Now THIS is one of the most amazing beekeeping stories of 2020! I partnered with Patriot Subaru of North Attleboro Massachusetts to rescue and relocate a wild honey bee hive after a tropical storm. From finding the hive, connecting with local resources ro rescue the bees, and safely moving it on our homestead (in a Ferrari)- we had a buzzing couple of days!
August 15th this year was National Honey Bee Day – and we certainly celebrated that week more than ever! In early August Tropical Storm Isaias hit our part of New England rather hard. We lost power for a few days and the hum of the generators was in the air. Power lines were down, trees had fallen, and the Patriot Subaru dealership by us in North Attleboro, MA had an even bigger problem: they found a wild honey bee hive in a fallen tree.
The Honey Connection
My husband and I have had a long history at Patriot Subaru: we both bought our cars there, always go to their department for service, and even convinced out family & friends to buy cars there… long story short, they are amazing people to begin with.
When my dad bought a car there last year, the process went to smoothly for him that we ended up giving Mark Perryman, the general manager of the dealership, a jar of our honey from our beehives as a thank you. He remembered this and gave me a call the morning after the storm. They had found a beehive in a fallen tree, and he really wanted to save it but wasn’t quite sure how to go about that. I called my local beekeeping store Woods Bees asking for some advice, and they connected me with Chad and Scott from The Charlton Bee Company, who rescue hives for a living.
Now last year I did catch a swarm of bees on our property, but I decided to call up the real professionals for this job… and Chad and Scott were awesome! Not only did they plan to capture the hive, but once it was successfully relocated to a nuc, they were going to drive it over to our property and let the bees come live with us.
Brett and I were so excited about this opportunity- August is really late to start a new colony (we start ours in early April), but we felt up to the task. I cleaned out a bunch of old hive boxes and set them up, ready for the new hive!
Picture of me, really excited, waiting for the bees to arrive!
The Big Rescue
A large willow tree had fallen at Patriot Subaru with the bees, and Chad and Scott came in to rescue the hive. The general gist is once you can capture the queen and relocate her into a smaller hive bix (nuc) then the rest of the bees will follow the queen into the box. It was similar to when I caught the swarm… get the queen, and you get the hive.
I wasn’t there at the dealership for that day of the rescue… with COVID this year, Brett and I have tried to stay out of public as much as possible. But we were on the phone with Mark and Chad that day, getting progress updates on how the relocation was going. Everything went really well, and they got some great video footage of the hive capture. Once the hive was successfully caught, they called us and started driving over with the new hive.
Brett and I suited up! It was an incredibly hot day in early August, and we had our masks on under the suits… which made it even hotter. We had the hives set up already, but I brought out the hive tool, bee brush, and had the smoker loaded just in case.
Chad and Scott pulled up with the bees in the pack of the pickup truck… closely followed by Mark arriving in ultimate fashion: in his Ferrari! They let me install the new hive, which was such a neat experience. I had never worked with a nuc before (I’ve started all my hives from scratch, in the bee boxes) so it was great to see how a existing colony worked and traveled together.
Mark escorting the bees over IN STYLE!
The nuc was in a large cardboard box, so I picked up the nuc and set it next to the empty hive. I removed the lid, and we all did a queen check. We wanted to find the queen, and gently place her in the hive before we started shaking all the bees in. After a bit of searching (she ended up being on the lid of the nuc) I used a queen catcher to scoop her up and place her in the new hive. I then did the trusty old “thump and dump” method where you knock the bees from the sides of the box until they form a ball, then shake them into the new hive. Sounds insane, but trust me it works! It was a big hive (about +25,000 bees!) but we got them all in.
The Charlton Bee company gave us some drawn comb with wax for the new hive, so the bees wouldn’t have to start their hive from scratch. The queen was successfully in the hive, the majority of the colony was close by her, and we had a successful transfer! What a fun experience I will never forget, it was so great to be able to play a part in the rescue of these gals… and now I get to watch them thrive on our homestead!
Doing The Right Thing
It was a whirlwind week getting these bees over to us, but everything worked out perfectly in the end. The most amazing thing to me is the kindness and compassion of everyone involved in this rescue. First of all Mark at Patriot Subaru – how amazing that he picked up the phone to reach out and save the hive rather than pick up a can of pesticide for a quick fix. It takes a lot of character do the right thing, and not just the easy thing! As I mentioned earlier, Brett and I have consistently had a fantastic experience at Patriot Subaru in North Attleboro, and will be lifelong customers there. I would have recommended their sales and servce to anyone before this experience, and this really takes the cake! I feel great supporting businesses that care, and Patriot’s is the perfect example of that.
And thank you to Chad and Scott at the Charlton Bee Company for literally doing the heavy lifting on this rescue. They rescued, transported, and let me install that hive, all in one day!
A Month Later
We’ve had the hive for a month now, and WOW is it ever active! It’s now called the “Su-bee” hive after the bees were rescued from the Subaru dealership 🙂 We’re hoping to put a little decal on the hive box soon, so I will post some pictures when we get that up.
I put the second hive box on and we are feeding the bees from a hive-top feeder. We are focusing on getting them ready and prepped for the winter. I did a mite check on the colony last week (sugar roll) and they look to be in pretty good shape! I’ll check again before we winterize too – and want to make sure they have enough resources and a strong colony going into winter.
2020 has been a wild year for all of us. But though all of this, it has been wonderful to connect with people and local businesses to make our little part of the world better. It may seem like a small gesture, but to the 25,000+ bees in the hive (and to backyard beekeepers like us) it makes all the difference!