Saturday, April 2, 2016

Honey Bee Adventures

The day started off as any normal day. Except that the kitchen needed a lot of produce for an event over the weekend. But besides that, nothing new in the chef's garden on Friday. 
(Isn't that how most adventures start? The protagonist is doing her own thing and something flanks her with a surprise?) 
And so is the tale of Friday, April 1st. 

We were pruning back the raspberries next to the hive. Now, mind you, the hive had been rather loud that morning, but I thought that it was all because it had been exceptionally warm and dry the past week and that the bees were just doing their normal thing. Well, it was and wasn't a normal thing. 
As we were working nearby, the buzzing got noticeably louder; we glanced over to the hive just as bees began pouring out of the entrance and any nook and cranny that they could fit through. That certainly isn't part of a bee's every day existence. That many bees making a mass exodus from their home? I guess they got tired of all the traffic, noise, and population density in town; it was time to move on to uncharted territory.
Soon enough, the entire area was abuzz (see what I did there?) with almost half of the hive's residents. It was quite like a Disney princess moment with all those small creatures swirling around you, except they were honey bees with a stinger on the other end that you don't want to mess with. (But apparently bees gorge themselves on honey before moving out and so taken with the scent of the queen leaving that they really don't care if you're standing right there.) 10-15,000 bees leaving home is quite the sight. 

By this point, it was obvious to both of us that the bees were swarming, and neither of us had any experience catching a swarm. Anna, my coworker, has been working through the master beekeepers program, but everything she knew was book knowledge. Me? I've only donned the bee suit once and that was to observe a hive inspection. That is the extent of my beekeeping experience. 
So we pulled out the books (because head knowledge suddenly disappears when you're actually in the heat of the moment - almost like helping with a goat kidding), zipped up the bee suits, set up the new hive with empty combs (sorry for my lack of a technical term there), grabbed a plastic bin (with a handy lid), and waited for the queen bee to alight on some spot and surround herself with her dedicated followers. 

So we stood there and waited.
And waited.
And waited some more. 

All the while, still very unsure of ourselves in what we were about to do. 
I can only imagine what we looked like standing there in our bee suits looking into the Doug firs near the garden with our tote.
Those bees were not in a hurry to settle down around the queen, but we didn't want them to end up in some mystery location lost forever on Chehalem Mountain. 
The swarm finally congregated on a branch that was within reach (Yay!), and we set to work getting the bees into the bin. One of us held the bin up to the branch while the other whacked the branch to knock the renegades into the tote. We had ourselves a box of bees. 
It was the strangest sensation to carry the box back into the garden; the whole thing was vibrating in my hands. We then emptied the bin into the new hive and repeated the process with the stragglers that hadn't yet figured out that their queen went somewhere else. 
With most everyone in the new hive, we then added a feeder to encourage them to stay in the new place. Who wants to leave a place with great food? ;) 
All in all, the process took several hours from the time they left the hive to when we got them settled into their new home. 

And that is how we wrapped up our warm week in the garden. It was quite the change of pace from harvesting, watering, seeding, watering, transplanting, and harvesting some more. Usually days aren't this exciting. ;) 

PS - God's timing in all of this was absolutely perfect. My coworker and I were both in that day, we 'happened' to be working next to the hive instead of transplanting and seeding in the greenhouse, and we weren't running back and forth to the kitchen. 

Until next time!
Sarah G. 

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