Stories & Tales - Hive Inspections

Hive Inspections Hive Inspection: according to AgriQuality -... the carrying out of a hive inspection and sample collection programme as an audit of beekeeper performance in locating and dealing with AFB. Hive Inspection: according to the Interested Bystander …

Hive Inspections

Hive Inspection: according to AgriQuality -... the carrying out of a hive inspection and sample collection programme as an audit of beekeeper performance in locating and dealing with AFB.

Hive Inspection: according to the Interested Bystander …

We meet at the appointed time at L’s place. There’s B, along with B’s dog who shall be overseeing the Hive inspections; L who owns the Hives, but who by the end of the day will probably be wishing he didn’t; L’s grandson - the ‘gofor’; R who has come along for the laugh; and the Interested Bystander, who has already decided that a low profile might be a wise option, and has elected to be ‘scribe’. Yes, the Interested Bystander acknowledges a mental note made back in February to be inexcusably busy for any combined exercise proposed by B and L, but unfortunately mental notes are no match for male cunning and cajolery.

Off to the first hive site - the usual one-leg-shorter-than-the-other hillside, but the ladies in the two hives concerned have worked hard. A banded swarm queen has invaded the first box, but all is well. The scribe stencils a letter of the alphabet on the bottom brood box in each case, then away to the second site. This is a bit more challenging - mountains have been moved to make this site and most of them appear to have been moved uphill! Our intrepid beekeepers negotiate clay and boulder faces and struggle to heights undreamed off. The reward - a view of most of Wainuiomata, the Hutt Valley and Mt Cook (well, almost) and 11 hives humming quietly. More deft work with the stencil then some hive inspections. Things continue to hum along happily until Hive ‘F’ is opened. .... A surprising collection of short words left over from Anglo Saxon days and Hive ‘F’ is closed up with a unanimous verdict: REQUEEN! A close association with large numbers of little black varmints tends to bring about that sort of unilateral decision. Finish up with Hive M, no problems so a call for lunch. Descend from the heights (that boulder was quite solid, wasn’t it L?), and adjourn to L’s for sandwiches and a drink. B decides to check the magnificently producing hive in L’s backyard - there is the sound of windows in surrounding houses being hastily slammed shut as the hive lid is lifted, and even L takes his time in putting in an appearance around the corner of the garage. It doesn’t take long to work out why - another banded bee invasion. 90% of this crop should go in peace offerings to the neighbours!

Inside for a safe haven and removal of bee veils. A quiet drink and discussion on bees in general is enlivened considerably when the back of L’s veil is lifted to disclose a small but malignant band of lurking black varmints. In the ensuing confusion the scribe attempts a quick exit, only to find another member of this intrepid beekeeping team, with similar thoughts, obstructing the egress. (This is the true version of events - ignore any other you may hear).

After sifting out assorted legs and arms (and that’s just the chairs) we are off to the fourth site - the usual goat track ascent, sped up somewhat by the interested attentions of a group of overly large boars. Nice well behaved gentlemen - and the drones in the hives weren’t too bad either. The group moves on. Well, one half of it does, but perhaps it should have known better when L and R failed to sit on its tail on the road to the fifth site. You may recall this hive from an earlier article - it contained the African Killer Bee relatives B re-queened in January. B states confidently that with one of his gold queens in residence, there is nothing to worry about, but the scribe distinctly recalls L mentioning something about nasty little black beggars and is not convinced.

Decide not to try the goat-track-and-five-gates access, but instead don suits at the road frontage and take the direct route - crawling straight up the hill - musing as to the curious non-appearance of L and R. Tether B’s dog some 50m or so short of the hive, then move in. Mistake Number One. In the three months since our last visit these Bees have grown Very Aware. And passed on a gene which says ‘Be Very Aware’. The scribe hastily stencils a letter, then beats just as hasty a retreat while B scans the sky (for divine inspiration or a lightening bolt), the bush (for a herd of stampeding elephants, a lesser fate under the circumstances), and finally the road (for the mysteriously absent L and R). No reprieve. He moves back in. Off with the lid. Mistake Number Two. A cloud of black banded super shirty bees moves up, circles around and then, as one, dives upon him. With gritted teeth and much cursing (little of it audible through the dense covering of bees) he works down to the bottom box while the scribe keeps one anxious eye on proceedings and the other scanning the road - still no sign of L and R. Well - no surprises here - once again the gold queen has been dealt to in a terminal manner, and a black queen reigns supreme. Rebuild the hive, scanning each frame with a minimum of decency and a great many muffled words, some of which sound remarkably like the tracing of pedigrees, on with the lid, over and under the electric fence, and off. B goes to release his dog, but is beaten to him by a fan club of little black varmints, and neither dog nor scribe can escape B’s company quickly enough. Slither and slide back down the hill to the car, turn to look back and there are L and R, having come in through the goat-track-and-five-gates access. We yell warnings, while silently daring them to attempt a second hive check. No such luck. Their selective hearing is suddenly remarkably clear, and they follow us quickly down the hill, muttering, when they join us at the gate, something about a puncture. A likely story. Verdict: Super Shirty Black Banded Bees! If you wanted to sell this hive, you would have to offer it without the inhabitants!!!

To the last site - a peaceful golden humming set by a gently flowing stream. This is how bees should be. The scribe happily stencils and annotates. R, B and L ponder the mysteries of unfound queens and seven box hives, and B’s dog decides that rolling in manure is a sure relief for bee stings.

The ride home is accomplished with maximum air intake - even the dog has his head out a window. A good day. Reasonably good company (the dog excepted), and the promise of the forthcoming publication: "101 Reasons for Avoiding Combined L, B and R Bee Excursions" by the Interested Bystander