After we planted our meadow and introduced bees to the ecosystem we decided to completely re-invent the rest of our back yard. The project, started in the fall of 2011 continued through the winter and the transformation was completed in the summer of 2012. The owner of the company that created and implemented the design is Tom Wood. Stay with me and you'll understand what this has to do with beekeeping.
There is a news show called NBC4 Today in Columbus on Saturday mornings. For 23 years, the show has included garden segments hosted by Tom McNutt. Tom retired this past spring and the new Tom McNutt is Tom Wood. If you are reading this and live in Central Ohio, tune in September 15, this Saturday, to channel 4 at 8am. Throughout the hour, there will be four segments about urban beekeeping and a special corner of our yard we fondly refer to as Turtle World.
Tom, who is not a beekeeper, hoped I would open up a hive for the camera. My gut feeling about doing so for live TV in the chilly early morning hours in mid-September--perhaps not a great idea. The population in the hives is at its greatest this time of year. And the bees are hungry. And they are not on their best behavior. Think about how you feel getting rousted out of bed before you are ready. Hungry + chilly + early = cranky.
Foraging bees have a late start to their workday. Ordinarily, beekeepers work their hives after 10am and before 5pm, not because the beekeepers want to sleep late (although this one does) but because before 10am and after 5pm the foraging bees are present in the hive. We want to work in the hives when at least some of the bees are not home. I don't intend to count them, but in the fall, strong hives (which mine are) can have as many as 60,000 bees. In my beeyard, multiply by three. Even using a more conservative number of 40,000 bees per hive would come to 120,000 girls with stingers.
This morning at 10:30, I opened the hives to apply a second round of powdered sugar and to sneak in a quick inspection of the colonies. I was determined to work extra mindfully so as not to squash any bees with my gloved hands. I found lots of bees, some honey, some pesky hive beetles, and brood in the bottom boxes. The queens are finally down in the lowest boxes where they belong. I saved Hive 1 for last since it is my most populated hive and also the most aggressive. I was ever so careful handling the frames and the hive bodies and got my work done with no stings. The last hive was reassembled and I started collecting my tools. When I bent over to pick up my smoker, I felt the sharp pain of a sting. A bee had been on my bee suit right where I folded at the hip and I got stung at the very top front of my left leg. It was a natural, defensive move for the hapless worker. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Getting stung on the thigh, even through the protective bee suit which prevented the stinger from embedding, is more painful that getting stung on the hand through goatskin gloves. Working around all those stingers, one would think one wouldn't be surprised at getting stung, but I was already congratulating myself for a successful, stingless day in the beeyard. If anyone had been around, she would have heard my shout of surprised pain and a choice bit of cursing.
My gut was correct. Opening a beehive on live television is a bad idea. It is, after all, a family show.