I asked off work for Friday afternoon to take care of the first of four hive removal projects. The place is just lovely – a two-story antebellum home that overlooks the old path that the Mississippi River took in front of Vicksburg. The bees had occupied the second-floor balcony and were making a nuisance of themselves.
I checked it out, and decided that the best way to do it was by ladder.
As soon as I got done with my morning conference call (about a disposition study of a lock and dam in our St Paul District) , I loaded up the truck with shovels and rakes and implements of destruction, and headed off to remove some bees.
I got there, and leaned the ladder up against the house.
Apparently, I had been a little off in my estimation of how high that second story was. The ladder reached, but only just barely. Combined with a little bit of uneven (and slightly soft) ground, and the whole operation was perilous in the extreme.
Almost as if to prove the point, when I put my foot on the bottom rung to start to climb, the ladder slipped off the second story, crashing down onto the lower balcony.
After explaining to the homeowner that I was not going to be able to finish the job without a hydraulic lift, I did climb up to take a look. I removed a single piece of molding to help get a better view. Can’t… quite…reach….
And I was terrified the whole time.
I’m coming back with the hydraulic lift. Later.
Suddenly, I have a free afternoon that I had not counted on. I texted another client, one who had to raise money for the charity she runs in order to pay me – even at my discounted rate. “I had a job get delayed for a few days and I had already taken off from work today. I can go ahead and do the removal, and you can cover the fees once everything is up and running again. Just let me know.
The job promised to be a simple one. Bees were running under some siding, and all it was going to take was a quick removal of some old shiplap siding, a quick harvest of bees, and head back to the barn.
The only thing that really concerned me at all was that when I had gone there a month ago, it was cool, and even so, the infrared camera did not pick up any heat signature at all behind the wall. This was particularly interesting because in the same week, I had gotten a solid heat signature behind a brick wall. Something else was clearly going on….
I arrived on the scene, parked my truck right next to the wall, and started removal of the siding.
The removal of two levels of siding revealed a layer of black fiberboard insulation. Removal of that revealed a 2×12 joist, capped with a layer of underlayment. No access at all.
Next I went inside the utility room, and started looking for access there. I pulled out the infrared camera, and compared the pictures with and without the infrared imagery. Clear as a bell, I was able to see a hot spot.
My first probe went into the wall, where I found nothing but insulation. But in the ceiling, there was a small opening to the hive, and suddenly the bees came into the room, anxious to introduce themselves to the person who had ripped out the floor of their space.
The opening I ultimately cut was really small – the entry was bounded on two sides by wall, and the other two by joists. The entire opening was about one foot on a side (Can’t……quite…reach…). At that point, I knew I was not going to be able to re-home these bees. There was simply not enough space available to remove the comb intact to give them the resources that they needed to survive.
Eventually I removed all the comb, setting aside the nectar-bearing comb and the brood comb in separate buckets. Then with some permethrin and some Honey-B-Gone, and later, a little ammonia, drove the remaining bees out of their space. Sealed up the exterior entryway, and left.
And in typical Crorey fashion, before I left, I gave the couple in the house my 7-year-old-telling-everyone-every-known-dinosaur-fact honeybee lecture, and have a couple of converts. They are ready to start keeping bees…. as soon as they are NOT in the house.
Since then, I have reduced the wax into sheets, giving the residue slumgum to a neighbor for his chickens, and I crushed just less than two quarts of honey to give to the clients.
Two more removal jobs set up for Monday – both involving a hydraulic lift. And in the meantime, I am working on a plumbing job (still….can’t…reach…), so Memorial Day weekend will be memorable for the relaxing unofficial start to summer in 2020.
Happy Memorial Day to you all. And may everything you want be within your reach.