Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Natural history encounter #2

So here's the other thing I've been meaning to tell you about.

I was out working in the garden and had stopped to straighten my back and enjoy the view, when I noticed a strange, solid, football-sized shape in a chokecherry bush in our field. I had a hunch what it was, but I wanted to be sure . . . .
Yup, I thought so.

Here; let's get a little closer.

So, honeybees are awesome in so many ways. Without them we basically wouldn't have agriculture. Well, I guess if we wanted to limit our diets to lentils and wheat, but you like apples and nectarines and zucchini - stuff like that, right? Gotta have bees.

Honey's good, too.

So I called local bee keeper and all-around-great guy, Dave Sabold, and asked him what these bees would do if left alone. He said they'd either find a hollow tree to move into, or the walls of our house. Repeat: the walls of our house. I told him to come on over with a hive box and get them.
Dave's supplies - those are gloves.
By the time Dave arrived, Frank and I were already feeling kind of attached to the little buzzers, so we asked about leaving the bee hive (after they move into the box) on our property. I mean, we have apple trees and a garden and an enormous alfalfa field next door. Well, Dave explained that bears love nothing more than a bee hive - we knew that, right - and we'd have to put it inside a sturdy fence or on top of a flat roof. No flat roof here, and the only fence is my now-looking-very-small garden, so we decided to let Dave take them.

Dave is excited to get wild bees because they've survived the Methow winter without added food, so they should be more cold-hardy and resilient than imported bees. He would like to get a "Methow strain" going - pretty cool, huh?
Dave suiting up. Swarm in chokecherry bush. Hive box at his feet.
Dave pruned the branches around the swarm and removed the mass by hand.

Gently lowering the branch and bees onto the hive box.
The bees are now entering their new home.
Dave put a lid on the box and left them for a couple of days to make sure that the whole hive moved in. He came and carried them away at dusk when he knew they all would be tucked in to bed for the night.

The bees are now part of Dave and Marilyn's home honey and skin salve business, Gardner Gardens.


  1. Well written Laurelle! Come see your bees sometime - I have an extra bee suit for you to wear.

  2. Hi Laurelle, I love this photo story and the one you posted at the Methow Valley Beekeepers site. I used to be terrified of bees when I was a kid - something about the sound. But after many travels around the world where bees also abound and pollinate, I developed some tolerance for them. Knowing that "wild" bees have been on the decline, I now delight in having them around our yard, too. Somewhere there's some lavender honey! Thinking of you - and may you have a bountiful garden!