May. 9th, 2009

An ex-bear

May. 9th, 2009 01:29 am
helen99: Cat, Red Eyes (Cat with Red Eyes)
Being greeted by three beehives scattered all over the meadow by a bear when I came home tonight did not make me happy. There were frames everywhere, brood had been eaten (that's how we knew it wasn't vandals) and one of the supers had been dragged to the driveway. All the comb in the top bar had been dislodged.

1. Get e-fence for bee yard (baited for ample nose and mouth zapping), RV battery to power it, and solar recharger. Should have done that weeks ago.

2. Repair hunting rifle, get heavy duty ear protection, and do target practice.

This will be an ex-bear.

Bee update

May. 9th, 2009 11:03 am
helen99: babbage+lovelace (babbage+lovelace)
Rialian called animal control this morning, who have started the chain of communication to field staff who will be calling back today. Rialian's dad called a guy from Department of Natural Resources who places barrel traps for bears and transports them to less populated areas. Two of the hives swarmed, which is actually a good thing - this caused them to regroup around the queen rather than any particular hive. The bad news was, Rialian had to catch the swarms, which he did, and put them back into hives (not necessarily the same hive they were in before, so they'd be able to identify with new surroundings and start over. From scratch. Two weeks worth of brood wiped out... At least two of the queens are there - if she wasn't, they wouldn't have swarmed. We think the third one is there too, since the hive seems vigorous, but the third one didn't attempt to swarm.


May. 9th, 2009 05:13 pm
helen99: Honeybee (Honeybee)
During our search for electrical fencing equipment, we drove approximately 70 miles and went to four hardware stores (Hunter's, Dawson's, Lowe's, and Tractor Supply). Hunters and Dawson's had a limited selection of e-fence related items, but not what we were looking for. Lowe's didn't carry any e-fence related items and most of the staff didn't even know what we were talking about. [personal profile] rialian found a knowledgeable woman who directed us to Tractor Supply (where she does all her hardware shopping, heh). At Tractor Supply, we finally found all the equipment we were looking for to construct the e-fence for the bee yard - so we made our purchases and returned home.

While we were out, the bees that we had placed in the top bar hive swarmed away again. This was one of the hives that had swarmed after the bear attack and [personal profile] rialian had caught it and returned it to the top bar. Apparently it was determined to find a new location (smart bees - I wouldn't stay after a bear attacked me either). We couldn't find them anywhere. These were the same bees that had chased us when we first got them. I suspect they were a feral swarm that the beekeeper had captured. They acted far more territorial than most hive-bred bees I've encountered. I'm sorry to see them go, but I have a feeling they're the best hive to have gone wild in the area - they seemed to be survivors and will do well with repopulating the area with bees.

Anyway, as I said before, we bought e-fence equipment to enclose the two remaining hives. However, there was a small problem. We remembered that moving beehives more than about 5 feet at a time is a bad idea. The bees will become disoriented and won't be able to find their way home with respect to the sun. Oddly, you can move them long distances, but not 20 feet within the same yard.

The two remaining hives are not currently situated together. When [personal profile] rialian recaptured the swarms, he was understandably much more concerned with actually catching the bees without being stung to bits, than he was with precise hive placement. Thus, one hive is on the septic field, and the other is closer to the house. There is a good chance that there are pipes under each of them.

This is a problem, because an e-fence must be grounded by attaching it to one or more six-foot grounding rods, which are driven into the ground with a post hole digger. Driving stakes into ground where there might be pipes is not a recommended activity. So... we will have to move both hives to install the fence around them.

But wait, there's more.

The battery we bought for the e-fence is a solar powered battery. It's very strong, delivers a good zap, and recharges itself. What's not to like? Well, the part we didn't think through is, this particular battery needs to be charged for three days in the sun prior to use. So even if we installed the fence around both beehives now, we couldn't electrify the fence until Tuesday. If we put up the fence now and the bear attacks the hives and doesn't get shocked, he will learn that the fence is harmless, and will test it every time from then on. To be the most effective, the fence should deliver the shock on the first try.

[personal profile] rialian's dad is of the opinion that we should go ahead and put the e-fence where we want the bee yard to be, electrify it with a battery that he just happens to have in his useful-object-spawning basement, and move the hives into it after it's electrified. He said that the bees have already swarmed and are already upset, and it wouldn't do any more harm to move them. I'm not so sure about that, but I'd much rather do as he says than leave the bees to be torn apart by bears.

What we've done so far is to put up the fence posts where the e-fence will be situated -- outside of the garden area. We have not yet put the wires up or driven the grounding rods into the ground. We'll do that tomorrow with the help of [personal profile] rialian's dad when he brings the battery. Once the e-fence is activated, we will put the two remaining hives inside the protective fence. If it's successful and there are no more attacks, we will put some new hives inside the bee yard e-fence.

Meanwhile, animal control just called back. They said they'd be here tomorrow around noon and bring us some paperwork to fill out so we can get reimbursement for the attack. While I appreciate reimbursement (this stuff isn't cheap), I also want them to catch and deport the bear, which didn't seem to be part of their plan. The guy from natural resources who supposedly had barrel traps never called back at all.

This is turning out to be way more educational than anyone would have guessed. Who would have thought that we would learn how to catch bee swarms and set up an e-fence all in one weekend.

April 2010


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