In which we are introduced to a bear and some bees

As you may have gathered from the title, a bear got into the bees last weekend. First, the good news, all the hives are fine, but we had quite a busy weekend.

The New Hampshire bee yard is in known bear territory, and as such we took precautions and installed an electric fence. We are using a basic DC fence charger and a car battery. I’ll skip to the point – the car battery went dead and a bear broke right through the fence with no shock. It must have been a young bear as the broken wire was rather low. It knocked over the hive that had come out of he the wall of the house earlier this summer – our weakest hive. Luckily the hive was strapped together so rather than bees and comb everywhere and a nice snack the bear just got a sideways box of very mad bees.

The hive tipped back up but still a bit off-kilter.

Our resident bee guardian (aka my father) noticed the hive over turned when he drove by Saturday morning. The bees were inside still so he tried to stand it back up. He got it back up but they got him too! The bees stung him several times and chased him nearly a quarter mile. So while I spend lots of time telling people that the bees are nice and calm and don’t sting, that doesn’t mean they won’t ever!

Once a bear has gotten a taste of bees you have to move the hive – they will be back, often the next night. This time the bear didn’t get a taste but without the electric fence it was no longer a safe spot so around 5pm Saturday night we loaded up the car to go rescue the bees in NH.

Car headlights illuminating the hives for the move. 

As with our other moves the plan was the same. Wait until night then screen in the bees, load and go. This time we had a few complications. First off the bees were MAD. They boiled out the bottom when we went to square the hive on the stand. We left them to calm down like that and came back at dusk.  At night we covered all the entrances with screen and duct tape so the bees couldn’t get out on the ride.

Hive all screened in ready to be loaded on the truck

The second complication was the other hive was quite heavy. It had two full supers on it. Normal we sould use the bee escape to get the bees out of the super and then move just the main hive body, but with a broken fence and dark coming we just had to load the whole thing. A full hive of 2 deeps and 2 supers is too tall for our little Honda Fit so we borrowed a pickup for the occasion.

 After the hives were loaded in the truck we strapped them in so they wouldn’t move. 

Once loaded, we high tailed it back to a Maine, arriving around 10:30pm. Now we had to unload them. That part went ok. We were to lift the heavy hive off the truck and. Get them both on their hive stands. Next came the ugly part – opening the screens.

Bees need to be a bel to fly, and they want to fly by first light so if we wanted to sleep we had to open them now. We started with the bigger hive thinking the you might be happier since they hadn’t gotten attacked by a bear. Nope, they were pretty darn mad. We got a few entrances open on top and the bottom part way open before the boiled up at us. We walked away and they followed us around the. Front yard buzzing loudly. We both got stung. So there we were, in bee suits at 11pm with a few angry bees circling our heads and another whole hive that wasn’t open.  We couldn’t face them then but we also knew they would be more mad if they couldn’t fly by morning. We went to bed for a few hours and set the alarm for 4:45am.

In the. Morning, the bees didn’t seem all that much better but we managed to get both hives an entrance and left well enough along to go back to bed. Overall it was another bee adventure weekend, but I am glad all our hives are ok.

Our very full home bee yard!

For the Beekeepers reading this, lessons we learned are:
1. Don’t trust a battery to hold its charge as long as you’d think.
2. Always keep your hives strapped (which we are violating as I write this but intend to fix this weekend with the purchase of more straps)
3. Don’t underestimate how mad bees can be
4. Use foam or something easily removed to block entrances for transport – staples and netting go on quick but are not fun to take off.