Here at Carlaminda we don't just keep bees and talk about bees. We rescue bees as well!
Last night Dave and I completed yet another rescue hive job and it has prompted me to finally publish this article that I have been meaning to share (for a very long time).
Back in 2022 we received a request for the removal of 7 abandoned beehives that needed to go. Dave and I stepped up to the plate and went to assess what needed to be done.
Hive hosting gone wrong
We were met by a lovely couple who had, around 4 years previously, set up a small orchard on their property in Capel. They then engaged a local beekeeper to provide a couple of bee hives to assist with the pollination. Over the following couple of years these 2 hives became 7, and the beekeeper inspected less frequently until he stopped coming at all. The couple spent the next 12 months trying to track him down and eventually gave up. So, left with 7 abandoned hives, they did some research and started their journey into beekeeping.
Fast forward a few more years.
Despite their best efforts the couple realised that they were unable to actively manage the bees. They confessed that they hadn’t been inspected for a while and just wanted to do the right thing by getting someone who knew what they were doing, and had the time, to take them on.
The initial assessment for a Hive Rescue
So, back to our visit to assess what we were dealing with. Access to the hives was not an issue. We would be able to back the trailer all the way down alongside the hives. But the hardware left a lot to be desired. The base boards had significant delaminating damage so it would be almost impossible to seal the entrances. At least one of the hives would need a new base board just to be able to strap the hive for transport as the base was completely rotted and almost non-existent. Another had had a tree limb fall down on it a while back causing some damage, so a plastic dog kennel was placed over the top of it to provide protection. We couldn’t see the hive very well as it was nicely tucked up inside the kennel, but (thought) we saw enough to determine that it seemed sound enough.
We set a date for the removal. The couple had informed us that they would be away on holidays at that time, so they notified the neighbours of our impending visit and gave us permission to access the property during their absence.
Completing the job
We returned in the evening a few days later. We (Dave) backed the ute down with the trailer, and turned on the spotlights that Dave had installed on the rear of the ute. Be sure to remember this minor detail as it held major consequences later in the evening!
We then got to work.
The condition of the hardware was the main challenge for us. Unfortunately a large portion of the hardware was made from recycled material. While I am a firm believer of recycling I do not think it is necessarily a great idea when it comes to hiveware. Too often I see recycled materials used that are clearly not fit for purpose and just don’t have the same level of longevity. Hives are kept in the weather – hail, rain, or shine, and using recycled chipboard for a super just won’t cut it. The rot sets in far too quickly!
We started with the hive that needed the new base board to allow time for the bees to settle again after replacing it. The other hives we made do with what they had. When it came to strapping, we found it was a fine balance between too tight and too loose. Too tight, and the boxes would collapse from the rot. Too loose, and they would come apart during transport.
The dog kennel hive - a work of art
We then turned our attention to the dog kennel hive. When we lifted the kennel off, we were presented with an incredible sight. It is probably one of the most amazing things I have seen in my many years as a beekeeper. The hiveware had split apart so much that it had left massive gaps, essentially leaving the hive open to the elements (and pests). However the bees had done an incredible job propolising and patching up these gaps. They had created sheets of propolis (bee glue) to repair the damage. Yes, sheets. I can only imagine how long it took them, and the energy they expended, to achieve this work of art. The only thing I can say here is to look at the photo below to see some of their amazing work.
We were not prepared for this hive. We had brought an extra base board with us (just in case) but not the hardware to house an entire 2-super colony. The job had already taken far longer than anticipated (definitely not due to me taking lots of photos!). And Dave was tired (he had done most of the heavy lifting), hungry (we thought we'd be home and having dinner by now), and dying for a wee! So we gently strapped it up and hoped that it would make the journey.
Minor detail becomes a major issue
So, hives buckled onto the trailer, we jumped in the ute ready for our return trip back to Carlaminda.
This is where the minor detail of spotlights comes into play. The ute wouldn’t start. Not even a Rrr! We’d run down the batteries too much with the spotlights being on for so long. And the owners weren’t home to give us a jumpstart.
A different kind of jump
Dave, still wearing his beesuit (there were still a few bees in the air), wandered over to the neighbour’s place to ask for assistance. But they were not answering the front door. However, we knew they were home because we could see them through the window. So Dave walked around the side and very gently rapped on the window. No response. It wasn’t until he knocked a little harder (the third time around) that they became aware of the strange man wearing a space suit outside their window in the middle of the night. Their response was rather theatrical. But we were after a different kind of jump!
Luckily, after Dave had apologised profusely for the scare he had given them, the neighbours brought their car around and gave us the jump we needed.
The journey home was a non-event. Dave driving. Me reviewing the photos I had taken, trying to flag the best ones for this article...
But this is just the first part of the rescue. Part 2 is even more interesting. Dave thinks I took lots of photos to document the removal. Good thing he wasn’t counting during the transfer into the new hardware!
So stay tuned for Part 2, including lessons learned!
Helen Humphreys Passionate Beekeeper Trainer | Mentor | Producer