Friday, July 31, 2015

Buttercup Can't Catch a Break

I hate being woken up by my DH in the morning, but not for the reason you might think. Normally, I'm the first one up around 5 or 6 am, so if my DH wakes me up, it's because there's bad news.

I fell asleep late last night on our basement couch watching Graham Norton, so I slept in a bit this morning. At 8:30 this morning, I heard him calling my name (my DH, not Graham) and found out that during the night, Buttercup had been overturned by a bear and rained on. The electric fence was still on and intact, so my guess is that Yogi or Boo Boo must have stuck a paw through the electric tape and knocked my nuc down. The nuc was not quite 3' from the fence. Guess it wasn't far enough.

The first thing I did was scan the ground for the queen, but I didn't see her, so I figured she might be between the combs. To minimize damage to the comb, I first moved all the bars to a table so that I could pick up the nuc body. While doing so, I noticed the mess was not as bad as it could've been. Most of the comb had ripped slightly from the bars, but only three combs had torn off completely.

These bees were on the outside and drowned in the rain.
I had two emergency bars (some hardware cloth stapled to a bar) already prepped for such a time as this, so I popped two of the fallen combs onto them. Rather than take time to make another emergency bar, I used some scrap quilting fabric to fashion a sling for the third comb. I have a bin full of scraps so it was my fastest option.

Sling for holding comb. Masking tape will work, too. 
As I was going through the comb, I kept looking for the queen but didn't see her. Then I noticed a pile of bees that was beginning to accumulate on the ground. The queen was in it! Hooray!  (And yes, I was soooo relieved to have not stepped on her.)

Cluster of bees starting to form on the ground.
Hard to see, but the tail end of HRH is trying to scoot out of sight near the top of this cluster.

Meanwhile, the other hives were waking up and the spilled syrup and nectar were drawing robbers. They were all over the table and Buttercup. I really should have moved her to a new location, but I didn't because those log stands are heavy! Instead, I just moved her stand a bit to make sure a bear couldn't swipe at it again and reduced her entrance by half. I also decided not to feed her until the robbing frenzy subsided.


Forgive me if I didn't take a lot of photos of them robbing the nuc itself. I was kind of busy trying to close it up quickly.

Reduced entrance. I use 2 pieces of duct tape.
One small piece is taped to the outside piece so that the bees don't stick to it.
I'm not a fan of wearing lots of protective gear, but you'd better believe I wore a jacket today! Even so, I still got zapped twice. One of the girls actually climbed inside my jacket somehow and stung me in the right shoulder. Considering how they'd just had their home destroyed, though, I feel I got off pretty lightly.

Trying to clear a space for the level. 


  1. Oh no! I'm sure that's not what you wanted to wake up to! I'm glad you found the queen and were able to put poor Buttercup back together. Maybe it was really an R.O.U.S or a flame spurt instead of a bear. ;-) I've thought about putting some hives up at a place in the foothills, but then I'd have to worry about bears and your experiences make me leery of that. I hope things settle down in the yard and that Buttercup can recover. Time to up the voltage on the fence!

    1. LOL! It very well might have been an R.O.U.S -- the fire swamp holds many hazards!

      Thinking of making some "unwelcome mats" -- board with nails pounded through them, at least for the back side of the bee yard. Maybe that could work for you, too, if you want to make an outyard???

  2. What a shocking picture with the hive on the side. So glad the bear couldn't get inside and that you found the queen. I'm curious how you managed to pick the queen up from the mass of bees and get her into the hive. I'm new to beekeeping and imagine I'd have a hard time with that. Look forward to hearing about Buttercup's progress.

    1. I tried picking up the mass of bees with my hands, but I was worried about accidentally crushing the queen since she was in the middle of the ball. Since they were on some red clover, I gently pulled the entire clover plant out of the ground and laid it on top of a couple bars that were spaced slightly apart. Once the queen was in the hive, I just shook the rest of the bees off. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. :-)


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