Remember the TLC show Trading Spaces? I think it was the home remodeling show that paved the way for the MANY shows that exist now! I remember when it was all the rage. For those of you who may have missed this trend, the premise was two neighbors would “trade spaces” for the weekend and remodel (a bedroom, a den, a living room) and then there was this great reveal at the end. Of course the show featured designers with pretty wild styles and those styles did not always mesh well with that of the homeowners, so the excitement in the big reveal at the end was to see if the homeowners loved the new digs or hated them (sometimes they really did hate them).
Last week my husband and I had the privilege of playing Trading Spaces with some unsuspecting bees. We can only hope they love their new home!
We are listed on the Northern Bee Network as available mentors and about two weeks ago I got a call from Ken. He kept bees 8-10 years ago, but wasn’t keeping bees anymore. In the meantime, he left several of his hive boxes out at the edge of his field and they had fallen into disrepair over the years. Recently he was mowing and realized that one of the hives had honeybees going in and out. He wanted to know if we would be willing to come and check it out, and if it was a viable hive, move it into a new box with some new frames.
This is the hive the bees decided to call home:
As we approached the hive we noticed there really was a TON of activity going in and out and as we peaked under the lid, we could also tell it was going to be a messy, tedious job!
The first step was to move the hive to a more ideal location. The current location was a bit of a hike for the homeowner, but it was also in a shaded, wooded area. Certainly an available tractor made the job much easier!
Finally we were able to open it up! I’m aware that this is what I’ve become: absolutely giddy with the idea of opening an old, rotted beehive to inspect a feral colony.
First of all we had to PRY the top cover off because it was completely attached by comb. When we peaked inside we were shocked to find a box FULL of active bees (as it turned out, both boxes were full!).
In the photo above, the upper right, is what we found when we opened. You can see in the bottom right what happened when we tried to pull the frames up – the wooden top bar pulled right off. Thankfully, the frames contained plasticell so the comb stayed together even though all the wood was rotted and falling apart – especially as we pulled and pried.
We worked and worked to pry each individual frame out as everything was tightly packed with comb and propolis. Thankfully we worked in full sun, so it softened as we worked.
Other than the fact that the comb was old and dirty and the wood was rotted and useless, the colony was very strong. We sorted each frame: we set brood aside, drone comb in another box, and nectar in a third. When we rebuilt the hive, we then reorganized. We even found the queen and she laid the most beautiful brood pattern. It made me sad these weren’t our bees! It was great to work with them and inspect them, but it was bittersweet to leave them behind!
Another amazing thing about this colony was it was SO docile. I mean, completely deconstructing a hive is pretty invasive and the bees were so calm and quiet. My husband doesn’t wear a bee suit and had short sleeves on that day and he didn’t receive a single sting. We’ve been stung more for doing less! These bees were wonderful!
And their success was impressive because that hive was FULL of ants and the bottom box revealed evidence of mice too…
After two and a half hours of work, the bees were finally relocated into digs a bit nicer. I’m going to assume they were thrilled!