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A beehive emergency is to be expected in the life of a beekeeper, but this one was a little different! My experience with this particular beehive emergency highlighted the importance of being prepared for anything!
I keep a number of beehives on the properties of friends in my area. I had put a hive in a tree on one such friends property to collect a swarm of bees in the spring time. His property seems to be a bee highway and he regularly gets swarms coming through his property!
My tactic worked! it wasnt long before I had a swarm move into the langstroth hive that I had tied securely in the tree, just above head height.
As time went on, the bees became well established and filled the brood box. I should have removed the bees before our summer thunderstorms arrived. But, as usual, life got in the way and the task kept being relegated to the bottom of the list. After all, the bees were doing okay!
The Beehive Emergency
I received a text from my friend the day after a particularly gusty thunderstorm breezed through the area. There was a beehive emergency! The branch that the hive was tied to had broken off, crashing to the ground, beehive and all!
The hive ended up upside down on the ground with the branch on top of it! This is where nature is so amazing! I arrived a day later, expecting to find a deserted hive and just to recover the box! To my surprise, the bees had adapted and were coming and going from the upside down hive as if nothing was amiss!
The downside – I was not prepared! I had not brought the right equipment to handle angry bees in an upside down hive! I needed more gear! It was a mistake to start cutting the branch off the hive with the saw blade of my multitool – I did not have a a wood saw with me! I fast realised that this was not going to cut it while I was being attached by ticked off bees!
The decision was made to retreat and come back the next day. This time better prepared for this beehive emergency!
The Tools I Needed
My bee toolbox that I usually carry has the following equipment in it.
- Hive tool
- Bee brush
- Bee smoker
- Fuel for the smoker
- A 1metre x 1metre piece of insect netting
- Packaging tape
I made the following additions to my kit for the next day!
- A small wood saw – for obvious reasons
- A headlamp – most of the work on a hive is done late afternoon and if the job goes longer than expected, you will be working in the dark!
- An assistant – although she did not fit in the box!
Returning the next day, I waited for the bees to all enter the hive for the night. Next, I blocked the hive entrances with newspaper, pushed in with my hive tool. I then made short work of the branch with the wood saw! The hive was free! I then turned the hive right side up. This was when I discovered the second bee emergency! The fall had offset the lid of the hive, leaving a gap through which hoards of angry bees escaped and proceeded to attack! My assistant and I headed for the hills!
We waited for the bees to calm down and re-enter the hive. By now we were working in the dark! Cue the headlamp! One useful feature your headlamp should have is a red light option. this does not seem to disturb the bees as much as a white light.
I then dug the insect netting and tape from my bee tool box. I placed the netting over the lid, covering the gaps where the lid meets the box. The packaging tape was used to secure the net in place. The bees were finally ready for transport back to my property!
What I Learned From This Beehive Emergency
I learned a few good lessons from this incident, and I hope you can too.
- ALWAYS take your bee tool box with you, no matter how trivial the beehive emergency may appear to be.
- Try and think of various types of beehive emergency situations you may face, and get appropriate tools to add to your toolbox.
- Don’t be too macho to ask for help! An extra pair of hands will usually make the job a lot easier and quicker – and two heads are better than one when you have to start improvising MacGyver style!
- Always tie down the lid of your hive with a secure strap. If I had not done so, the hive and swarm probably would not have survived the fall.
- Don’t put off tasks that should be done today – it may become a bigger job!
- Nature will always surprise you, so it is best to be as prepared as possible!
You may also like our post on 5 Must Have Items For Beekeeping
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