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Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Very Unhappy Hour at the Top Bar

At 6:30 this morning, my husband roused me out of bed with these words:

"Julie, a bear got your hive.


I rushed out in a bathrobe to find this mess.



So many combs destroyed. So many bees dead. I didn't know what to do but try to put it all back together again.


The first thing I did was put some sugar in the bottom of the hive and moisten it. If by some miracle the queen survived in good shape, I wanted to make sure they didn't die of starvation. Then I started to address the broken combs.

Some bees still huddling in the hive.
Though I hope they were huddled around the queen, I'm not very hopeful.

I didn't have any hairclips to clip the comb on, and it was so cold I didn't feel like taking additional time to cut wire mesh to make holders for the comb. String turned out to be too unwieldy, so I settled on rubber bands.

Actually, the rubber bands weren't such a great choice either. They cut into the comb that was already so brittle from the cold, and because of their elasticity, they didn't keep the comb attached to the bars either. Definitely, this was one occasion on which I really would've liked to have frames.


Speaking of like-to-haves, I also wished I had a full-length bee suit. During the summer, I usually wore a long-sleeve shirt and veil for inspections. However, the bees were furious this morning, so I donned a jacket. Even with two shirts and a jacket, I still got stung multiple times. In fact, I discovered that my jacket with zippered veil is not entirely bee-proof as several enterprising ladies found their way through a tiny gap in front right where the two zippers meet.

One thing I noticed was that most of the bars that were left were honey bars. I didn't see any larvae at all. I guess the bear preferred whatever brood the colony had.

By accident, I noticed that if I put a piece of styrofoam next to the bees, they all started climbing aboard. That made shaking them back into the hive a bit easier.


In the end, I managed to get about 11 bars back into the hive. The rest of it got sorted out into groups.
  • Empty comb that was in bad shape, so I put it aside to melt
  • Empty comb that I kept in order to put into next year's hives for any new bees I order
  • Comb that was mostly capped syrup, which I'll feed back to the bees -- either this year or in the spring
  • Comb that was mostly honey, which I'll probably keep for myself.

Right to left:
1) comb that will be sorted for me or the bees,
2) empty comb
3) honey I scraped out of the roof that will be strained and given to bees

Some live bees that I picked out of the bowls.
I let them groom the honey off before taking them outside again.

I wish I could say I was pleased with this morning's work. The rubber bands prevent a tight fit between bars. I don't even know if I have a queen, so probably all that work trying to save them was for nothing after all. To top it all off, we discovered my husband is allergic to bee stings.

Ugh. My heart feels sick.

See part 2 of this story.

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