Saturday, June 13, 2015

Into the Belly of the Beast

I understood that the duct tape and mesh screens were just a temporary measure and bees would eventually break down my security measures.  But what I didn't know was how quickly they would undermine my plans.  They are smarter than I gave them credit.  Within FOUR hours of introducing them to their beautiful new bee hive a couple of crackerjack bees broke back into the Gargoyle !!  And it only took a few minutes before the rest of the gang were back in their cozy Gargoyle.  Word spreads fast among honey bees.
Gargoyle being prepped before surgery

Around this time I figured that the hose going from the Gargoyle into the hive just wasn't going to cut it.  The bees had no intention of leaving their comfortable Gargoyle home.  I used more duct tape and this time some aluminum screening.  That should hold them until morning when I'll figure out a new plan.   There were still several hundred bees out and about and they bearded up on the gargoyle's chin.  Very cute and I only wish I took a picture of that.  By this time I was worn out and decided to wait until morning to come up with another plan.

The next morning ALL the bees were back inside their Gargoyle.  They broke back into it again !!!  In all fairness, it rained last night so the rain probably loosened up the duct tape and made it easy for them to breach my security once again.  At least I had an excuse so I'll stick to that story.  It was obvious that drastic action was needed to get these bees out of that Gargoyle.  And that's when I realized the best course of action was to bravely enter the Belly of the Beast.

But first, I thought I'd try one last time to coax them out using almond extract which the bees hate.  After sprinkling a few drops into the mouth of the gargoyle, the bees dove into the deep recesses of the Gargoyle to escape the almond smell instead of exiting the Gargoyle.  By this time the sun was rising and it was heating up.  I was drenched in sweat under my veil and bee jacket.  The main concern however was this job needed to be finished before the sun came over the house and started heating up our work area on this side of the house.  Because once the sun shines in this area it could cook the bees.
Gargoyle belly button

Full of brood comb !!!

The first thing I did was to drill a hole in the stomach of the Gargoyle to see what the steel was like and to try and view what was waiting inside.  After several minutes a bee emerged from the Gargoyles new belly button and I could see there was brood in the belly.  Oh and during this entire process I had the bee vac running to keep coaxing bees from the mouth.
Gargoyle with a stout gag so he doesn't bite anyone (just in case)

The next step was to cut a hole in the stomach big enough to pull some brood comb.  That turned out to be difficult but eventually I got the hole cut all the while fending off defending bees and keeping them smoked.  Plus alternating between the grinder and the vacuum.  I was dripping sweat and it was a strenuous job.  Now that it looked like there would be brood comb my wife went to the store to buy extra rubber bands to attach the brood to frames.  The next two hours alternated between gently vacuuming bees, cutting brood out and keeping the guard bees distracted (telling them jokes).  Cool thing about this bee vac is you can hold the hose still and when bees come to challenge it, they get sucked in and join their friends in temporary bee jail.

Work area for brood
Finally the sun started poking around to this side of the house so I attached all the brood comb to the frames.  Any honey was probably in the Gargoyle's head and not readily accessible which was fine with me as time was running out.  Several times I lifted and dropped the gargoyle from about 6" and piles of bees fell into a clump that was quickly added to bee jail which was moved to be out of the sun.  The remaining bees in the air were quite testy and so it was time to load up the truck and chauffeur the girls out to the Bee Farm.
ready to go into the hive

On the way to the Bee farm I formulated an exact plan of how to transfer the hive as quickly as possible.  Since I had 5-6 frames of brood I would have to remove several frames from the brood box in the bee vac and then for sure chaos would ensue.  Little did I know that would be an understatement.  Since I figured I could do all of this in under 5 minutes I decided (unwisely) to not fire up the smoker.  That will not happen again is all I'll say.
Home sweet home (finally)

Sure enough a massive amount of agitated bees were released as I worked quickly to set up their new home.  The quantity of bees was amazing.  This was a very large hive.  They immediately covered the sides of their new home and thousands were flying around and getting acquainted with their new surroundings.  The other hive out there didn't seem to mind and just kept going about it's business as usual.

After finishing up (under 5 minutes) I hightailed it out of there to let them settle down.  I don't know if we got the queen but it's a good possibility.  At least we got brood so we'll probably have a queen regardless.   Another intense but fun day.

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