Last year we purchased a nuc beehive, that is a five-frame mini hive of bees. We purchased it a little late…the first week of June, but then the stress of getting established that a new hive goes through was further complicated by the most severe drought Oklahoma has experienced in my lifetime. Long story short, the bees didn’t get well-prepared for winter, despite our feeding, and didn’t survive the winter.
I told Robert I wouldn’t be able to come clean out the hives and move them back into the shed until I turned the book in and got all caught up on that stuff. So yesterday we went to the ranch and I mentioned that Sidney and I were going to clean out the hive soon and pack them in….we would wait until the following early spring to start a new hive to give them the most time possible to get established before winter.
Then Gloria said something surprising. “You have bees in there!”
“We do? Unbelievable!” Sidney had checked…the bees were clearly dead a couple months ago. Perhaps a wild swarm had moved in and all we would need to do is requeen them! We decided to head out there and check the situation out. Off we go and the three oldest kids tag along. Though the jungle of death, over the froggy-hoppy creek, and partway across the second pasture.
There are the two hives, one knocked partially askew where a horse or cow had bumped into it. (Robert took our panel fence down when the hives died because he could use them elsewhere.) I start taking apart the one, checking frames and finding everything empty. The second hive that was tilted over, Sidney placed the top on the ground and looked at the second layer. Nothing there but a big wolf spider hiding from the sun. So he set the top square onto the bottom, setting the corners back in the braces, and removed the brick off the lid.
See that white screen in the picture? That’s called a queen excluder and it keeps the queen in the bottom two boxes where she lays brood down there. Only the worker bees can fit through the screen and get into any boxes higher up….that way you can harvest the entire box for honey and don’t have to worry about the queen laying eggs on the same frame where honey will be.
Sidney lifted the lid off the second hive, leaving the queen excluder in place. “Oh look! There are bees in th-
Not bees that had moved into the hive.
A swarm of yellow jackets was hitting that queen excluder….antennas and faces poking through.
I didn’t stick around to see the rest but hollered at the kids, “Run to the creek!” and we all took off running. Boy did those kids move fast!
Sidney, the fastest of any of us ran the slowest staying just behind Micah. The things men do for their families. If anyone was going to get stung he made sure he was the nearest moving target. What a man!
Turns out that a honeybee queen excluder will keep yellow jackets contained too. Just in case you were wondering.
Also, the threat of emanate swarming by a yellow jacket hive is excellent motivation for taking up running. In case you needed some literal do-or-die accountability.
I teased my mother-in-law of purposefully setting us up and she just laughed….hmmmm….I’m not quite sure how to take that.