Can You Bee-lieve It?

Published on Fri, 08/26/2016 - 12:46pm

AcreageLife September Issue

Here’s something interesting about honey bees: They are one of the few "crops" that can simply vanish when you’re not looking.

How do I know this?

You’d think that after years of successfully raising bees, things would be easy, you know? This spring, as usual, we brought in four colonies of honey bees and settled them into their beautiful hives in their beautiful new bee house that was carefully designed for temperature control and protection.

The next day, Hive Number One left town—just disappeared—apparently displeased with a flapping piece of house-wrap that we’d temporarily left unfinished on the corner of the bee house. We were disappointed but not distraught. Things happen. We chalked it up to life with bees.

A few weeks later, Hive Number Two decided to swarm. We didn’t panic. We’ve had experience with swarms, and we’re familiar with the steps required for re-capturing one. We watched until the swarm began to form a cluster, then as they settled onto a low branch. We walked back to the garage to gather up the necessary supplies, and returned to find…nothing! The bees were gone—without a trace. It was like Sir Walter Raleigh and the lost colony of Roanoke, only with bees instead of people.

It was admittedly a little disconcerting to have $250 worth of honey bees simply vanish over the course of three weeks, but we still had Hives Number Three and Number Four, as well as the handful of loyal bees from Hive Number Two that didn’t leave in the swarm.

And then Hive Number Three swarmed. This time the swarm cooperated and we recaptured them in textbook style, settling them into a new hive that was stationed outside of the bee house.

Get ready, here comes the plot twist: That’s when the bears showed up.

It’s worth mentioning that we’ve had hives housed outdoors for years and have never had trouble with bears, but I guess that's why they call it a plot twist. Two days after the swarmed bees settled into their new hive, a mama bear and her cubs decided to have some fun tearing the hive to pieces and removing all the frames. Needless to say, those bees disappeared. (As if that wasn’t enough, the bears also found an old stack of empty hives and frames and demolished those too, just for laughs.)

So now it’s the end of summer. Hive Number Four is thriving and Hive Number Two has rebounded nicely. The bees have spent the summer dutifully working the blossoms and we’ll still get our honey harvest—albeit less than we might have had otherwise.

And maybe, hopefully, our honey bee adventures will be a little less adventurous next year.