Tuesday, April 30, 2013

We Fought the Bear, and the Bear Won (This Time)

For pictures, see the last post....last night was a repeat! We feel like we did what we could, but that bear was persistent and hungry.

I spent the day yesterday coming up with an evacuation plan for the bees - seems like I used all my phone minutes in one day! I called the Game Commission, local beekeepers, some relatives, and our pastor's family. We decided that the bear was definitely going to come back for more; yesterday I still had one box of bees and honey salvaged from the first attack. The plan was to tape and tie up the box and relocate it several miles away in the hayfield of our pastor. We needed to wait until the sun went down in order to contain as many of the bees as possible (the foragers would be out working during the day). My husband started going down to check how many bees were on the outside of the hive probably around 6 p.m. He went down two more times, each time coming back up the hill with the news that there will still a lot of bees visible.

We were waiting and thinking we would go down after dark to finish this up. Between 7 and 7:30 p.m. I was out on our back sidewalk putting some frame pieces in the and pulling the trash can inside the garage. My husband came out on the deck which overlooks the valley. He glimpsed through the trees the bear already back at the hive! This was a big difference from 2:30 a.m.! This was evening - still light enough to see! The bear ran away, but not before he overturned the box of bees (those poor bees).

I sighed at the thought of dealing with another angry cluster of bees, but my husband and I discussed quickly giving it one more go. I suited up and quickly transferred those frames of bees and honey (which the bear didn't get down to the business of really eating yet) into an upturned hive body. The bees were angry again, and I have another sting on my left wrist. In my hurry (it was starting to get dark), I did not properly zip and seal my veil; so I ended up with some bees inside and tangled in my hair. God protected me; I had no stings to my face or scalp. Even after I un-suited and came up to the house I had a bee in my hair! Brings to mind some memories of me getting stuck in yellow-jacket nests with my horse, but that will be another post at another time. I would love to stress that honey bees are very, very gentle creatures with which I usually greatly enjoy working and handling.

My husband worked hard to put available deterrents around the bee box including used kitty litter, and vinegar, and the like. If we had more time, we could have bought ammonia; a suggestion had been to fill water balloons with ammonia and coat the balloon with peanut butter. We did not have balloons and ammonia on hand.

We went to bed last night (exhausted) knowing that we did the best we can, hoping that the bees would be spared through the night so we could proceed with their relocation.

This was not to "bee". The bear struck again in the night. If you are keeping count, this is the third attack in less than 24 hours. The hive is destroyed - bees and honey are lost. My husband just gave me the news at 6 a.m. I am discouraged but not defeated! We have learned a lot in these past days.

Reader, you will be seeing posts and pictures of our rebuilding efforts. A new package of bees, ordered last fall, is scheduled to arrive in 1.5 weeks. We are working on a location right next to our house, and the plan is to include a pen of electric fence. I am also determined today to file reports on this bear with both the Game Commission and the Police Department. With four small children in our household, a coop full of chickens, and a new hive of bees coming, I would like to make sure we follow-up with this bear. He has proved to be formidable and destructive, and we need to make sure we responsibly deal with him!

The journey continues; look for more bee news very soon. Thank you for reading and encouraging these past few days even. Here's to a fresh start. I have always been thankful for God's gift of a new day.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Bears and Bees

Well, it happened....pretty much the worst thing that could happen to a beekeeper. If not the worst thing (bee diseases can be pretty destructive), definitely a list topper. Last night my lone hive of honeybees fell victim to a hungry black bear. About 2:20 a.m. my husband jumped out of bed and said that the bear was knocking over the trash can right below our bedroom window. This is the second time the bear has done this, but it is the first time that we actually saw him. He was big - about 300 to 400 pounds my husband estimates. So, we yelled and made noise; and the rascal ran away.

Guess where he went? I heard a noise that sounded like a gunshot, and my husband turned to me and said that he was sorry but that was the sound echoing up the hill from the bear toppling over my beehive. The hive probably weighs about 100 pounds and had a large rock resting on top. That bear made quick work of the hive, and all my husband could do was make some noise from the hillside. It didn't deter him this time. We could hear the splintering of the brood frames. I had just inspected my hive on Saturday to prepare the bees and frames for the Spring nectar flows.

I asked my husband if he couldn't shoot the bear, but he reminded me that it was dark and it is not legal to take down a bear. Probably not the safest thing to hike down the hill at 3 a.m. and try to hunt a hungry bear.

Below are pictures of the damage taken around 6:30 a.m. after my husband walked down with his gun to make sure the area was clear. The third picture is the collected frames and foundation sheets from which the bear scraped honey and larvae.

The bear smashed the wooden frames like toothpicks!

So, there were still a pile of bees in one of the upturned boxes. I approached and immediately saw how angry the bees were. I went up to the house to put on my veil/jacket combo. I went back down the hill to start transferring the 9 remaining honey/brood frames with bees attached to the other empty box. I was stung in the leg right away and once again saw how angry the poor bees were, so I went back up to the house again to put on more gear and light my smoker. With a lot of prayer for protection and trembling fingers I gathered the frames and stuck them in the righted box. I now have one hive deep (box) filled with bees. I have no idea if the queen was rescued! Here is a picture of the lidded box containing thousands of angry and confused bees. The empty box in front had a few clinging bees that I hope will find their way to their friends.

My husband thinks the bear will be back for more tonight. We'll see if this poor box 'o bees will survive. I'm reading and learning about black bear today; all I know is that they are super hungry coming out of hibernation!

So, dear readers, I will probably take a day to pray and ask God to help me through this loss. A lot of work (and money!) has gone into this hive of bees, and I have learned a lot. I am thankful that God is already giving me ideas for developing and expanding the apiary - even this morning, but it will take some time and preparation. A small area of electric fencing will be at the top of the list!

This picture is a tagalong bee that came back with me to the house - I had about 5 or 6 of them still clinging to me trying to chase me away from their home. Normally the bees would not really even fly up around me; when I give them a puff of smoke they will stay calmly in their hive and around their queen. Aren't they fascinating?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Episode with the Trash Can

Our garbage collection service is every Friday, very early in the morning. Our habit is to roll the bin to the curb the day before. This morning (Friday), I awoke to the exclamation of surprise and disgust from my husband, as he looked out the bedroom window, that something had been in our trash. This was before my alarm went off at 6 a.m. - what a way to greet the morning!

We hurried to collect and clean up the mess; since I am not a fan of touching garbage, I donned latex gloves (yet another use for those miracle hand protectors!). My husband is tough, so he took the bare-handed approach.

Well, dear readers, we decided the culprit was a bear! Something had to be large enough to tip over the large and lidded can. Then, that something had to have the ability to CARRY BAGS OF TRASH AROUND THE YARD before ripping them open and perusing the contents. It was quite a cleanup. I would like to go on record that I am not a fan of "the week in review" provided by the garbage. I would also like to say that our dog, a toy poodle, has been reprimanded for the fact that he sleeps more sound than we do, and thus did not alert us to the fact that a probable bear was riffling through our garbage can in our yard.

We do have several things for which to be thankful:

1. No small children were harmed in this episode!

2. No honey bee hives or chickens were attacked.

3. The scene of the crime was cleaned up before the arrival of the trash collector.

4. Previously mentioned latex gloves.

I think we might be sleeping with our window cracked tonight. Have I mentioned that we're in the market for a German Shepherd?

Have a great weekend; enjoy some sunshine!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


1. Happy Easter; Christ is Risen! My daily prayer is that God would give me the joy and peace knowing that my Savior has conquered death. The kids and I colored some eggs using the silk tie method. I explained to the kids that the colored eggs and the candy nests we made are signs of rejoicing and new life that Jesus brings. While they listened, I think they were quite taken with the sugar factor as well (keeping it real!).

2. We tried for an Easter picture. We basically are the world's worst picture-taking family. Evidence includes: of the several pictures we snapped none of the kids were all looking the same way, Big Fish is not in the family picture, we waited until after church and lunch to even try the picture.

3. I had the rare experience this week of seeing an egg being laid from one of our chickens! I opened the nesting boxes, and one of the chickens was still in there. This is normal; there is often a chicken or two hanging out in there. Well, I could tell this chicken was mid-egg; as she was kind of stuck half in and half out of the box. She wanted to leave, but she couldn't - ya know? So, I was able to witness the egg coming out! Folks, there is no fresher egg; she practically laid it in my hand! We are looking forward to 15 new chicks in two days!!

4. Cute baby picture (tangling up my knitting of course!). She looks a little worried, but trust me she was having a blast. Yesterday I caught her on video dumping out a box of Cheerios. Sigh.

5. One other picture of the children learning the fine art of eating Ramen noodles courtesy of Big Fish's teaching:

Happy Spring! If I keep saying it, it will show up soon (currently snowing and 36 degrees!).