So I'm back working at Bee Busters. And of course as soon as I started working there I started (finally) getting calls from other places wanting me to come in for an interview. But anyway, the above is the Newport Back Bay, view from where I was standing by between calls in the morning. Pictures in this entry are all from my phone, so I apologize for the poor quality.
Scene I - The Job
This afternoon I responded to a call about bees at an apartment building in Fullerton (NE Orange County). I arrive and find the described location to find that it appears to be bees scouting the vent, that is, investigating it as a potential place for a swarm to move in to. I'm a bit disappointed because all I can really do here, since I can't block up the vent, is spray Wasp Freeze(tm) on it, a pesticide that has an odor that is particularly repellant to all hymenopterids ... though it would probably decay in the sun within 24 hours and then there'd be nothign stopping bees from moving in.
Two maintenance guys are looking at it with me and asking me some of the usual basic questions. Then they walk away. Moments later they're hollering. "Hey bro! Over here!!" I do my quick wasp spray treatment and go around the building to where they are. A huge buzzing noise fills the air as I come around the corner. There is a swarm in the very act of moving into a vent on that side -- probably the same swarm that had been scouting the other vent!
I quickly set up a ladder (its like, 12 ft up), and the shopvac. I spray some hand held pesticide in the vent with the vacuum ready, and sure enough they all come flooding out right into my waiting vacuum.
Now of course a fair number escape past the vacuum. Presently I see some grouped up near the ground the way they group around a queen. Closer examination reveals the queen is in fact there. I try to grab her but she flies off before I get there. I go back about my business but keep an eye out for her and soon I see her on the wall again. I try to grab her with the gloves on but they're too cumbersom, so I take them off and am able to grab her gently between my fingers. I put her in a ziplock bag in the cab of my truck and go back to the job.
Then I didn't have a call after so I went to stand by from the nearby Fullerton Arboretum:
Scene II - Bees in Birdhouses
There used to be a feral colony under a log on the hill behind my house. One day I had a call for bees in a birdhouse. It was a pretty birdhouse. It would make a good home for some bees. So instead of throwing it away I put it on top of the feral colony in the yard. Eventually the bees moved up into it.
Last week when I came back to bee busters the truck I inherited had a birdhouse full of bees on it. The entrance was stuffed with steel wool but there was still a fair number of bees all over it. I suspected there were still a lot of live bees in it. At the end of the day I put it up on the hill next to the other one and pulled the wool out. I figured it was probably dead but maybe some future bees would move in. When I checked on it a few days later it had steady flight in and out the front, like it was totally a going affair!
Scene III - A Home For Beeatrix.
Arriving home from work, despite rather having to go to the bathroom, the first thing I did was put a dab of honey on my finger and go outside to let the queen bee (whom we'll call Queen Beeatrix, for the sake of being whimsical) out of the bag. I put my finger in front of her and she walked up to the honey and started lapping it up hungrily. Once she'd had her fill she took a few steps away. In the below picture you can even still see the honey residue on my pointer finger.
What now? I've tried a few experiments to see if I could keep a queen bee alive without any help from worker bees but unfortunately she usually died after 24-48 hours. Wasn't particularly feeling like trying that again right now.
If you introduce a queen into an existing hive with a queen in it they'll "ball" around the new queen and kill her. But operating on the assumption that someone HAD gassed the new birdhouse hive, the queen could be dead. Without opening it up I can't really determine. Its kind of a wild chance, but I figured, well, she'll definitely die in any other course of action. Maybe I'll go put her in front of the hive and see if they seem intent on being sweet or mean to her.
So I go up the hill to the hives, and put my hand with her on it right in front of the entrance. Immediately several bees walked out on to my hand and started inspecting her.
The first birdhouse has tipped over, and I figure righting it would probably upset them now. That brown thing on top/front of it is a "beard" of bees overflowing out. They'll probably swarm soon. Also this is not only a phone pic but it was awkwardly taken with my left hand, so cut me some slack ;-D
The neighbours three rat-like little dogs came to the fence and interrupted my peaceful bee moment with frenzied yipping at me, which continued the entire time I was there. Ugh. Bees are so much more peaceful than annoying little rat-dogs.
Anyway more bees came out and groomed her, but I was afraid maybe they were just trying to figure out who she was and would turn on her. She didn't make any movement towards the hive entrance. I sat tehre for about ten minutes, arm getting tired, still having to go to the bathroom, while the bees crawled around on my hand getting to know the queen. And the dogs yipped.
I moved my hand so she was just outside the entrance and finally they began escorting her in.
She's hard to make out in the above picture but she's just crossing the lip of the entrance. I hung around for another several minutes to make sure they didn't seem to become agitated or kick her right out, something they very well could do. Also contemplating how nice a peaceful bees can be -- these are not domesticated colonies. These are wild caught swarms that really have no reason to be nice to me, but I was having a nice peaceful 15 minute sit right in front of them with them using my hand as a porch. Much more pleasant creatures than those god damn yipping dogs next door d:
(Still though, I must say, don't try this at home!)
Then I had to go to the bathroom. But I came back one more time to make sure everything still seemed to be in order and it did. And everyone lived happily ever after. (: