Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Brownsmead Bees

I got a call from a guy in Portland. He and his brother bought a farm in Brownsmead. The previous owner told them about some bee hives that some old beekeeper left there ten years ago and has since died. He wanted to know if I could come and remove the bees.

This sort of call is always a crap shoot. I always hope to find healthy bees in nice equipment. I started to worry when he told me there were beneath a ton of blackberries.

I drove out and met one of the brothers who opened the gate. I drove across the bumpy field to the side of the shed where he directed me. The berry vines were so thick I couldn’t even see the hives. I fired up my weed whacker with the brush hog attachment. A half hour later the six hives were exposed.

I removed the dead hives to make more room to work the hives that had obvious activity. I opened the equipment closer to my truck and found that these hives were once active with mice and wax moths. They were deep in compost. There was actually soil that was several inches deep with worms in it. It was rich stuff. All this equipment was worthless and I just threw it on the truck to take to a burn pile.

The remaining hives with activity were also worn out with holes chewed in the sides with bees coming and going from several entrances. These hives were laden with dirt on the lower level and honey on the top level. I couldn’t separate the boxes so I dragged the heavy mass to the truck and I tried to cover every hole with duct tape.

I got everything home and I made some room for the new colonies and I placed them there. I was exhausted from spending several hours cutting brush and moving hives. I stacked the hives and left them. I’ll go in to see what’s inside some evening this week. All I can tell right now is the bees look good and healthy. I’m sure I’ll have to replace every frame inside the hives.

So now I have fifteen colonies, which is nearly twice as many as I want to have. I’m hoping for a good honey year.


Blogger darev2005 said...

So I'm guessing that there's not a chance you can just live off of honey and beeswax revenues? How many colonies can your area support?

9:06 AM  
Anonymous Joni said...

MmMmmmm Honey...wish I was more comfortable around bees, we have a huge field that would be perfect for some hives.

2:07 PM  
Blogger g said...

Now you have cultured bees.

What part of Brownsmead were you in?

6:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mmmmm, honey.

Hey, mebbe the Browsmead Flats could write and sing a song about your experience. The could play it the next Troll Radio review and on KMUN

8:45 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Darev, I could probably do pretty good with the wax products, lip balms and creams if I would dedicate my life to production and sales. I like to have no more than 4 colonies with in 1000 feet of one another because of nectar competition. One year I had 12 colonies in one spot and the following year I put only four there and got just as much honey.

Joni, they love fields with flowers.

g, East of the Grange.

Anon, and I'd never hear it.

5:25 AM  
Anonymous Fmac said...

Isn't it generally bad practice to bring strange bees to an existing apiary, without first quarantining them?

9:15 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

I agree it can be, however I didn't go into much detail of my assessment of these colonies in this post. These bees were very healthy. They had hair, their wings looked good, no signs of nosema in or around the hives. I uncapped some brood, all healthy no stink about them. The laying pattern was good. I put the bees on their own bench with the entrance facing the opposite direction of the other hives.

I inspected my hives on Sunday and the Brownsmead bees made it through the winter so far and I expect them to be productive because they are a little aggressive and building up fast. I have great trust in survivor stock such as these colonies over bees that have been used as migratory pollinators that come in contact with other bees and chemicals. Ten year old colonies that survived without starving and queen loss is something special and my only fear would be my other bees of unknown lineage could somehow screw them up.

2:35 PM  

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