A ‘poop bee’ situation

Recently, I had been lamenting that I only had one beehive heading into the colder weather.

Statistically speaking, there was a 100% chance that if my hive didn’t make it through the winter, I would have to start over completely during the warmer weather next year with an entirely new set of bees.

Almost as if by fate, my lamentations were heard by nature, and a friend reached out to me a week or so ago with an interesting predicament. She had bees in her septic cover.

I had to ask again to be sure I had heard her correctly. “Your septic cover?” I inquired, “Are you sure they’re not hornets?” My trepidations are valid as I’ve responded to bee calls over the course of the short time I’ve been keeping bees, eagerly awaiting a new swarm or hive of “free bees” only to find out the “bees” I’ve been called for are none other than a group of angry, territorial hornets.

One of my most memorable calls was a lady who was convinced she had “bees” at the entrance to her front door and “baby bees” on a fence post. Because I was only a year into beekeeping at that point, I responded to the call with all equipment only to find the “bees” at her entrance were the angry hornets and the “baby bees” at the fence post were none other than the corn flies that come around in late summer. Goodness love them.

Back to the septic situation, I asked for a photo if my friend could get close enough without being stung. When I received the photo, I saw the familiar faces of honeybees staring up from beneath a crack in the septic cover. This was a legit honeybee hive, just in a most interesting location. This was going to be my first “poop bees,” and wow what a story it would give.

The weather temperatures as of late have been across the board with some days being warm and others bitterly cold. Bees don’t typically like to fly in any temperature below 55 degrees, so to capture this hive was going to take some good finessing. I had a small window a weekend or so ago where the outdoor temperature was to be in the 80s, and I had to act.

I showed up at the friend’s house with my protective suit, a smoker (an apparatus used to calm the bees), a hive box to house the bees in once they were captured and a mindset that I was going to be as careful as possible to not end up in deep you-know-what as I worked to remove the bees.

Fortune was on my side as I found the hive was actually not under the main tank cover but rather a utility box for the septic system. Still not pleasant, but this was going to be a relatively easy cutout. I gingerly started to use my hive tool to remove sections of wax and the bees, followed as if to be glad out of what could be a rather smelly situation.

Thus is the tale of my latest hive saga with the “poop bees” now snugly tucked into a warm wooden box with a full frame of honey provided from my other hive and some delicious pollen provided to them to boost their strength going into what might very well be a cold, snowy winter.

I’m one happy beekeeper to know the statistics are better on survival of my beehives because now, there’s at least a 50% chance that one will survive into the warmer months, though I always hope for 100% survival.

We just won’t make it super public that they started out their time with me as “poop bees.”

Until next time…

Stephanie Strothmann owns Purple Shamrock Farm LLC in rural Seymour. Send comments to [email protected].