Farm Industry News Blog

An unconventional Honey-Do list

This year we found a new place to put our new crop of honeybees. The honeybees were fine with the location. Apparently, one tree in the area did not approve.

A place for all of your stuff. That's what the world is after, according to George Carlin. We spend a lot of our time looking for and accumulating stuff. Then we need a place to put it.  



This year we needed a place to put a new crop of honeybees. It's normally mid-April when we go to pick up packages of new bees and then install them in the hives. But because of this year’s early spring weather, the bees from last season were already active and collecting pollen in early March, even though we didn’t see anything blooming for plants and trees. 

 Of course, you can offer advice to the bees, but they won’t necessarily take it. They’re a bit roguish in that fashion. They will fly when they want to fly and about all you can do is step out of their way or be prepared for some hurt if you don’t. 

 You can put beehives almost anywhere. We’ve had some in the woods. We’ve had some next to our garden. We’ve had some near a windbreak at the other building site. The ideal spot is a place where the bees can get some sunlight without getting too much and be somewhat near a source for pollen. The bees will fly a couple miles to collect it, so you don’t really need to put the hives right in the center of a field. This place also should be easy to get to for checking on them and collecting honey later on. No one wants to haul frames and equipment up and down hills through the woods even though the location may be beyond picturesque. I say that as the guy who’d have to do the hauling. 

One of my uncles had a great location for us to put some hives. He has a farm that’s in the Conservation Reserve Program and is seeded down to grasses and flowers to prevent soil erosion. All the plants and flowers would make for great bee habitat, and the location wasn’t too bad for access. 

We got some hives and equipment and chose a location at the CRP farm to put them. There is a windbreak around the place that provides just the right mix of shelter and sunlight for the hives while still allowing excellent access to a multitude of plants and trees for pollen collection. 

 If there’s one thing we have not been short on in the weather department this year, it would be wind. There have been multiple days with high wind warnings for this part of paradise. Now take that high wind and try to install bees in the middle of it. You can watch a video of some work we did last year. Having a calm day is a big plus. Adding in some serious bluster tends to complicate things. 

But it occurred to me, why not park the trailer in such a fashion as to create a temporary windbreak for bee installation? We were putting the bees on the north side of the existing windbreak. That particular day’s gale force was coming from the northwest at around 25 to 35 miles per hour. If I parked the trailer at the proper angle, we’d be able to get at the hives in reasonably good conditions without being blown away. 

It turned out to work fairly well. The bees were installed without much incident. Nothing blew away that wasn’t supposed to.

Then came the follow-up visits a couple of days later. Sherill stopped over on Sunday to see how things were going. Trends being what they are, we had yet another high wind day. This time, it was from the south at around 30 to 40 mph. 

Sherill got her bee suit on and began her observations of the bees. I’ll fast-forward to a few minutes later when she called me. 

“Well, first of all, I’m all right,” she said in a rather unstable tone. 

That’s never a good way to start a conversation. Ever. Because I know the good points have now been covered and it’s all downhill from there.    

“But the truck isn’t. A tree fell on it,” Sherill said. 

My hunch was correct. The “I’m all right” part was the pro portion. From that point forward it would be all cons.   

Turns out that one of the trees in the windbreak was a bit aged and not exactly a stout oak. It was more like a dead elm from the 1960s. The wind was blowing at just enough miles per hour to separate some wood fibers from one another and dislodge the upper part of the tree from its unstable base. Geography being what it is, the path of its demise led directly to the cab of the Ford Ranger Sherill had just hopped out of seconds before. You can see from the attached photo that there may as well have been a bull’s-eye on the cab roof. Had the dislodge-a-tation happened a few seconds earlier, the bull’s-eye would have been pretty much right on top of Sherill’s bee bonnet as she got her stuff out of the backseat! 

The injured vehicle was still drivable, so Sherill brought it back home for me to inspect. She did have the foresight to take a few pictures at the scene of the crime before she left, though. The offending tree was just wimpy enough for her to be able to lift it off the Ranger before she left. Had it been a bit bigger, I suppose it would have been another one of those calls like the one where a friend asked if I’d help get a tree off of his house! (See “Some assistance with a Bunyan problem.”)

Insurance estimates and paperwork have now been handled. The damages totaled over $4,000. I’m going to start scouring the Internet to find out if there’s a way I can reprogram my phone. Any time someone calls and uses the words “fell,” “dropped,” “crunched,” or “broke” in the first few seconds, the call will go straight to 911. 

I bet the dispatcher will talk to the sheriff’s office and they’ll still automatically call me as their default for disaster.   

Guy No. 2

 

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The Farm Industry News Blog features commentary from Willie Vogt, Jodie Wehrspann, Kathy Huting, Lynn Grooms, Daryl Bridenbaugh and Jeff Ryan.

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