My husband and I recently had the experience of trying to save some wild honey bees. I say wild honey bees because they didn’t come from a beekeeper or a regular beehive. They were in a gas tank.
What do you do when your buddy from over in the next county calls and says he has some wild honey bees in a strange location and can you help him? If you are like me, you agree to help and only later consider the consequences.
Over the weekend a fellow showed up on our doorstep and said, ”This guy gave me a gas tank with some honey bees in it. We tried getting rid of the bees so we could get the honey but they tore me up! Think you can help?”
After a brief discussion it was agreed we would try to help him out. I figured this was a great opportunity to start a top bar hive. Besides, if we didn’t take the bees those boys were going to end up killing them somehow or other. They were clueless as to what they were doing. (I eventually decided we were clueless too.)
They brought an old vehicle gas tank to the house. It was rusted in a couple of areas and the bees were right there at the entrances. We looked it over and decided try to capture the bees.
We used metal cutters to cut open the gas tank. The inside had about two inches of grunge and rust which had been knocked loose in the loading and transporting of the “hive”. The tank was in three compartments. The first compartment had very old comb, hive beetles and ants. The second compartment had dark comb with dark honey in it. The third compartment was where the brood comb was and most of the bee activity. A good bit of the brood comb had gotten mashed. There were also a LOT of hive beetles. There wasn’t any honey.
We cut out some of the good brood comb and tied it to some of the top bars. We were operating on the premise that if we found the queen, she and her girls would settle into the new home easier with some of their brood in there.
We found the queen and she was in a tizzy. She was on a piece of comb so I put it and her over in the hive. She wouldn’t stay. She kept trying to escape. I put her back in the bottom at least five times. We finally put the top on and tried smoking the bees up into the hive. We finally propped the gas tank up at the entrance and gave the bees a couple of bars to walk up into the hive. We figured since the queen was in there they would go to her and stay. Wrong!
The next morning, in the dark, I went to check the hive and tank. The hive was empty. They had went back to the tank. We put them all back in the hive and moved it to a different part of the property. We moved the tank in the other direction in order to avoid starting any robbing situations during the day. (HA! The joke was on us!)
That evening when I got home from work, hubby says,”You are going to be disappointed!” The bees had went back to the tank. The tank was involved in a full scale robbery and we ended up loosing the colony.
Now some thoughts on the situation.
- REVIEW WHAT YOU THINK YOU KNOW BEFORE YOU GET STARTED! We did not think the situation all the way through before accepting the tank.
- We did not consider the possibility of introducing disease from wild honey bees into our apiary.
- We introduced more hive beetles into the apiary.
- We failed to remove all trace of comb from the tank and I believe this caused them to go back I believe this ultimately caused the robbing and death of this colony.
- As late as it is in the season, I doubt this colony would have been built up strong enough for the winter which would have meant we would have had to feed them all winter.
- The guy wanted the honey from this tank. IS HE CRAZY?? There was no way I would have let him have any honey from a rusted old gas tank!
I know I made more mistakes than this. What are your thoughts or experiences?