Just two days ago I was marveling at the bees continuing to bring in pollen so late into November:
It’s been fairly warm the past few weeks so the bees have been out and about, gathering the end of the season’s pollen.
I suppose it’s also been warm enough for the local black bear population to continue storing up their reserves for the winter too. I went downstairs to get some firewood this morning and saw this:
I’m still shocked. That’s a very heavy stand made out of cedar lumber, and the hive boxes were strapped down to it with heavy-duty webbing. Obviously it did nothing to stop the bear – or bears – last night from pushing it over and eating all the honey and brood from two of the boxes. (I don’t know why the bear left that last box intact. My brother thinks it just got too full.)
The bear chose a bad night to feast — not for the bear, but for the bees. It was pouring rain and 45 degrees overnight, so they had no shelter and I found hundreds of dead, wet bees all over the ground near the hive.
There were a few signs of life, though. I saw a few small clusters of bees trying to keep warm. I also got stung on my back where my bee suit gaps between the top and pants. They were definitely in protection mode and were agitated when I was trying to piece the remaining box and racks together that remained. They are weak and slow from the cold and it made me sad to see them so disoriented and strewn everywhere.
I’m doubtful the queen survived. I started to look for her but figured it would be best to leave them alone and get them set back up as soon as possible because it was cold. If she’s gone, along with the thousands of other bees that didn’t make it, plus most of the brood and honey, I’m thinking there’s no way the remaining bees will make it through the winter.
But I went ahead and set the base back up, put the intact box on top of that, and salvaged what racks I could that the bear didn’t totally finish off. I was able to put those racks into another box along with random pieces of comb that were strewn across the backyard. I scooped up a few handfuls of bees sheltered under some leaves and shook them off into the top box.
It amazes me that we live a mile from downtown and have black bears roaming through our backyards. I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised, though. Their habitat is dwindling as developments have spread out and up the mountains. And of course, bears do love honey, so an urban hive is fair game to a wandering, hungry bear.
A six-foot fence and heavy-duty tie-downs are no match for a bear. I think it’s time for electric fence around it.
November 23, 2011 at 11:49 pm
I am very sad to hear about your bees and the bee hive destruction. I hope the queen survived and the bees will recover.