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?


  1. Oh, Sarah, I'm so sorry!! Since we just lost a couple of hens to our neighbor's straying dogs, I can feel your pain acutely. I'll be praying that your remaining bees recover (with the queen!) and remain safe from further attacks. Could you call the game commission for ideas that might keep them away?

  2. I am so terribly sorry. I lost my bees one year and I know just how horrible you feel. Not to mention though, loosing them to a black bear.
    I will pray for you.
    Thank you so much for your lovely comment today. You are so kind.
    I hope you can get more bees. I have never had the heart to try again.


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