Operation Bee Rescue — Phase II

This is a continuation of the bee rescue adventure.

Phase I ended with  wild comb leaned semi-upright in three layers of boxes, with frames interspersed to help keep them semi-vertical (although not oriented correctly). This arrangement allowed us to close up the hive, but was not a good long-term configuration.

The box had all sorts of awkward airspace, and there was no way of removing the upper boxes without wreaking havoc. The whole point of a normal modern beehive configuration is that  all of the frames are hanging, so you can freely pull the upper boxes to reach the lower boxes.

One thing I couldn’t find any good information on was whether honeycomb orientation was critical for brood. Normally honeycomb has a slight downward slant (which makes sense for curing honey). I could imagine it being important for eggs and larva to stay put.

Crazy comb and problematic hive management aside, it seemed very risky to go into winter with comb leaned sideways and upside-down.

The only way to fix the situation was to take the wild/natural comb and insert it into frames. This would allow it to hang in the box with good comb spacing, permitting free bee movement and rendering the hive manageable.

The catch is that frames aren’t really designed to have comb inserted. For it to work, you basically need to cage the comb into the frames. Somehow.

My first “insert comb in frames” attempt used thread.

I was able to extract the honey chunks from three combs and insert them. I was working on this Sunday morning, so the bees had mostly clumped up in one corner, giving me easy access to the last three combs (the biggest combs in the colony, which turned out to just have honey… mostly uncapped).

It was a good start, but the remaining chunks are thick with bees (I’m sure they are surrounding the brood comb and — hopefully — the queen), and I need something a bit stouter and easier for the bees to escape.

I set up a framework using BBQ skewers, and I think it has a good chance at working…

But by the time I finished, the bees had gotten pretty frisky. It’s partly that it had warmed up, partly that I had been manipulating them, and partly that the yellow jackets had been mooching around the edges.

I’ll try the final critical comb mounting tomorrow morning, when everyone is chilly/slow. It’s a calculated risk, because they will also be all clustered together, but it’s pretty distracting getting dive-bombed — even in a bee suit! That’s how you know I’m not a pro!

I’m very much hoping that when I do the mounting of the brood section, I will see the queen. At this point her status is unknown. Although the bee casualties have been fairly minimal, it is always possible that she got squashed when one of the combs fell. Fingers crossed!

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