Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L. (emo_snal) wrote,
Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.

Rescuing Bees

I. The Daily Story
   Once upon a time, about 13 years ago now, I started emosnail with the credo of "every day has a story, and I intend to tell it." And back then I did update just about every single day.

   13 years later here we are at emo_snal, we've lost an i, and updates are few and far between -- typically only when something really exciting happens and sometimes not even then (I swear one of these days I'll update on the exciting conclusion of the end of the last Turkey trip), but every update is a production now, not something to whip off in twenty minutes about the day's excitement.

   I do rather miss those good ole days though, and would like to get back to finding the story in every day and examining it. I'm sure that won't get around to happening, but I'll tell you about the latest bee-ventures.

II. First, on being an insecticidal maniac
   We've finally started doing live removals, AKA "bee rescues," at work. It's all kind of ironic, because you see, we love bees, my boss and I. We are as dedicated to and as knowledgeable about the trials and tribulations of the local bee population as anyone you could find short of one of the professional bee PhDs in the ivory tower. Yes, we kill bees, a lot of bees, and we get a lot of flak for that, but that's because the feral Africanized bees of unknown hygiene that people get in their walls are really of no value to the greater bee population and damaging to the beekeeping community. But drowning in a rising tide of consumers that veritably demand it, we've begun doing live removals.

   As a lover of bees, one has to kind of harden ones heart to the kind of killing we do. It's just business, you don't think about it. I'd kill bees all day and then come home and rescue a single bee from the pool, or a coworker would ask me to squash a single bee on a window and, after killing thousands, the personal-ness of squashing an individual would still repulse me.
   There was only one call I can recall really feeling guilty over. It was a feral colony under someone's jacuzzi and after I'd pulled off their outer wall and sprayed them with gas there was still not a single bee angry or trying to sting me. They were obviously very friendly bees, which, more than provoking mere sentimentality, had me thinking "I really want to use these bees as breeding stock!!!! I want their genetics!!" They would have been of real value to the world. But alas I had already gassed them and that was right before we officially began doing live removals.

   And to go off on a little bit (more) of a tangent, all our competitors are saying they're doing live removals, and they have pictures and videos on their websites purportedly showing them doing so, but not a single picture or video of them doing beekeeping or even delivering bees to a beekeeper (you'd think at least once they'd want to take a picture of the bee yard they delivered them to, wouldn't you?). My boss even called some of them pretending to be a random person looking to buy some honey and they of course didn't have any or have a beekeeper to recommend calling, a sure sign that they are not actually in contact with any beekeepers. In conclusion, its not that we're the only ones cold-hearted enough to kill bees, we're just the only ones who are honest about what we do!!

III. In the End, Only Kindness Matters

   Last Thursday I had a call for a requested live removal of a birdhouse full of bees (which is not a terribly uncommon place for them to inhabit). First I approached them bees without any protective gear on, which is my usual tactic to ascertain just how defensive the bees are going to be. Expected results range from bees becoming angry and possibly stinging me as soon as I'm nearby, to a bee or two starting to buzz angrily (to me the difference between an angry buzz and normal buzzing is plain as day) after I've stood next to them a minute or two. From this information I know whether I'm going to need the hot uncomfortable full suit or less, and if I can permit the homeowner to watch from a distance or will have to make sure there's no one outside anywhere nearby. In the case of this birdhouse I was able to get nose to nose with the hive entrance and for as long as I stood there no bees became angry.
   The homeowner even became brave, and encouraged by my ability to remain next to the bees unmolested, they approached it, but then to demonstrate that they believed the hive was not fastened down and could be easily removed, they gently jiggled it.
   Its funny the obscure things you take for-granted, I knew these bees to be very docile, but I was mortified that she'd jiggle the hive like that! The buzzing of the hive revved up to a veritable roar. But still it wasn't an angry roar -- we watched as bees came flooding out and began to whirl around in front of it.
   "I do believe they're sending out a swarm right now!!" I exclaimed. Sure enough, I even saw a queen bee emerge from the hive, which wouldn't happen for any other reason.
   Anyway, I let that swarm settle and vacuumed it up with the low-powered live capture vacuum, which really does seem to get them with zero casualties, and I lit the smoker and smoked the birdhouse --just to cover my bases, for they hardly seemed to need it-- and was able to tape some screen over the entrances, still without a single bee getting mad, and carry it to my truck. These bees were seriously unbelievably gentle.
   I was incredibly glad to have these delightful bees alive. I called my boss and informed him I wouldn't be taking them to the company bee yard -- I was taking these ones straight to MY house! I got home and, cradling the little birdhouse full of bees in my arms, took it a short way up the hill in the backyard and placed it on a chair up there. In all the times I've gone up there to look at it I have still not seen or heard a single angry bee.

IV. The Second Swarm
   Returning from work Friday evening I found they had sent out ANOTHER swarm, which had landed on a nearby patio beam. While the swarm was very small, its still kind of amazing that this already-very-small hive has sent out two swarms since I've known it.
   Swarms are "supposed" to be very docile, but I've found most swarms in this area will sting you just for looking at them. This one however I was able to play around with, sticking my finger all the way in to the solid mass of bees and other things, without getting stung. I didn't have a beehive to put the swarm in though, and didn't want to shake them in to some random box and then again into a beehive, so I decided to wait until I had a chance to go back to work and get a hive box.
   All that evening, while I was out at the bar with my coworker/shipmate Russell and some friends that are staff at the Ocean Institute (that owns the Brig Pilgrim) I was worrying about those bees. What if they don't have enough collective body mass to stay warm all night? Should I have put them in a box so they could stay warm? When I got home at 1am I went out there and felt the outside of swarm, the outer bees felt fairly cool. But then again none were buzzing -- if they were TOO cold they would buzz to generate heat. It wasn't a terribly cold night anyway, probably upper 50s, which is a survivable body temperature for bees.
   The next morning (this morning, Saturday morning), I had to go do my volunteering thing on the boat in the morning. After lunch I rushed home to make sure the swarm was still there, it was. I went to work and got a hive box. I came home with the box and placed it under where the swarm was hanging...
   At that EXACT MOMENT I heard their buzzing rev up to full throttle. Now, I hadn't jostled them or anything, there's no way I could have triggered this. Just a crazy coincidence, that after two days of hanging there, the exact moment I put a hive under them to move them into they all took off and flew off over some neighboring shrubbery and out of sight.

   Oh well, I would have really liked to have that swarm in a hive, but I still have the original in the bird house. But I can't open up the bird house and see how they're doing in there like I could have done with bees in a hive box. Maybe they'll send out another swarm soon though...

Tags: bee busters, beekeeping, bees, honeybees
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