Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bees and Me

I received a solicitation yesterday from an organization called Friends of the Earth.  While such solicitations are not unusual and the organization checks out with high marks on Charity Navigator, the thing that kept this one from ending up immediately in the trash was its focus on saving Bees.

I had just had an experience with bees.  In fact I had a recurring experience with bees choosing to live around my house.

Probably three years ago bees began to swarm around the railing of my deck.  At first I was delighted, since I have four fruit trees, several herbs, and some flowering plants meant to attract the several hummingbirds we have in the trees surrounding my house.

Later, I was less enamored as their rectangular home grew several inches in width and height in a few days.  As it reached about 3’ x 2’, I began to seriously consider how to move them to a more remote location.  I called around and was finally given the name of a bee catcher who, supposedly would relocate them for me.  I was given to understand there would be no charge.

At the time I was chairman of the local Chapter of the American Institute of Wine and Food and was deeply concerned about the dwindling supply of bees, both locally and internationally.  Studies in 2009 and later seem to indicate there are a variety of causative factors, including a mite, chemicals (which is the focus of the Friends of the Earth), changes in beekeeping, a virus, and urbanization.  The condition has been termed Colony Collapse Disorder and progress to reverse the trend has not been promising.

The Queen
So, you can imagine my frustration when the pest control Bee Man came out, looked at my hive, told me the bees could not be relocated because local restrictions prohibited moving bees, and he would get rid of them for $175.  Eventually we agreed on $50 and in ten minutes he had swept all the bees in a plastic bag and gassed them with some aerosol poison.

Fast-forward to about 2 months ago, when my son, who lives across the street in an identical house, said he had bees swarming on his deck.  I asked if he wanted me to do something, but he said he would take care of it.  After several weeks, his ex-wife, concerned about the children, took it upon herself to find a solution.  She too, was hopeful the bees could be relocated but was unable to find anyone who would do that.

Wiser from my previous experience I contacted one of the managers of a local Farmers Market, which has among other things a stand for Noah’s Honey.  He put me in touch with a Bee Company called GuerillaBeekeepers, Ltd.  When I contacted Bill Walter, the owner he was very upfront about the process and the need to charge for his time.  When he arrived in his bee outfit I could readily see he was going to earn every bit of the $218 he had quoted.

My Bees
It took him more than an hour to harvest the bees from under the steps and put them in two large containers.  He was proud that he had captured the Queen (twice the size of the other bees), which would make relocation smooth and easy.

Off he went in his truck, with no head protection and at least half a dozen bees flying around his head, seemingly unconcerned, as he said they were remarkably calm about the change in location.  He did say that if you found yourself with a bee in your car, the best strategy is to roll down a window about two inches so the bee could escape.  Wide open and they can’t fly against the wind.

When asked about what is causing the decline in the bee population, he cited what I mentioned above, but added that locally the bees are overworked, being moved from one almond orchard to another. This was the only argument other than my SAG membership for unionizing, if a colony that has a Queen can unionize.

He texted me that the bees were almost immediately relocated at an apiary in Silverado and would soon be at work for local farmers.  He also sent me two pictures of my bees and an offer to speak, both at the elementary school where my son teaches and at the MOAA group where I am Program Chair.

If you have an inclination to plant a bee-friendly garden check out this site.

In my next Post I’ll share why I think of Franz Liszt when I hear Jelly Roll Morton. Go figure!

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