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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Arlee MT USA
    Posts
    548

    Default Hello from Montana and the bee fortress in progress.

    Hi everybody.

    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.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Greensboro, North Carolina
    Posts
    2,714

    Default Re: Hello from Montana and the bee fortress in progress.

    Welcome to the site!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Hermon, ME
    Posts
    7

    Default Re: Hello from Montana and the bee fortress in progress.

    Definitely sounds like you did some good research for a fortress to keep out those determined Montana bears.

    I hope you will be able to post some pics for everyone to see all your hard work.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Shoshone County, Idaho
    Posts
    567

    Default Re: Hello from Montana and the bee fortress in progress.

    Welcome to the Forum!
    Hugus Creek Honey Farm: St. Maries, ID / Lewiston, ID
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Robesonia, Pa., USofA
    Posts
    437

    Default Re: Hello from Montana and the bee fortress in progress.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aerindel View Post
    This time nothing is getting through.
    Amen!
    And btw, welcome to the Hive.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Verner, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    42

    Default Re: Hello from Montana and the bee fortress in progress.

    Welcome to this great community and pictures would be great to see

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Battle Ground , Washington, USA
    Posts
    746

    Default Re: Hello from Montana and the bee fortress in progress.

    Welcome to the site. Often around here, we use, plywood with nails in it. Can a bear claw past, chainlink fence ?
    I'm not tense, Just terribly, terribly alert!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Arlee MT USA
    Posts
    548

    Default Re: Hello from Montana and the bee fortress in progress.

    Bears can go through chain link if they have a little time. Heck, I had a dog that chewed her way through a chain link in about fifteen minutes and bears are probably ten times stronger at least.

    I've read about the plywood with nails idea but I also have several dogs and I don't want them getting hurt. I've also heard that smart beard can flip over the plywood and I've learned to never underestimate them. When I was a kid we had a bear tear the front door off the house, go inside and then tear the door off the refrigerator. I still have no idea how the bear got leverage on the house door without using a prybar.

    I'll post some pics as soon as its done. I've found that a bear can get through anything thats not thick welded steel if given enough time and leverage. During the summer I have bears trying to get into my garbage on an almost nightly basis and have gone through a wide variety of "bear p designs until just biting the bullet and going for all welded steel. In a single night I once had one tear through a wall of solid 2x8's to get to an empty garbage can. It didn't just pull the boards off either, I had them bolted down and the bear somehow broke the boards in the middle and levered them away.

    The idea behind the platform is that even if the bear figures out how to climb it and get past the barbed wire and spikes that it will be hanging onto the side of the structure and won't have the leverage to bring its strength to bear. The platform itself is anchored to a 3000lb concrete slab so they shouldn't be able to push it over.

    I know it sounds like over kill but seeing my nice orderly beehive torn open with all the bees getting rained on as they struggled to survive was just too heartbreaking to risk it happening again.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Alachua County, FL, USA
    Posts
    6,787

    Default Re: Hello from Montana and the bee fortress in progress.

    Welcome A! Don't let the bears win again, best wishes!
    americasbeekeeper.com
    beekeeper@americasbeekeeper.com

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Missoula, Montana
    Posts
    101

    Default Re: Hello from Montana and the bee fortress in progress.

    reading about your fortress and your dad's experience....have you thought about in investing in an electric fence? i keep reading about hindering stubborn bears and electricity seems to be the go to answer....i think you get into for under 150 bucks all said and done.

    hope you're doing well.

    rod

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Pickens County, South Carolina, US
    Posts
    823

    Default Re: Hello from Montana and the bee fortress in progress.

    Welcome to the site! I am building a "bear proof" fence too. I finished the post, cross members and wire braces this past weekend. Next weekend I will start stretching electric fence wire - 12.5 gauge with a high tension design. I will have a wire every 6" for a few, then 8", 10" 12" and 14". I am alternating pos/neg/pos/neg. I plan to bait it with bacon before the bees arrive in hopes of getting them to get popped in the mouth. We'll see. Bears never do what I expect.

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