Thursday, August 18, 2011

Summer Update #2 - A Bee Log

In late July a logger buddy of mine told me they had found a bee tree.  Unfortunately they didn't know what it was until it had been cut down and dragged to the deck.  He said they moved it off to one side.  I was able to check on it and saw lots bees still working.  It looked like the colony wasn't too badly damaged.  It was a week before i had the time to get the bees.  During that week a skidder operator dragged it across the clearcut before being told to take it back to where he had found it.  A lesson in MARKING a bee tree so people leave it alone!

These poor bees had been cut down then dragged twice across the mountain.  If you've ever been dragged by a skidder up & down a mountain twice you'd know how bad that is for the integrity of wax comb not to mention the loss of field bees.  When i finally went to get them, July 29th,  their activity was greatly reduced.  There were tons of hornets working the hive too.  Still we cut the nest out and took it home.  Best to try.

They looked good for the beating they had taken
Cutting out the nest from an old Virginia pine tree.  The nest was around 20ft up when the tree was standing

Had to guess where to make the bottom cut.  The nest went a lot lower than i thought it did.  Shaved a foot off the bottom.  The comb in this area was soaked with honey and blocked with nest debris.  The bees weren't getting down here at all.
Some of the mashed comb i inadvertently cut from the bottom of the nest.
You can see how big the entrance hole is.  Not sure how to plug it for the drive home so we wrapped it in a bed sheet instead.
First we VERY slowly rolled it and the sheet into one.  Then we tied rope around the folded ends and middle to hold the sheet in place.
The log weighed over a 150 lbs. so it took a little to 'ease' it into the truck.
Long & slow 23 mile ride back home and we set it up in the yard that night
The next day with an obstacle at the entrance to induce reorientation.

Had to cover the big original entrance due to constant robing by other bees & hornets.  A bunch of flashing and roofing tar with a wood entrance in the middle.  Can you see the half gallon mason jar stuck in the top of the log.  The jar fit perfectly into the tree cavity when feeding.
It took the bees a while to find the new front door but they did.  Sadly the robing continued as these bees weren't defending the entrance.  The only times these bees would fly was during feeding.  They took a half gallon each day.

Today there is almost no activity.  The bees act as if they have no queen.  Which is a Very good possibility considering what they went through.  I can still see some bees in the log when i look but they're not doing anything.  There is comb in the nest but i don't see the bees working it. I also feel that when i feed them most the bees i see are robbers.  I think this colony is done for.  If I had some extra brood come i could cut a strip to put in the log to spur thing on.  But there's a better chance it would be robed out too.  Plus adding bees, brood, a queen, & comb into a depleted log nest this close to winter doesn't make sense to me.  It would be like throwing away the resources. 

I'll leave them in the yard until spring to see what happens.  Then probably move the log to the back woods.  hopefully it might draw in a swarm next year.

The only consolation is that I've since found two more bee trees in the wild.  They're both standing and not near any logging operations.  The bees look to be happy, in good number, and are very busy.  Nothing i would want to get bees from directly but an area to set swarm traps in the future for some good old Survivor bees.

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