Monday, October 18, 2010

External Hive, The Adventure

One of my sons teachers is a hunter.  On the land he hunts is an old abandon house.  The area around the house is overgrown and woodsy.  The lady who lived there died in the '50's.  After the funeral the local folk boarded up her house with everything still inside as per custom.  And so there it sat. 

Upon hearing from my son that I keep bees he mentioned he had seen a colony of bees in the old abandon house last June.  Some cell phone numbers were exchanged and he & I started talking.  I asked him if he could check on the bees again, to see if they were still there.  He did and sent me this cell phone image
An External hive

You can see the bees in a cluster in the middle of the top windowpane.  Now I've never seen an external hive before but I could definitely make out the bees.  So he & i decided to retrieve these bees from their window and put them in one of my empty Nucs before Winter got here.  I figure it's a cut out since there is enough comb to cut and keep.  My biggest worry it that the real nest is in the wall and what we see above is just an extension.  Which means i couldn't get the whole colony without cutting into the wall.  Something I'm not really prepared for yet.  I've never done anything like a cutout before so I went to the web and looked up some very good information.  Thanks JP

So last Tuesday the 12th we met to get the bees.  To get to the house was an adventure itself.  A small drive but a long walk.  Half a mile carrying all the equipment there and expecting to do the same, plus a full nuc, back.  Through woods filled with 4 foot tall poison ivy.  Why is there 4 foot tall poison ivy?  Is that necessary?  (my hand itches so bad i want to cut it off and feed it to the cat)

Once we got there we could see the hive in the top window.
On the top sill

So into the house & up the stairs we went.  Mind the 3rd to last stair step! it's not there.  The place was creepy with all the furniture & clothes still where they were when the old lady passed away almost 60 years ago.  All the canned vegetables were still in their mason jars under the stairs too.  The weather had opened up a few holes in the outer walls.  The mice and vultures were the prime denizens now (Can you say 'Hantavirus').  

Why am I in here?  Oh yeah.. Bees!
Well what can I say, the hive was empty.  The bees he saw the previous day were nowhere to be seen.
 Too late!

We inspected the combs, 5 in all.  They are completely empty of everything.  At one time this was a energetic colony but what happened to them is a mystery.  We did find a bunch of bees in the wall though.  I blew some smoke in a hole to gauge the reaction.  It was a loud hum.  I've heard louder but this was the first time I've listened to a wall.  I cut a small hole in the wall to see better.  I found old comb, much older than the external comb by the window. 
The bees were lower in the wall

This is where I stopped hunting bees.  If there are enough bees to survive Winter then God Bless 'em, I'll be back next Spring.  If not, oops!  I'm not ready for a full blown, wall ripping, cutout in a vermin infested house ready to fall down.  Plus, I had only brought a nuc not a 10 frame deep.  It was getting very late, since we didn't start till after 6pm.  Daylight was a'wandering away.  It would just have to wait.  Had I known this to be a full cutout I would have recommended it to another beek anyway.  I don't need the bees and I was doing it to save an external colony from Winter.  If they're in the walls they have a great chance of getting through the Winter.  And since the colony in the wall is very old they've been doing it for a while anyway.  There, that's enough excuses for me. 

Now, what happened to the bees on the external hive?  I don't know.  The color of the comb implied the comb was not old.  Either it was made late last year (2009) or this.  Whether it was a swarm or extension of the wall hive is uncertain.  I know dead bees pile up outside all of our hives...
....but this looks like all of them!

Maybe they were robbed out BY the wall colony, this Summer or last, or they starved last Winter.  The only Velma-class, Jinky's-level clue was 5 dead bees stuck head first in empty cells.  They had decayed to the point where their abdomens had broken off.  The comb itself was not too terribly plagued by Wax moth.  We cut it down.  He kept some to teach his kids with & I kept one to display at work.  The bees that were on the comb the day he took the picture must have been from the wall colony.  Rotten teasers..

All that's left to do is come back next Spring.  Maybe do a cutout then or leave them be.  The teacher was apologetic about the wasted trip.  I assured him it was NO waste.  Lots of information and a little mystery goes along way. 


Cassandra said...

Very cool!

Hemlock said...

I would've been more creeped out by the house if I weren't so focused on the bees. The teacher said he never goes there without his rifle.

All the sealed jars of canned food had turned black. Except for one jar of peaches. They looked pretty good. Toxic beyond belief I'm sure though.

immwia said...

Wow, what a lesson and adventure...I would have wanted a rifle too. Sounds like a campfire tale..the house, not the bees. LOL