Saturday, March 21, 2020

Moving Honeybees on the move!

My son and I were walking in a California city recently to get some exercise while social distancing, only to have a very helpful security guard intercept us to tell us not to use this sidewalk - a hive of bees had fallen out of a tree onto the sidewalk and the path was not safe.

It is the start of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, so the warming weather is motivating overwintering hives to split, with part of the hive going off to find a new home.

As part of that process, a hive on the move may need to make several overnight clusters while looking for a new home. At night the bees cluster together for warmth and safety. They surround and protect the queen, and hold onto each other tightly to make the mass of bees difficult to dislodge.

These fell in the late afternoon on a cold day (around 50 degrees Fahrenheit). The bees are trying to pile over the queen and form a protective ball. Unfortunately, they are on a hard, cold, flat surface where people walk.

So we moved them.

The security guard was something between horrified and amused when we walked up to the cluster of bees and began moving them out of the walkway.

If you are allergic to bee stings, don't do this without a bee suit! Otherwise, the rules are pretty simple: move slowly and handle the bees gently. Do not swat anything - even if they land on you, you are unlikely to be stung (not a guarantee, gently brush any bees off if they land where you don't want them). The key is to locate the queen bee. In the picture below, she is the one with a different color right in the middle of the picture.

Carefully, moving slowly and being careful to not crush any bees, move the queen with as many other bees as easily possible with the first scoop. Find a protected place to put the hive, and gently set down the scoop. The bees will likely remain on the scoop - stiff leaves, lightweight trash, and paper can all be used.

Reassemble the hive. Try to leave as few bees as possible on the ground where the hive was found - they may be confused or too cold to fly. Some will be flying around the whole time - move slowly and do not swat them! When we were done, the hive was not a thing of beauty, but the bees had a solid chance of surviving the night.

"There's the bees," says my son. "The bees gave me high-fives. They just put their heads up and flew into my hand as a high-five, so I did more high-fives with them."

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