An unpleasant evening

I have written before about beekeeping. As a hobby it brings me much joy (and honey!).

I went into last winter with 7 hives. I tried a different mite treatment regimen before the real winter arrived. I normally expect to lose about 30% of my hives over the winter. Came out with 6 hives, a 15% loss. I’ll buy that for a dollar!

This time of year it is a lot of work. The bees are undergoing the spring population explosion. If one does not really pay attention, the bees will swarm, meaning half of the bees leave to find a new home because the population outgrew the old homestead.

The 6 hives had turned into 11. I made a “split”, making 12 hives. One of the hives was a little aggressive last fall. I wrote it off as old worker bees dying off and generally were unhappy with that whole deal. I took the “daughter” of this hive to a nearby farm, by request of the owners. This hive had a population explosion and had her own “daughter”

This makes 3 hives from last fall’s aggressive colony. One is as docile as could be. The other two somehow inherited the bad attitude. Bad enough that simply mowing 20 feet away from the apiary here was rewarded with 2 stings. The apiary at the farm followed me 1/4 mile down the road before the last guard bee gave up the chase. I had inspected the hives there which makes bees “testy”.

Yesterday morning I sat on the porch and watch several people cross the street as they walked past. One young lady definitely had a close encounter of the bee kind. That just won’t do. In town beekeeping is tolerated as long as the ladies do not cause trouble.

The farm is a gathering place and sometimes campground so there are generally lots of people working and playing there. Many stings would definitely be a bad thing for the farm.

None of the typical external reasons a colony will get mean were present. The only “internal”reason I can think of is genetics. Re-queening will sometimes work, but results will not happen until almost a month passes. That leaves the only option euthanasia. I do not want people to get stung, and I definitely do not want this aggressive gene spreading into the wild.

So tonight I had the most unpleasant task of killing 2 colonies. Somewhere over 160,000 bees. Rubbing alcohol and dry ice. The rubbing alcohol kills most of the bees, and carbon dioxide sublimating from the dry ice will asphyxiate any survivors of the alcohol. As the dry ice evaporates away it carries cold down through the hive, chilling the brood in the pupal, larval, and egg stages. The brood need to stay about 90 degrees to survive.

The magnitude of what I have done does not escape me. All those bees had every right to exist. But the little old ladies shouldn’t have to cross the street as they pass on their morning walk. Of course, the visitors are assumed to not have doing anything “unwise” around the hives. The visitors at the farm should leave with good memories of the farm, which even had BEEHIVES!

Thank you for reading this. I feel a bit better having gotten this off my fingertips.

Oh yeah the little old ladies are going to be surprised with a jar of honey 😉

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