PHOTO: Bee rescue / Cut-out from a storage box @ Ocean View Farms
Cat House Cut-Out
I responded to a call on the Backwards Beekeepers rescue hotline last week when a guy got back from an extended trip to Mexico to find that bees had taken up residence in his cat’s house on the balcony of his Marina del Rey apartment. He returned home to find his balcony covered in dead bees and peeled back a rolled up carpet to find the hive bulging out of the fabric cat house. Penniless from his vacation, he plied my conservation guilt to take the bees off his hands gratis. In cases where I don’t have to drive very far, I often find myself making this bargain, though as my beekeeping expenses add up, I find myself a little resentful of the exterminators making hundreds to kill or remove the “pests.” At any rate, I digress.
The morning after picking up the bees from the balcony, I brought them to a couple’s house I had met on a previous rescue. As vegans, they have no interest in the honey, but they know that the urban environment is the future for the honeybee and were only happy to make their beautifully landscaped backyard available to my cat house bees.
This was my first cut-out, and like all firsts, I made a few mistakes. The first mistake was that I did it by myself. Probably could have used someone with some experience in my ear, but I figured I had read enough and watched enough videos…not so much. The second mistake was that on my first cut-out, I elected to move the bees into a top-bar hive I had just built. The hive in itself wasn’t the problem – it was built to spec with wood molding for comb guides. The problem was tying in the salvaged comb. It did not want to cooperate at all. In the end, completely covered in honey, pollen and all things sticky, I was able to make it work but it wasn’t without tremendous effort. The final mistake I made was briefly unzipping my veil just a fraction of an inch. It was just enough time for a bee to shoot the gap and sting me between the eyes. It actually didn’t hurt all that bad, but later that night my face had swelled up pretty good. I woke up the next morning looking like a Navi from Avatar.
The best part of the entire experience came when I found the queen in a pile of bees on the ground. I held out my finger for her and she walked right on. I then held my finger just inside the top bars and she instantly rejoined her compadres.
I was also able to harvest a Mason jar full of fresh, raw honey. Nothing has ever tasted quite so sweet. This was easily one of the best, most educational experiences of my life. Can’t wait for the next cut-out, though no matter how itchy my nose gets, I’m staying zipped up
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