Posts Tagged ‘attracting a swarm’

May 21, 2015.....Hal stands proudly next to his log hive #4. The bees voted his hive as their top favorite place and moved in about two weeks ago. How tall is it...? Eight feet tall (2.4 meters) Bee hive capacity is 7524 cubic inches (123 liters)

May 21, 2015…..Hal stands proudly next to his log hive #4.  Bees voted his hive as their top favorite place and moved in about two weeks ago. How tall is it…? Eight feet tall (2.4 meters) Bee hive capacity is 7524 cubic inches (123 liters)

Frames are cut away to be able to see the comb being built through the observation window.

Frames are cut away to be able to see the comb being built through the observation window.

Looking inside the hive during the construction phase, you can see the screen Hal nailed in to let the mites fall down.

Looking inside the hive during the construction phase, you can see the screen Hal nailed in to let the mites fall through.

Bottom board holder slot

Bottom board holder slot

Hal explains the construction of it.

Hal explains the construction of it.

May 18...Comb length after about two weeks 3 days.  Note the mid entrance hole.

May 18…Comb length after about two weeks. Note the mid entrance hole.

May 21...Three days later, the comb is even with the mid entrance hole.

May 21…Three days later, the comb is even with the mid entrance hole.

Log hive #5? Hal already has the wood for it. He will be using cedar this time.  Solarbeez might have to build one too. :)

Log hive #5? Hal already has the wood for it. He will be using cedar this time.
Solarbeez might have to build one too. 🙂

It's Garden Time...and time for Patti to show off her garden.

It’s Garden Time…and time for Patti to show it to us.

Patti, a young 80 year-old,  built this fountain and pond completely by herself.

Patti, a young 80 year-old, built this fountain and did all the landscaping for the garden.  The surface she’s standing on are old recycled roofing tiles.

Lobelia grows between the steps that lead to the deck.

Lobelia grows between the steps that lead to the deck.

Cosmos is blooming already.

Cosmos are blooming already.

Sedum will provide much needed nectar during August and September.  I'm very grateful to Hal and Patti for alerting me to this wonderful nectar source for my bees.

Sedum will provide much needed nectar during August and September. I’m very grateful to Hal and Patti for alerting me to this wonderful nectar source for my bees.

What do you do with a log hive that has rotted out?  If you're Hal and Patti Strain, you'll make a pretty flower bed out of it.  They've already had some requests to make more.

What do you do with a log hive that has rotted out? If you’re Hal and Patti Strain, you’ll make a pretty flower bed out of it. They’ve already had requests to make more.

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August 9, 2014, 10:34 am...Waggle dancing takes place.

August 9, 2014, 10:34 am…Waggle dancing takes place.

After reading Honeybee Democracy, by Thomas Seeley, I sort of knew what to expect on swarm behavior.  The scouts would each go out and report back to the swarm.  They would indicate the direction of a possible future hive location by doing a waggle dance in relation to the sun.  Straight up meant “in the direction of the sun,” or angled off from straight up meant that angle direction from the sun.  If the scout bee thinks she’s got a real good location, she will dance more emphatically.  Other scout bees will look the location over, actually measuring the sides, and judging if it’s a good location.  They will report back to the swarm.  This can take several days.  This bee is waggling just a bit.  I wouldn’t call it a real hard sell at this point.

11:15 am...I had been seeing some scout bees around Bee Beard log hive.

11:15 am…I had been seeing some scout bees around Bee Beard log hive.  More now.

Since it got robbed out last month, after several weeks in decline, I made the decision to take Bee Beard out of circulation, sort of retire it, let it rest up til March whereupon, I could introduce a new swarm to it.  I was in the process of dismantling it, when this August swarm took place.  I had to work like a mad man.  My printing deadlines were just going to have to wait.  I hope my customers understand. (Do I have any left?)

I scorched out the inside of the hive, shortened up the quilt box so it fit looser, and melted small bits of comb to the five top bars.  I added new leaves and sawdust to the bottom cavity and new sawdust to the quilt box.  This time I drove a fence post into the ground and fastened it to the log hive to keep the winter winds from toppling it.

August 8, 2014...fence post fastened to Bee Beard log hive.

August 8, 2014…fence post fastened to Bee Beard log hive.

As a natural beekeeper, I was hoping maybe, just maybe, the swarm would choose Bee Beard for their new place.  I mean how much more natural is that?

At 70F (20C) it's a good day for a swarm.

At 70F (20C) it’s a good day for a swarm.

2:20 pm...As luck would have it, (and I do mean luck)  the swarm broke up to relocate to Bee Beard.

2:20 pm…As luck would have it, (and I do mean luck) the swarm broke up to relocate to Bee Beard.  In the video you can  feel the power of thousands of bees swirling around.  I’m afraid I got a little emotional in talking about  it.

2:30 pm...Bee Beard is covered in bees.  In the video you can see the bees crawling upward and circling the mouth before entering the mouth entrance.

2:30 pm…Bee Beard is covered in bees. In the video you can see the bees crawling upward and circling the mouth before entering.

I guess you could say we were ecstatic.  We just stood there in the middle of all that bee energy and talked about it what we were witnessing.

August 10, 2014...The next day was back to business with time out for reconnaissance flights.

August 10, 2014…The next day it was back to business with time out for reconnaissance flights.

August 10, 2014...the day after the swarm, shows the bees on the observation window.  They've got to build their own comb so they are hanging out here for a while.

August 10, 2014…the day after the swarm, shows the bees on the observation window. They’ve got to build their own comb so they are hanging out here for a while.

Bee Beard’s back story.

The swarm’s back story.

There’s a new hive in town!

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April 22, 2014...Swarm in short tree.  Baited nuc hive very close.

April 22, 2014…Swarm in short tree. Baited nuc hive very close.  Wife says, “DO NOT CUT MY TREE.”  The bees refused to enter this hive.  Hal waits four days…no luck.  He gets a bigger hive.

April 24, 2014...Hal coaxes the bees in, opens the lid briefly to show us the bees, before closing everything up.

April 24, 2014…With a bigger hive consisting of two Westerns, Hal coaxes the bees in, opens the lid briefly to show us the bees, before closing everything up.



Hal cinches the belt so we don't have to worry about the hive sliding open and bees flying around our heads.

Cinches the belt so we don’t have to worry about the hive sliding open and bees flying around our heads while driving back.

April 24, 2014...This is the log hive where the bees swarmed from.

April 24, 2014…This is the log hive where the bees swarmed from.

January 22, 2014...Same log hive, the bees are clustering up high.

January 22, 2014…Same log hive, many fewer bees which are clustering up high.

Ready to roll, back to home.

Hive loaded into car, we are good to go!

April 25, 2014...Day 1.  Bees still here.

Next morning…Day 1. Bees still here.

April 27, 2014...Day 3.  The bees seem to be happy.  Maybe they will stay.

April 27, 2014…Day 3. The bees are flying well.  Looks like they have accepted the move.  Thank you, Hal, for getting us bees that have not been medicated, treated with mite strips or even fed with anything but their natural unadulterated honey.

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Bee-atrice is looking good.

Bee-atrice is looking good.  Okay, the yard sign on her head isn’t too flattering, but it was all I could come up with in a hurry.  We will fix that later.

 When Bee-atrice became aware of her beauty she developed a real attitude.  Her long golden hair, the color of the setting sun, a beauty mark on her face, and the fact that she was carved out of a hard wood by a professional wood carver made her vain.  In conversations, the iPod would always be pulled out to show how she was carved. She would tell people.  “I’m special.  I was carved out of myrtlewood which only grows on the Oregon Coast and in the Holy Land.”  We told her the brochures weren’t exactly true, myrtlewood also grew along the California Coast, and the kind in the Holy Land was a different variety.  She would counter with the fact that “Myrtlewood” is the only wood still in use as a base “metal” for legal tender,  “besides my mouth was carved ‘open’ so I can sing.”  I think she fashioned herself as some kind of diva or something.

We decided to place her near Bee Beard.   We just figured they’d hit it off because they had so much in common.  One look at Bee Beard and she realized her open mouth was carved to let bees pass in and out.  She was shocked and humiliated…stomped off in a huff. I couldn’t figure it out.  Bee Beard has never complained about anything, not even once.  He’s been through a whole year of wind, rain, and bees.   It’s true we’ve never smoked him or bothered him much, I just figured Bee-atrice would be the same.  Not so…“I don’t want to be next to him and I don’t like bamboo.  It attracts wasps.  We ended up promising her a one of a kind Easter hat and face her into the sun so it could shine on her beautiful golden hair.  She gave in to the flattery, but there was no way she would agree to be near Bee Beard or even to look at him.

The bees first couple of nights were spent here in the upper corner of log.

The bees first couple of nights were spent here in the corner of log.

I've always wanted to note the temperature of the hive.

I’ve always wanted to note the temperature of the hive.

I'm surprised this is only 83 F (28 C)  I wish I could see inside better, but I'll have to wait until the combs are visible in the observation window.

I’m surprised the temp is only 83 F (28 C) I wish I could see inside better, but I’ll have to wait until the combs are visible in the observation window.

A short video show bees already bringing in pollen on Day 6

Bee-atrice gets a bonnet

The start of the project

Bee-atrice…the Carving

Preparing Bee-atrice Log Hive for Prime Time

Hal started it all

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Bee Beard Gets a Life (20,000).

The creation of Bee Beard was influenced by many different people.  Hal (The Story of Hal’s Bee Trees) was the main instigator.  He started his first log hive around May or June 2011.  I was impressed that a swarm had actually picked his log hive to live in.  I liked his hands-off log hive credo…



I wanted to try the same thing, but not being retired I knew I wouldn’t be able to spend so much time hollowing it out.  I looked up log hives on the web and came across Gaia Bees.  I emailed Michael Thiele who gave me directions on hollowing out the log.  It was about this time that a new beekeeping friend, Terry Kelly of Berkeley, a writer, top bar beekeeper, and mushroom log grower, started sending me packets of bee articles he liked.  My log was partially hollowed out when another packet of articles came in the mail.  The very first thing I saw were copies of Slovenian Bee Hive Art.  Not only were there paintings but there was a face carved on the front of a hive that served as the entrance to the hive.  The bees entered through the mouth, nose, and eyes into the hive.  It took all of 10 seconds to decide I wanted to do something like that on my log hive.

I shared my idea of a wood carving with my wife, and she suggested I try the new chainsaw wood carver in town.  I talked up the idea with  Brian and Zada Vorwaller.   He offered some suggestions and we came up with Bee Beard.  His wife, Zada videotaped the carving and my son-in-law, Jim Montgomery edited, sped it up, and made it you-tube acceptable.

I wanted feral bees if possible, but commercial hives are placed in the bogs near me between late May into mid July. I knew I had to populate the hives before the bog bees got interested.     How to get feral bees became an obsession.  After reading McCartney Taylor’s book on Swarm Traps and Bait Hives, I built 9 bait hives.  Hung them mostly on private property.   I want to thank Bernhard Zaunreiter (see Swarm Trapping 2012) for posting a photographic “how-to prepare bait hives” post on the forum,”  and answering my bait hive questions.

I finally was rewarded after placing two boxes on or near feral bee hive trees.  On one of the weekly inspections, both had caught swarms.  This bottom tree supplied Bee Beard.

The transfer of bees from bait hive to Bee Beard was quite an adventure, but the bees are settling in now and the itching is subsiding.

I  want to express my appreciation to Phil Chandler for creating forum.  I’ve got so much to learn and this is a very friendly, positive and informative place to do that.  Thanks to those stalwart friends who gave me encouragement during my dark days of no bees, when  I started regretting not ordering package bees and despairing that I wouldn’t get ANY bees for another year.  Mobeek, Bugscouter, KittyLabyrinth, newwoman, baz, and jaywoo kept me going.

This short video shows the bees entering through the hat.  I left a little gap in the quilt box to make it easier to pull out.  I think that’s where they are going.  A few enter through the mouth entrance.  I’m hoping when the comb gets built down that far, they will use the mouth entrance more.

I noticed the bamboo is shading the hive too much in the afternoon…the Warre Hive, on the south side of the bamboo works 1-2 hours longer, so I’m going to trim back the bamboo to get more sun in late afternoon.  After all, that could spell the difference between making it, or not making it.

Bee-atrice Log Hive Steps into Prime Time

Grand Kids Log Hive gets bees…two swarms almost at same time.

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Saturday brought the usual “check the bait boxes routine”, sigh over no bees yet, and daub some lemon grass oil on the outside. The first box I looked at was on the feral tree on private land. “WOW, I’ve got bees and they’re bringing in pollen. That means they’ve got a laying queen.” What do I do now? I’ll check the other bait hive across from the park…”WOW, that’s got bees too, and they’re are also bringing in pollen. Yikes, I can’t handle two at once.” I talked with Hal who advised me to wait until all the foragers came in. That would be another two hours. Went home to get my wife so she could provide moral support.

At 8:15 pm we stuffed some paper into the entrance hole and duct taped it securely. Got back around 8:45 pm. Should we stick them in now or wait til morning? We might get rain in the morning and it’ll only take a few minutes, let’s just put them in now. Plan is to unscrew the lid of the bait box, lift out the bars, put them in the top of Bee Beard log hive, put the quilt box in and pivot the hat back in place.

Since I had just had a successful swarm retrieval two days prior, I had confidence this would take about 15 minutes then we sit down for a cup of tea and congratulate ourselves.

The transfer did not go as planned…I didn’t suit up properly, it was almost dark, and as soon as I started to remove the lid I knew I was in trouble. Wife says…”sounds like they’re mad.” I tried gently lifting the bars out, but had to jerk them a bit. The bees went ballistic. Then the stings started. They got up into my bee suit between the veil and my face, up my pant legs, and on my wrists. At least I found out I’m not allergic to multiple bee stings, although I’m itching a bit. I had to vacate the area with the box lid part way open, the top of the log hive open, and our confidence shot.

All night I’m trying to formulate a plan of action for the next day…wondering what the heck I was doing…how did I ever think I would be able to pull this off, are these bees going to attack my wife and I when we’re working in the garden? What about our pets? Why did I want feral bees? What was I thinking?

Next day I called Shigeo from the Coos County Beekeepers Association. We talked about the incident and about the other bait hive which I was NOT about to get. He says to call Randy. Well, I know Randy, he’s awfully busy with his regular job, plus the last count of swarms he had gotten, was 23 and that was a week ago. He probably doesn’t need any more. I’ll call Del, another club member. We talk for awhile, he builds up my confidence and says “call Randy.” I call Randy who luckily happens to be working with the bees in the blueberry farm on the coast. (my area). Randy says he’ll be over as he finished up early on the blueberries.

I better get ready. Find the smoker. (never been used), light it up so it looks like we know what we’re doing. Very soon, Randy and Loni were driving in. “Hey I got my smoker lit up, do you want it?” “Don’t need it with suits, besides the bees don’t like smoke.” They zipped up their veils, walked confidently up to the hive, bees still circling angrily. Within a few minutes, they emptied the bait box of the remaining bees, got the bars into the log hive, installed the quilt box and pivoted the hat in place. They said the bees will settle down in a while and not too worry too much about working in the garden, they’d get used to you, but if they go through a dearth, they might get a little testy. We were much relieved.

It was nice to see a husband and wife team working with bees. They have worked together for about 20 years so know exactly what to do to put things right. Their business name is Oregon Mountain Wild Honey.

Randy and Loni after getting bees into Bee Beard

Randy and Loni give us a taste of their blueberry honey, fresh off the comb

A short video of Bee Beard can be seen here… Bee Beard Gets Bees

Video of the carving of Bee Beard

Hollowing out the log.

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Randy seems to know all the bee trees in the county.  I asked him if he thought hanging a bait hive up a certain logging road would be permissible with the owners.  He said “There’s no bees up there.  What you ought to do, is hang it at (a not to be disclosed) wayside.  There’s a bee tree there.”  Deep in the middle of a shaded grove of Myrtlewood trees was a bee tree.  It was spotted by a picnicker who was interested in what I was doing.  About 20-25 feet (6-8 meters) up was a bunch of bee activity. I chose a tree about 50 feet (15 meters) away facing the river to hang the bait hive after baiting it with old comb and LGO. The family of picnickers and their kids were excited to  learn the plight of the bees and what backyard beekeepers are doing to help out.

It’s not as pretty as Bernhard Zaunreiter‘s, but hopefully it’ll do the job.

Updated to “Kicked out of State Park.”

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Hal and Patti Strain are members of the local Beekeeping club. I met them about a year ago and have been inspired by what they are doing. They graciously gave me permission to post the following story written by Patti Strain in January of this year.









Article by Patti Strain, January 30, 2012

In the early 1990s Hal Strain, my husband of almost 58 years, became interested in Bees. Interest grew to captivation after a beekeeping friend, Gordon Starr, placed two bee hives at our former home on Crest Acres Road, east of Coquille. A standard hive body consists of one or two boxes, called deeps (each 9” deep). These are reserved for bees to brood and store honey for their own use. Each hive had a colony of Bees, 10 frames of beeswax foundation on which bees build six sided cells of honeycomb. There was enough honey for the bees until nectar flow began, about the end of June.


Wild or “feral” bee swarms may have 5 to 15 thousand bees, purchased “nucs” include a bee colony of around 10 to 15 thousand bees and weighs about 3 pounds. A winter ready swarm may shrink to “7,000 Bees in mid-winter [and grow] to over 70,000 in late summer and consists of one Queen, several hundred Drones and thousands of Workers.”[1]

Drones are larger than worker bees, but smaller than the Queen. They have one function. On certain spring days they fly up in the air to mate with a Queen. When fall arrives the hive of bees, all female, kick the drones out to die. Survival of the fittest, I guess.

It is estimated the mated Queen can lay about 2,500 eggs per day and lives about five years. However it is common for beekeepers to re-queen a hive every two or three years. Or, young bees can replace a Queen that fails to lay and replenish the hive by making a new Queen. They simply feed any female larvae Royal Jelly which is “an extremely rich mixture of food.” The female larvae they choose has to be less than 48 hours old.

* * *

When summer arrives beekeepers must increase space in the hive so bees can bring in honey. The basic two deeps are extended upward by adding boxes. These “supers” have 10 frames of beeswax foundation. The boxes are near 4”, 6” or 9”, most keepers use the mid-size because of weight. When frames of foundation are added and bees add six-sided cells of wax and fill the super with honey they weigh 50 to 90 pounds. The boxes are added one at a time to the top of the two main boxes when nectar flow begins. Some beekeepers increase hive height as high as they can reach, one beekeeper had his hive fall over, maybe it was too high or maybe a skunk pushed too hard. Skunks enjoy getting into bee hives.

For our two hives, Gordon arrived twice a week to take away two honey filled supers, each weighing about 60 pounds. Adding two empty supers, he kept the hives low by having no more than five supers on the base. He always placed one empty super on top of the base boxes, called bottom supering, the other four higher supers were partially filled or uncapped honey left for the bees to finish their work. Good beekeeping, proved by hundreds of pounds of honey gained.

Those two hive colonies produced over 600 pounds of honey, and Gordon declared that “a world record for multiple hive production.”

Empty supers placed each week made the bees realize there was work to be done. If the hive is full, bees believe their needs are met and they will quit working. An empty super prods Bees to bring in honey while capping the supers above. However, the nectar flow must be available. That honey was so fine and clear that Gordon won first prize at the Coos County Fair in 1995, a year that had great nectar flow.

The average Bee keeper usually harvests only 40 pounds of honey per hive in an average year. Gordon’s several hives in 1995 averaged 201 pounds per hive. Consistency in placing supers is important. Heavy nectar flow usually begins at the end of June and continues about four weeks.

Personally, after 15 years of paying attention to bee gathering habits, we think the much abused Himalaya Blackberry provides the clearest and most consistent nectar flow in Coquille Valley.

When Gordon produced that record, he explained to Hal that bees “dance” to show Workers the direction and miles to the most viable blossoms. He also said bee scouts “dance” to show which nature-made Bee home would be best if the hive swarms. With all that interesting information, Hal was hooked. He joined the Coos County Bee Association which meets 6:30 p.m. the 3rd Saturday of each month at the OSU building in Myrtle Point. He read articles and began to watch and study the habits of honey bees. He found bees exciting in their orderly way of banding together to divide labor for the good of the hive. In a short time he bought a bee suit.

Gordon came down with ‘beekeeper back’, the side effect of lifting heavy supers of honey off the hive, so Hal bought his hives and equipment. Long-time members of the bee club teach new members to catch bee swarms and Hal learned and began to fill his hives. He purchased new hives too, which run about $300 complete. When he began this business a Bee swarm cost about $30, today they are about $90. It is valuable to become proficient in catching feral bee swarms. Bee club members have devised many types of poles, buckets, and covers to catch swarms that usually hand in bushes and trees. Members are so willing to share their knowledge.

Hal developed ten or twelve hives around the county, locations provided mostly by our children who own small acreages; one on Coos River, one at Broadbent and one on Fairview Road. L G and Christy Sanders loaned a good location above Gravel Ford and Lou Grace Heyman a location at Cherry Creek. We owned two acres on the Middle Fork near Bridge and a home on Spruce Street in Myrtle Point. Each location had one or two hives, not wanting too many bees in one location.

As Hal began this project we were ecstatic when he harvested 200 pounds of honey from six hives. He left each hive one super of honey in addition to what they had stored in their living quarters, making sure the bees had enough food through the winter. That harvest put us a little under the average Bee keeper who harvests about forty pounds of honey per hive, but we were pleased. Hal always says “I’m a lazy beekeeper” so he didn’t even think of trying to break Gordon’s record of over 600 pounds of honey from those first two hives.

Most enjoyable of Hal’s bee operation is teaching parents, kids, grandkids and friends about bees. That made us really think of bee health and where our food supply would be without bees. At that time no one was concerned of the importance of caring for and protecting bees.

We learned the small things first. Bees sting anything moving close to the hive that is black, thinking of bears who rob bee hives. Our black Lab, Zeke, stays well away from hives. Bees use warm days in winter to leave their comfy center and fly out and take a poop. Bees like warmth, keeping the brood cluster in the hive body around 90 degrees. In summer they can cool the hive by fanning their wings. Coquille Valley blossoms are awesome, but bees may starve in the lower valley when imported to pollinate Cranberries. Sometimes a hive of bees will swarm in spring, an impressive sight when thousands fly away, you hear the loud buzzzzzz first. Swarming is a worry because that valuable hive is gone. Hal often said “If they’d just leave me a note of what they need!” It may be that a new vigorous Queen wants to start her own hive?

[1]2012 Dadant Beekeeping Catalog, pg.2


We had four or five good years harvesting honey. Then at monthly meetings of the Coos County Bee Association, members began to complain about finding hives empty. Bees were there one day and gone the next. Hal had added hives over the years. Each week he made the rounds checking bees and if necessary provide medications for mites. Yellow jackets can be a problem, and so are Bears, they love honey and leave a mess.

Beginning about 2006 unknown changes in the bee’s world came to light. Actually it started earlier. Gordon said in 2005 “my bees are disoriented, not able to find their hive unless it is in line of sight.” He thought it may be due to some particularly violent sun spot activity. But, it didn’t register with any beekeeper as a long-term problem.

Our youngest son, Doug Strain, began keeping his own hives of bees about 2005. Hal wrote in his daily journal Friday, August 11th, 2006. “Called Doug, he had been busy around his place with his new brush hog. But his bees seem to have left. He has one hive active, but not enough [honey] to rob. He said he would just leave it and let them build up.

A year later the hive at our Spruce Street home, shown below, was completely empty of bees. Checked regularly, it had been full of active bees bringing in honey. Our garden for bees caught the eyes of artist Christy Sanders. Her watercolor titled “Hal’s Hive” won a blue ribbon at the Coos County Fair and she gave us the original which we cherish.


As more reports surfaced of dead bees in hive bodies and disappearing bees, Bee Club members actively discussed and dissected their beekeeping practices, trying to ferret out clues to the serious problem. During one discussion a member reported someone seeing many dead bees on Bandon beach, small bodies flung across the sand had the appearance of all dying at the same time. If true, what could make that happen?

A group of club members contacted Oregon State University. The U of O hired a person and directed him to monitor bee disappearances, deaths and provide research to discover the cause of CCD, Colony Collapse Disorder. Research has been done, papers written, possibilities examined, but speculation is the only certain result. Some believe pesticides and herbicides are the culprits. Some believe wireless systems disorient bees. Some believe fluoride, “… a widely used pesticide” is responsible.

An internet opinion states: “The wide amount of pollution from water fluoridation is rampant. Over 99% of the fluoridated water goes into the environment through household use.

France, Germany and the Italian Agriculture Ministry suspended the use of a class of pesticides known as nicotine-based neonicotinoids,[1] as a “precautionary measure.” A film “Nicotine Bees” was delivered to the US Congress explaining the pesticide’s connection to CCD. That substance may be lethal to Bees, but the United States has yet to act.

If Congress did act to ban certain suspect pesticides and herbicides, a serious food shortage may develop. Without certain chemicals Agribusiness in the US and elsewhere may not be able to grow enough food to feed seven billion people.

Since we have a large garden to grow some of what we eat, I know it is mighty hard to be food self-sufficient.

Reading this article you might ask “What difference does it make if bees live or die?” Bee lives are extremely important to human life, so intertwined that we must not fail to discover the reasons bees are dying. Experts on bees write:

“Some workers collect nectar, some collect pollen and some do both. In terms of economic value the workers that collect pollen are the most important to you and I. Honey is just the sweet, secondary reward that we collect from honey bees. If honey bees ceased to exist today, about one-third (1/3) of all foods we eat would disappear. Why? Because of pollination. The worker that collects pollen from the flowers packs it into pellets on her hind legs. As she travels from flower to flower, the pollen is brushed off into a special pollen receiving structure called the stigma in the center of the flower. This process is called pollination and allows all flowering crops to reproduce. The outcome is fruit, vegetables, nuts and a wide variety of seed that are used for human and animal foods. For this reason many people keep bees on farm and near gardens.”[2]

So if we value our own lives, which depend on a supply of good food, and water, we must value a bee’s life that is responsible for pollinating much of that food. We must learn definitively why bees are dying and the government must be convinced to act on that information, no matter the food reduction consequences. (Honey is the only food that never spoils.)

* * *

After a year or so ruminating on bee deaths, Hal came from the barn one day and said “I’m going to build a Bee Tree. Maybe a purely natural hive that is never disturbed or medicated or robbed can survive in a man-made but natural log cavity. Maybe such a hive will send out swarms that will help restore bee populations. Even if they die for some reason we don’t understand, it is better to do something than nothing” So he began to talk at the Bee Club about what he was going to do. Once a project is stated to others, you have to carry through.

A beekeeping friend, Randy Sturgill, had a cedar log at his house and gave it to Hal. The fat was in the fire so to speak. Randy then offered to use his 4 foot chain saw bar to hollow the center out of the tree. The men soon found that was tough work and thought it better to first split the log along the grain. Randy delivered the log to our place and Hal went to work. The picture at top of page one shows the log after being split in two sections.

[1] Put this word in your search engine and you find where I got this information. Can we believe it?

[2]2012 Dadant Beekeeping Catalog, pg. 2


Splitting the log and hollowing it out, Hal placed a small plastic window on the small slab and attached a small door with a handle. He then placed five frames of beeswax foundation inside the log, plus a frame full of honey. He connected the log together so it looked like it had never been apart. He put to “lid” in place and “planted” the bee tree on the south side of our barn where it is out of the wind and the entrance hole is hit by the first ray of morning sun.

The final touch. Hal inserted an old wood spigot found at Lazy Dog Antiques and hung a “transfer bucket” to drain honey. Kids, after looking at the bees and honeycomb in the hive window, think if the spigot is opened honey will flow out into the “transfer bucket.” A few adults have even questioned that possibility.

Within a few weeks bees were hovering, were they robber bees or bees looking for a new home? Returning one morning from his walk, Hal found a good-size swarm of Bees had moved in through the one inch entrance hole placed in the center of a knot hole. How many bees? He couldn’t tell, but we opened the door and took a picture. Regular picture taking through the window, open for only seconds, documents the growth of the hive.


These bees have been inside the hollow log, now a standing bee tree, for almost a year. A thriving Queen will lay eggs the size of a grain of rice, a new generation of Bees will hatch in 21 days. On a warm spring day bee scouts will survey the immediate area. They will perform a “dance” at the hive to inform worker bees the direction to fly to find the best and most prolific stand of blossoms with pollen.

During the summer nectar flow, June through August, worker honey bees travel about 55,000 miles to gather enough nectar to produce one pound of honey. Each individual worker will only produce about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey and about 1/80 of a teaspoon of beeswax. However, an entire colony can produce 200 pounds of honey annually!” [1]

Our lives are intricately tied to bee health and their industry. Bee losses some years have ranged up to 20 to 30% loss of all hives in the United States. That is very serious.

[1]2012 Dadant Catalog, Pg.2


This picture, three months later, has fresh comb full of honey. No longer can you see the foundations Hal put in. He is confident this bee colony in #1 Bee Tree is going to thrive, that is if CCD doesn’t take their lives. Trying to save and protect bees is a good thing. Three weeks ago Hal bought two cedar logs from Sproul’s East Fork Mill at Norway. Bee Tree #2 has been split, hollowed out with the help friend, L G Sanders, window and door made and installed and the log made whole again. #2 is standing in L G’s and Christy’s plum orchard above Gravel Ford. Hal has #3 Bee Tree ready to place next to the green house he built two years ago. Pictures of steps taken to build #2 Bee Tree are shown below.

I asked Hal what he would charge if someone came and wanted to buy a bee tree. His response, “Nothing, if someone wants to build a bee tree, I will give advice. That’s priceless. The tree needs to be built at their place, preferably near where it will be placed. If you build a bee tree, I think the bees will come.”







A video of a swarm flying INTO Hal’s log hive.

LG shows off his log hive

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