Friday, June 12, 2015

Taming your inner Gargoyle

Honey Bees using the mouth of a hollow Gargoyle statue to enter their spooky hive

I recently found an ad on Craigslist from someone with a Gargoyle lawn statue filled with a strong hive of honey bees inside.  She needed them removed as there was an elementary school across the street and the gargoyle was only about 20 yards from the sidewalk where the kids walk.  She loved the bees but after a year of them growing into a considerable sized hive she decided they needed a new home.
Road trip

As this was quite a distance from home I justified the trip knowing I could stop at my wife's favorite vegetarian restaurant (Dandelion Communi-tea cafe in Orlando) and pick up carry out for dinner so I made sure to bring a cooler.  Of course Orlando traffic was typical, I-4 went to one lane and I was in a virtual parking lot in the land of the mouse.  Not unexpected though.

The lady who owned the house and the bees couldn't have been any nicer.  So I took my time and after closing off the mouth of the gargoyle with mesh screen and duct tape we sat in the shade sipping sweet tea waiting for foragers returning to their gargoyle.  Once a clump of bees accumulated on the mesh on the outside of the gargoyle, the bee vacuum was used to coax them into a waiting brood box with frames.  This went on for several hours as we wanted to leave as few stragglers behind as possible.  Many of the bees were loaded with several beautiful colors in their pollen.  It was a pleasant two hours in the shade talking about bees and enjoying a beautiful day.  I could see the owner getting drawn into the world of bees and wouldn't at all be surprised to see her become a beekeeper someday.
Mesh taped to the entrance

One thing I failed to ask was what material the gargoyle was made of.  I assumed it was concrete and could be gently broken open to remove the brood, the queen, and the honey.  Then it would be easy to patch up up to return to the owner.  However being made of steel really put the kabosh on my plans.  On the two hour ride home I kept trying to think of a way to get the gargoyle open without hurting the bees or contents inside.  After sleeping on it I finally realized it would be impossible to salvage anything inside the gargoyle.  I could only give all remaining bees and the queen the option to exit the gargoyle and into a new hive.  I have metal cutting wheels and even a plasma cutter which could be used to open up the gargoyle.  But that would instantly fry all the bees and honey inside as well as splatter metal everywhere inside the honey and comb.  Using a cutting wheel to cut the gargoyle might work somewhat but still .... metal shavings will cover all the comb and brood and possibly kill the queen if I do it too early.
Weird looking you say ?  Typical for our home

Poor Gargoyle
So a one way exit from the gargoyle was fabricated allowing access to the hive by running a hose from the gargoyle's mouth to above and inside the new hive with a one way mesh valve at the end.  Bees can leave the gargoyle by marching up the tube into the hive but cannot return.  Hopefully the queen will come out soon.  Since all their honey was in the gargoyle, a feeder was placed on the new hive to give them something to eat in the transition.  I'm convinced this is the best option we have to keep this bee colony intact.  They may swarm off but their new home was spiffed up to make it as attractive as possible for them.   Keeping my fingers crossed.
One way valve coming from the gargoyle (box not positioned over hive yet)


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