Last year, my father became a beekeeper. He ordered a colony of bees from California, locally retrieved a tall white stack of boxes for a hive, and acquired the trademark handler's gloves and netted headgear. After a winter that devastated over 3,000 hives across our state, Dad was pleased that his fledgling hive had survived.
Imagine our surprise then, when Mimsie and I spotted this conglomerate mass hanging off one of their orchard trees. We were some distance away and thought perhaps it was a large, furry animal trying unsuccessfully to climb a flimsy lower limb. As we walked closer, Mimsie shared her fear that it was Dad's colony which would have meant they had rejected the hive for some reason and were no longer going to be residing with us. Too afraid to risk possibly upsetting the hive, I zoomed my camera as far as I could, snapped a picture,
and ran back to the house.
Upon loading my camera chip, we were able to confirm it was indeed a swarm of bees. However, it was not Dad's hive which was happily still continuing to thrive.
It was, in fact, a feral hive!
Dad got home, donned his beekeeper's accouterments, and proceeded to sweep the markedly docile hive into a box until a proper hive could be located. The tricky part for Dad came when it was time to transfer the feral colony from its temporary abode into the newly minted wooden hive. Dad had been lulled into thinking that the colony was so meek that he needn't bother with smoking them or even properly securing all of his beekeeping gear.
Boy, was he wrong!
Even though Dad had obtained the new hive within 24 hours of boxing the colony, it had not kept the bees from claiming the box as their own, for they had all ready begun to make comb in that short amount of time. Dad was successful in relocating them to the sturdier hive,
but it came with a bit of a cost.
Six bees found their way under his shirt and one particularly adventuresome bee somehow skirted under the netting of his headgear! On his way back from the relocation process, Dad noticed a bee on the outside of his mask and tried flicking it away, but was puzzled when it didn't budge. After three or so attempts at this, he realized it had, in actuality, infiltrated his hood and was a mere inch or so from his face!
Off came the helmet with a rush! About that same time, he felt the tickling feet of the daring six that were under his shirt on his back. Now, off came the shirt as he ran to the house flapping his arms all the way across the yard in wild attempts to remove the stinging bees.
(Sadly, we only have his recollection of this event for this story as Mimsie was so involved in her dish washing duties that she missed the whole spectacle taking place outside the kitchen window. If only a video camera had been handy!)
Dad ended up only getting a couple stings, but he certainly learned his lesson about making sure he is fully geared up before handling these spritely creatures.
We should have some nice honey later this season which will make all his work worthwhile. In the meantime, our family will be sure to keep our eyes better peeled on his beekeeper coming and goings just in case there is a repeat performance of Dad's comical escapades!