8.19.2011

Pocketful of Bees

What is good for bees is good for everything else. Once we put the bees out in my mom's back yard, it seemed as if everything that could hop, crawl or fly over, did exactly that and moved in.

Along the ground, armies of yellow jackets hover even though there are thirteen traps hung along the nearby trees, and those are filled within days. Sometimes they're filled within hours if the traps happen to be particularly situated or if they smell like really good, dead things.

But the worst problem are the ants. We've had some success with painting Tanglefoot around the legs of the hive stand. Ants are smart, though. They'll stack up leaves and debris over the sticky Tanglefoot to crawl over it. They'll even crawl up over their stuck, dead relatives to get to the honey.

And they do. Get to the honey, that is. Beekeepers say, "You'll only have ant problems with a weak hive." They haven't been to my mom's. It's like the Amazon: there's so much life that it's impossible to clear out an ant-free zone. They could take down coyotes.

Charlie bought another bottle of Tanglefoot and reapplied our sticky defense. We knew that wasn't the end of the story.

He needed to move the lower hives. He made a new hive stand, a taller one this time, and placed it back further into the hill. This way the yellow jackets would have to fly out of their comfort zone and, more importantly, the ants would have to traverse over a retaining wall and up the legs of a taller stand. There'd have to be a lot more dead bodies to climb over if they were going to get into these hives.

Once he built the stand, he moved the hives. This created a problem for the bees. They'd been out foraging and when they came home, home was not there anymore.

Instead, they found Charlie's hive toolbelt. In the pocket was his hive tool, which he'd just used to open their hives for the move. Smelling the smells of home, that was good enough for these tired bees. The rest of their sisters flew around in the general area, as if they were circling the block, thinking, "This has to be the right place."

After emptying his belt pocket a few times, the bees got the idea and fanned their wings to let their sisters know where to go. If all goes well, the ants won't catch on.