So, back on April 26th, I installed a package of bees at 9400 feet near Hartsel, Colorado in my brand new top bar hive, as well as a package in Aurora, CO. Along came a cold front that lasted for a week, and the Hartsel girls didn't make it. I brought the hive back down the hill to Denver, and bought a swarm from a guy who captured his own early swarm from last year's hive.
From the very beginning, the swarm hive was super strong compared to the package bees, and I will always opt for a swarm in the future if I need more bees. They immediately ran out and gathered pollen and built 8 full bars of comb and began hatching brood last week. The cool part of this story is that now the weather is quite nice up in the hills, so I decided to move this hive back up to it's intended placement. This is the adventurous tale of that move complete with lessons you can learn vicariously through me.
I waited until early morning and placed a scrap piece of wood across the 3 entrance holes. Turns out bees are strong, and they pushed the wood away from the entrance when they woke up! A few foragers got out and went about their business by the time I discovered this, so I sat there for about an hour with smoke and a spray bottle and herded them in as they arrived home with full pollen pouches. A cold adult beverage kept me and the bees company. Eventually, the bees thinned out, or I ran out of beer, I don't recall the exact order, as I had been up all night working. I grew weary of this circus and screwed the wood across the entrance and with the aid of my daughter moved the hive to the garage to keep it out of the sun and cool until the afternoon transport.
After working all night, I decided I should take a nap until my wife's return and our departure. When I awoke, I went to the garage to check on the bees, and boy were they pissed! It turns out they need air to stay cool, and I had no ventilation arranged for them with the bottom cover on and the top closed. Oops! Most of the bees were up against the glass when I looked in, and the glass was probably over 90 degrees to the touch. Now in full on problem-resolution mode, I grabbed the drill and unscrewed the bottom board to reveal the hardware cloth vent. The heat was radiating downward and out, but to speed things up I went and grabbed this:
I laid the fan below the hive blowing directly up into the combs, and it actually cooled and calmed them down within 15 minutes or so. Crisis averted, for now.
Soon, it was time to remove the legs from the hive and load the bees into the suburban for transport. This ought to be fun, right? I left the bottom cover off the hive, and propped the ends up on 2 scrap boards to provide some ventilation from the bottom. I dutifully latched the lid, loaded the grand kids, daughter, and the wifey and off we went with me watching for bumps and driving as smoothly as possible. Of course, I was very worried about the comb detaching and making a complete mess, as well as killing the queen and brood, and on and on. On Youtube I once saw a top bar hive moved by OutOfABlueSky, and what a mess he had to repair!
We made it as far as the other side of Denver when we had to stop for some beer for the weekend. It was raining, so I decided to drive through the covered drop off driveway thingy so the wifey could run in and grab the brew. That went fine, but when she came back out I popped the curb while turning back into the driveway area! With a grimace, I watched the back window and waited for bees to swarm me like in the movies. Nothing happened at first. She jumped in, and off we went to get on the freeway. About this time, my daughter Courtney says "Um dad, there are a lot of bees back here..."
Sure enough, there were a few dozen working their way up the back window of the Suburban. I quickly pulled over on the freeway entrance ramp and ran to the back of the vehicle and opened the hatch to inspect the damage. You should have seen the poor bees flying around the back of the vehicle trying to find their way back home! Opening the lid and expecting the worst, and saw that I had forgotten to shim the extra space closed at the end of the top bars in order to hold them all tight together, and some bees had escaped through the resulting space between the bars as they shifted after the curb incident. I pushed the bars together and promptly found a piece of wood just the right size to hold the bars in place. Oh yeah, this is the wood that I was SUPPOSED to put in at home, but forgot after the overheating fiasco! Above the bars was still quite full of bees, so I closed the lid and hoped they would stay in there trying to get back to their queen. The closest thing to a tarp I had handy was a backpacker's poncho, which I ceremoniously draped over the hive and tucked the edges in.
This worked well, and off we went up the road. We had no further drama, other than the occasional grand kid yelling "HUNNEEBEEE!" and constantly rolling down the windows to "set them free" along the way. Oh, and I think the dog ate a few bees too. :no:
No one got stung but me, which was an excellent outcome considering my comedy of errors. This happened when a bee got caught between my collar and my neck when I was fixing the bars way back on the freeway entrance ramp.
We have 7 miles of dirt roads on the way to our place, and I think I stayed under 10 mph that entire way, with washboard spots at about 2 mph. Once we got there, we bolted on the legs and set the hive in it's approximate location. The entrance block was removed, but it was so late in the day only a few bees came out to look around before dark. I looked in the observation window, and amazingly all of the combs were intact! A full inspection the next day revealed a happy queen, a happy hive, and lots of hatching brood.
Morals of the story: Make sure to secure your top bars, bring a tarp, provide proper ventilation, and buy your beer BEFORE you load the bees! Oh, and watch out for curbs