Hello from Montana and the bee fortress in progress.
I'm re-starting beekeeping this year and found this place during my endless hours of reading everything bee related on the internet. (Not much else to do while waiting for bees to arrive.)
I have four packages due to arrive next month (the start of the first dandelion bloom around here) After reading the Bush bee's site I decided that this time around I am going foundationless with all medium boxes.
I guess the thing that defines me most as a potential beek is the twenty year old battle with the biggest obstacle to bee keeping in this part of Montana.....black bears.
When I was about three years old my family was living in Western Oregon and my dad managed to catch a swarm in a cardboard box. He didn't really know what to do with them but since he was a science teacher at the time he had some vague idea that it would be cool to have some bee's. He bought some second hand equipment and started up a hive.
This hive traveled with the family for the next eight years until eventually it ended up living on the roof of our house in montana. It did fine there for three or four years until one summer the local bears figured out how to climb the side of the house and get to the roof.
The first time it was knocked over there wasn't too much damage and the hive was set up again without much trouble. A few days later it got knocked over again and was again set up without too much fuss.
The third time happened the very next night. My dad went up to put it back together as usual and the bees went nuts. He was wearing only a veil and ended up getting stung over a hundred times. He managed to make it off the roof and onto the front porch before he lost consciousness. While my mother tried to drag him into the house and fight off the bees I tried to call 911....only to discover that where we lived 911 was a long distance number and I didn't know how to reach them at that age. (I think I was about 11)
We got my dad in the house where he came to a little bit and was able to moan "Kill the bee's.....Kill the bee's" My sister and I started attacking the bees that where covering him, I had a spoon and I think my little sister was using a TV remote. My mother got a hold of the nearest doctor and we eventually got my dad into the car and drove him to the doctors house were he got a shot of epi and revived.
The next day my dad called up a local bee keeper and told him that if he wanted a free hive he could come and get it.
Fast forward twenty years. After spending some time in Alaska I ended up moving back to my families ten acres in the hills of montana and building my own house, a straw bale and stucco three story round tower. (One of my other hobbies is medieval reenactment)
My interest in keeping my own bees came from brewing mead which naturally lead to an interest in large volumes of less expensive honey than Costco can provide.
I soon picked up some equipment and ordered a package through western bee (they are located only about sixty miles from where I live)
I remembered the event with the bears of course but this time I thought I was prepared. I already had an electric fence set up around my garden which I had been told was a fool proof defense against bears.
After much consternation I eventually got my bees and installed them and had a wonderful time watching them build up there hive all summer. These girls where so tame that I never used any protective clothing and never used smoke. I would often set up a chair right outside the entrance and just watch them for hours. Even though it was my first year I managed to harvest a large jar of honey and still leave them a deep filled to the brim with honey.
All seemed well as winter began to approach, until one raining night in early october when a bear came right through the electric fence and ripped open the hive. I found my bees huddling together under the remains of their hive like survivors of a ship wreck while rain poured down over the wreckage. I knew that they were doomed but I couldn't just let them freeze to death. I spent all day gathering them up and dumping them back into a new hive where I used rubber bands to salvage as much comb as I could. I pulled up all my fence posts and moved the hive and electric fence to a spot right outside my front door. They seemed to recover and I had a lot of active bees still in december but when I checked them in january I found all dead with half of there honey still intact.
Okay, I thought, I can either give up and let the bears win....or I can build an unbeatable bee fortress and try again.
So for the past couple weeks I have bee constructing a 10' high platform from concrete, railroad ties and 2x8s which when completed will feature a dry moat, steel spikes, concertina wire motion detectors, tripwires and electricity. I've spent as much time lately studying maximum security prisons and WW1 trench warfare as I have bee keeping.
This time nothing is getting through.