This hollow, rotten hemlock log was trucked into the local log sort yard (a location where logs come in from the forest and are processed for wood pulp or held until they are sold and shipped to a mill) with a hive of bees in it last fall. Our friend Stu got a call from one of the equipment operators at the sort yard to see if he wanted to hive the wild bees, so in February, he picked up the whole log and brought it home to the ranch. Stu fed the bees sugar syrup for the rest of the winter and through our extra wet spring.
When Henry the Husband and I showed up on Monday, bees were entering and exiting from both ends of the log, but the main comb area was not visible or accessible.
A section needed to be sawn off the end to gain access to the main comb.
The bees moved into this cavity when the tree was standing. Since then, the log has changed orientation several times, so the bees adapted by changing the orientation of new comb with each move.
The main chunk of the hive including most of the brood comb came free. It was important to keep the brood comb as intact as possible to promote healthy population growth in the next couple months. In this case, the chunk of comb was too long to fit into a standard bee box.
At this point, finding the queen was the most important task. If she got killed or flew off, the hive would die.
Once the queen was located and safely placed in the box, the main chunk of brood comb went in with her. Lots of bees were still flying around disoriented, but with the queen inside the box emitting her potent queen pheromones, the rest of the hive would soon join her.
Stu poured a sugar syrup in the box to further entice the bees into their new home.
The hive had quite a bit of honey stored up. Bees will clean out the discarded honeycomb and bring that sustenance back to the hive in the coming days.
Henry had a bee crawl up into his veil and sting him right under the eye (for a couple cringe-inducing photos, see my Flickr page). I didn’t get stung at all, which is kind of amazing because I wasn’t wearing any protective clothing, and I had to stick my camera right in bees’ business to take these photos.
It appeared that the operation was a success. The next couple months will be critical for this hive. If they don’t raise enough brood to boost their population, they will die during the winter. We’ll be checking in on them from time to time, crossing our fingers and doing what we can to help.