had survived, but I figured that I ought to at least try. In a sick twist of fate and a huge learning lesson, leaving unused honeycomb at the back of a beehive is the last thing you want to do. Why? Hive beetles. These fother muckers.
Hive beetles are so sneaky, they can even get between the most parsimonious man and his penny.
They're only 3mm in width. They can sneak into a hive through almost any nook or cranny and their favorite thing to do: make a bees life miserable. They steal honey, try to lay their eggs in with the bee's brood, and their favorite hiding spot, unused honeycomb. Within a few weeks, they were everywhere in the hive. They managed to sneak through the blocked entrances, even after I reinforced them with old beeswax. Eventually, I wised up and stuffed the unused north and west entrances with steel wool (try to chew through that!). Finally, this past week, I made a hive beetle trap, out of an old cookie tin, a tuna can, some olive oil, and a little bait (composed of banana peel, sugar, and apple cider vinegar). May the hive beetle genocide begin!

On a lighter note, I made a beeswax candle for my friend whom I visited on my Spring Break hitchhiking trip, and used the honey taken from the hive to carbonate my first ever batch of mead.
Making mead is very similar to making hard cider, but after drinking only two six-packs, nearly fifty of the remaining bottles exploded... due to over carbonation. Thank you bees, for breaking bad (and almost all of my bottles).

If you're looking to learn how to hitchhike, check out my book- The Hitchhiker's Guide to: Earth.

Source: Ebert HoneyVortex


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