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Discussion Starter #1
Sorry for a longish post. And sorry I can't seem to get the photos to insert rightside up.

A bear got into one of my bee yards! Given the freshness of the bear poop left behind, it couldn't have been more than two days ago. It was a pretty extensive attack. I had only six hives there and the bear destroyed four of them. This is a new yard and these were new hives this spring. Being busy in a house remodeling project had kept me from putting more colonies in there.
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The electric fence was unbroken and still on. The bear just went through it. My local ag dept. contact had told me that bears in central california have been rushing electric fences to get through the wire. Maybe that happened here. But I think that in the last week it's been so hot and the location of the apiary got so dry, that there wasn't enough moisture to create a ground when the bear touched the wires.

I am adding a chicken wire area around the apiary this afternoon to create a solid fence-to-ground circuit for when my bear friend returns.

I guess it could have been worse.

I was able to reassemble two hives using frames that hadn't been completely destroyed or completely melted by the sun. In both cases there were large amounts of bees piled onto the equipment and hanging onto the jumble of frames. I shook the bees back into the boxes. I looked for queens but was not able to see any. I am hoping that the large number of bees piled up indicates that there was a queen and she's back in the box.

The bees are currently hanging onto to the outside of the hive, as in this photo:
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Is this behavior an indication the the presence or absence of the queen? Is it just major disruption and trauma? Or maybe other bees who were in the other two lost hives are looking for a place to live?

Questions about how to follow up on this.

1. Colonies and Queens: I'm hoping that the bees will find their way into the hove boxes overnight. However, if they are still outside tomorrow, is that a pretty good indicator that a queen is not present?

If upon further inspection I can't locate a queen, what's the best course of action at this point in the season: buy replacement, OR add a frame of eggs/larvae from another colony OR redistribute/shake these bees to other colonies. There is not comb with eggs or larvae present. I'm assuming the bear ate them, and that some of the way may have melted in the sun. So the bees are starting at ground zero.

There were a number of frames with honey, though, which are in the boxes. This seems to confirm that bears like the larvae.

2. Would it be better to give the bees fresh undrawn foundation in place of he somewhat damaged stuff they have now? I tried to put as much honey and pollen as possible back into the hives.

3. What to do with other frames and foundation: I have quite a few frames and foundation now coated in honey, dirt and dried grass ground into them, comb smashed and melted, and in an unusable state. What's best here? Put them out for other colonies in other yards to clean? Throw them away? Try to clean and salvage somehow?

4. Puddles of honey: there are puddles of honey in the dirt all over the apiary. Such a shame. Cover them? Leave them open?

Any other thoughts or advice much appreciated.
 

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That is a real bummer. I was hit by a bear this spring and this is what I can offer;
Reduce hive bodies and entrances
Clean up all dead bees, honey, frames etc. Do not store damaged frames anywhere near that apiary
If possible, electrify the new chicken wire fence and bait it with bacon wrapped in aluminum foil. It is legal in VT, not sure about your area. I would call the local game warden to find out what you can and can't do. Mine was helpful. I baited my fence after the attack and pretty sure she got a good jolt in the mouth and has not been back. This will prevent the bear from just rushing the fence. I baited mine every 5 feet or so.
Pour 5 gallons of water over all of your grounding rods. More rods are better.

As for the bees and queen. Give them time to recover. My hives survived, but were set back and one superceded the queen. They still aren't where they should be, but think they will be fine by winter.
Best of luck, J
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
J, thanks for your response. I put in the chicken wire yesterday and connected it to ground. I didn't have time to go to the store beforehand and didn't bait the fence; I will be checking in an hour or so whether there was another invasion last night. I probably have some more work to do, adding another ground rod, maybe a little more cleanup.

I think I'll give the bees a few days and then go looking for queens. While prevention is one issue, moving on is another. Given the late season, I don't know how well the bees will recover if there are queens; if not, I will need to come up with a plan.

There are sme things I just don't know: for example, even though I put the best of the frames back in the boxes some of them are still not in great shape with some comb, but some just mashed up wax and honey. Are they better off with clean foundation? Ort a combination? I figure I'm at least giving them the raw materials to rebuild but maybe they need good foundation to do so. I really don't know how the bees handle this. Though I guess I will learn a lot watching this process.

UPDATE: Checked the bee yard and no additional visit last night. Don't know if it was the improved fencing or the bear just didn;t return, but I'm relieved in any case.
 
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