With all of the newspapers and online articles, I have gotten a lot of phone calls and even a few letters. They have been from people all over the area wanting to talk about bees (well… another guy had to tell me about his ducks, and yet another guy wanted to share a story about some beavers. Yup.), but there is one in particular that is pretty freakin’ cool.
He lives in Mequon (about 15 minutes away, midway between Port Washington and Milwaukee) and he said that he had what he thought was a honeybee hive in some bushes in his yard. He was pretty sure that they were honeybees since he was a beekeeper when he was younger. He was worried that, with all of the foliage now dropped, the hive was completely exposed to the elements and that they would not survive winter. I gave him Charlie Koenen’s number knowing that this was right up Charlie’s alley! So, Charlie swings over there that day, posts this picture and asks for assistance the next day.
So the next day we went out there and could not believe our eyes– it was simply spectacular. The owner said that the volume of bees was decreased from about a week ago (the temps were starting to really drop at night), and it was obvious from where they were in the buckthorn that they had about another month left, maximum, if we would have left them there to winter.
So after Charlie, John and Matt came (we also had 2 others help for a time), we were ready to get down to business. We suited up (for the most part) with veils and gloves. First all of the surrounding branches were removed.
We brought the hive down and braced the branch it was attached to between two step ladders. The owner, faced with the prospect of bidding farewell to his hive, decided to purchase a BeePod top-bar hive and keep the bees on the property that they had chosen themselves. We placed the BeePod under the hive and slammed the branch down on the ladder, causing heaps of bees to fall off, into the hive. Then it was on to the BIG job.
There were at least two distinct varieties of bees that we saw, the vast majority being Italians. Taking large knives, we cut into the hive, carefully, creating “fins” almost, flat pieces of comb (mainly filled with honey) that we then attached to top-bars with a combination of large rubber bands and/or zip-ties. I do not have any pictures of this process, as it was beyond messy! It took us over an hour of slicing, attaching and arranging the hive from the outside of their natural hive in. We had to stop continually to brush the bees off the comb into the hive, or to bang the branch if they were balling on the end of the comb again, and those who were able to hold on scrambled into the interior of the hive… a mass of caverns and caves. This gave us hope that the queen was in there somewhere.
Mike kept laughing at how covered in bees we all were, especially a helper’s hat. I had to stop and take the above picture to show him that his was just as covered. Even though we were cutting apart their work of the entire season, filled with a lot of honey and some brood (as carefully as you can, but there are always casualties and quite a bit of spilled honey), and that they were scrambling to get to the middle to their queen- most likely- as far as we are aware, no one was stung.
At the very core of the hive, sure enough… there was the beautiful, majestic queen. We quickly isolated her into the queen-clip (shown here on Mike’s hat) for safe keeping while we finished up.
2:1 sugar water was placed in the feeder jar, the queen was released into the hive, it was closed up, and we called it a day. The husband and wife were very excited to watch it all happen (from a distance), really enjoyed seeing the queen, and were happy to become beekeepers, albeit quite quickly. They were wondering about who to call to have the hive taken care of (they didn’t want it exterminated), and they just happened to come across one of the articles and called me. Charlie was able to mobilize some help and a lot of pretty ladies got a home. Tie a pretty bow on that and call it a happy ending.
So, thank you, City officials– you unknowingly saved a hive and helped another family become beekeepers.