Friday, March 26, 2010

All You Can Do Is Try

With the onset of the Backwards Beekeepers Bee Rescue Hotline I had hopes for a second hive. I have it all set up with swarm lures inside just in case a swam is wandering my neighborhood. It has not happened so for so the Hotline became my hope. There have been a lot of swarms popping up but they seem to be concentrated in around the Los Felix/ Silverlake areas and in the West LA area, all not close to me. Finally one showed up in Manhattan Beach, the same weekend that I was tied up with a dog event for two day. Such luck should not be wished on anyone.
Today one showed up in Culver City, not that far away but it was late when I saw it and one of the major traffic jams in LA is the 405 Freeway going past the airport on a Friday. I gritted my teeth and passed.
Then it happened, the Bee Hotline reported a swarm at the YMCA parking lot in Torrance, in a tree about 8 ft up in the tree. That had possibilities. I have been driving around with my gear in the truck for days. I have most of the items recommended on Linda's Bees at the ready. I added a sheet and my camera and headed out.

The swarm was in an acacia tree but 8 ft up? More like 8 ft over my head. But this has been one the KirkobeeO swarm warnings. They are never that close and never that easy. People just want them gone and see them in the most favorable light.
On the good side the Y had ladders. I had hopes of placing a nuc under the swarm and letting them crawl in. (It might have helped if I had remembered to bring a frame with the swarm lure on it or at least a can of Lemon Pledge.. live and learn.) The 8 ft ladder was no where near close enough and I could not hold the nuc and jerk the branch at the same time. Vicky, my Y contact, called in reinforcements and out came the 12 foot ladder. I forgot to note, this is in a parking lot and the trees are in little designer spaces with a curb. We were just able to squeeze the ladder onto the space without it toppling over with my favorite beekeeper aboard. I forgot to get his name but one of the Y-guys was stellar. They are all dressed in polo shirts and shorts. Once I offered my spare hat and veil, the magic armor, he stayed holding the ladder ready to assist long after his first sting. He did very well and I appreciated it immensely. Alas I did not go so far as to suggest he take pictures so they are very few.

One point, I am a certified senior citizen and over 6 ft tall. Anyone who has been 6 ft since jr high knows the problem. Your heaviest body part is your head and you have a very sensitive center of balance. As a kid you fall often, ladders are not your natural millieu. Add a knee that needs replacement and disaster can always rear its ugly head.
Relax, not disaster this day but movement up and down and on the ladder was severely restricted. Too bad there was no KirkoBeeO, house painter and ladder expert available. The Y had to get along with Old Bad Knees.
After the ladders were swapped out I make another journey up and sprayed the bees. The ladder was too tall to fit directly under the bees swarm and the rungs were too close together to have room for the nuc. I was limited to shoving the nuc up under the hive and hoping they would crawl in (Where was that d.... swarm lure when I needed it?) The bees were rather calm but did not accept the invitation.
Next move, I hung onto a branch, cut out one smaller one, placed the nuc under the swarm and tried to use the bee brush. Not very effective and the bees started to get annoyed. One point here, the veil works only if it is not touching skin. I kept readjusting the hat but I was jammed up in the tree branches and got at least three hits around my fore head. Tomorrow I may look like I belong to some tribe on Survivor with a row of little red dots peppered across my forehead above the eyebrows. Just another form of high-style in the Beek world.
I finally dropped my brush and just used my hand to gently move the bees into the nuc. Well I thought I was gentle, apparently the bees had other ideas, they got more annoyed and more of them. My helper left the area and I did not blame him. . I stayed up as long as I could keep the nuc balanced with one hand and moving bees with the other.
There was no way to hold the nuc, hang onto the ladder and jerk the branch they were on and there were no larger limbs to use to tie the nuc under the swarm. I finally had to give up and took the nuc and set it on the ground under the tree. I had moved at least half of the bees into the nuc and no idea if I had the queen. I walked away and started to talk to the Y-people, they waved me away. I had 10 or more bees zooming around my head. Someone was not happy. I moved further away and eventually they seemed to leave. It was getting late, after 6P and the Y people left, some wanted to go home. I waited awhile, I was ready to take my gear and leave but the nuc was still crowded with bees. I went inside to let them know I would wait awhile before leaving but was stopped by a young lady who informed me I had some bees on my hat. Oooops I went outside and made sure I was clean of bees.
My contact came out, headed for home, I let her know I would pick up the bees in the nuc and the others might still be there in the AM. I had retrieved all I felt I could, the rest were on their own.

This is what was left, I estimated I had an equal amount or more in my nuc. The bees in the nuc did not seem to be interested in leaving. Maybe, just maybe the Queen had moved in. Night was approaching and my dogs were waiting for dinner. I loaded the nuc in the back of the truck, shut the lid, made sure the truck cabin was clear of bees left. When I got home I placed the nuc on my empty hive with the swarm lure and opened the bee hole on the front of the nuc.
I went in for dinner and a big martini.... all you can do is try.
I will take a picture in the morning and see who is there..


Marcelo Vignali said...

I wanna be a hobby beekeeper, but I want to start out by helping out a beekeeper, where do I get started? My blog has my email address.

Dennis In The Dale said...

Since you are in the Los Angeles area you are lucky. Go here: for the Backwards Beekeepers in LA blog. On that page you can find a link to join their yahoo group. The group meets most months at Farmlab in downtown LA. There will be an announcement prior to the next meeting including a link for directions. This is a loosely formed group with no big structure but some leaders. Visitors are always welcome and you can ask any questions there. Most of the time it seems 60% of the attendees are new to bees so you will not be alone.
Due to other commitments I do not expect to make a meeting in 2010.

Warning this is a totally organic group. If you plan to used things to kill mites etc, it is not the group for you. Aside from that they are a genial group and will be very helpful.
Look up LA Honey Co in East LA for equipment locally. You do not need equipment to join the group but it helps if you show up and are ready for bees. Occasionally someone has a ready source but that means NOW, that day, most of the time.
You can get the basic hive parts at LA HoCo and have a basic hive of one super plus frames constructed ahead of time. My blog has some pages on how to put one together. You can buy them pre-assembled but they will cost more. DO NOT USE FOUNDATIONS. Most are for Large Cell bees and we so not do that. We use feral bees and naturally sized Small Cells they make. You can put wire in the frames but I do not do that.
Get the Complete Idiot's Guide to Beekeeping off of Amazon. It is holistic natural beekeeping. The similarly titled Dummy's guide has more pictures and can be helpful but they advise using chemical treatment in the hive, contrary to our standards. Use it as a reference for anything else.

You should have gloves and some kind of head protection plus a smoker, all can be had off-line or from LA HoCo. Later you will need a hive tool and maybe a brush. Then you add things as you need them. Start with two supers (hive bodies w/frames) It is not likely this time of the year but you do not want to have the bees expand too fast and not be ready to add that second super.
You can get a suit later or ahead of time. It is possible to get by without one but I do not recommend that.

A Standard size super full of honey and brood can weigh 90#. Most of us use medium supers which weight only 60# when full and much easier to deal with. It will be much simpler for you if all of your elements are for the same size supers.

You can make the hive super and frames from scratch but the tolerances are critical, involving "bee space"... the space with enough room for bees to move in but not so wide that they fill it with comb.

Get the hive parts, smoker, gloves ahead of time. Have the hive and frames ready for bees in case they are suddenly available. Read both books with Idiots being the final word.

FYI.. beekeeping is not permitted or legally possible in most of Greater LA. We are trying to change that but it will take time. Most of us have bees under-the-radar. Be discrete and generally out of sight. You can put bees on your roof but the sight of you wandering around on a roof in your white bee suit might alarm the neighbors. Use common sense and do not be surprised if the bee police come knocking and says they must go.

Come to a meeting, that is your best source for info and access to feral bees.

Good luck