Thursday, May 6, 2010

From the Green Mountains to the Concrete Jungle

I promised more stories so here they are...

When I ordered bees way back in February, like last year I ordered two packages from the Seaborns in Tennessee and I ordered two small-cell nucs from Denny White in Williamsville, VT.  Small-cell nucs are not easy to find and Denny does not ship bees so I would need to drive to Vermont to pick them up - a bit of a long drive but I figured it would be a beautiful one.

So I left Philly on Saturday afternoon and drove to Pittsfield, MA where I spent the night with my friend Nicole (thanks Nicole!).  Then I woke up early and drove 2 more hours to get to Williamsville. I arrived and Denny was ready to pack up the nucs for the trip back to Philly. I was picking up two for me and two for another member of the Philadelphia Beekeeping Guild.  We drove a short distance from Denny's house to one of his beeyards. The setting was absolutely beautiful and idyllic - all I could think was "Wow, these bees are going to have a much different view when we get back home!"

Being up in the mountains presents different challenges than urban beekeeping.  Denny has had bears disturb his hives in the past. The white fence is electrified and that slab of meat on the fence is bacon - the idea being to get the bears to go after the bacon and touch the fence and ZAP!

As we packed up the nucs Denny and I had a little chance to talk about beekeeping and related topics.  He is a great guy and I could tell by the way he handled the bees and talked about them that he really cares deeply for the bees.  I think I could learn a ton from him and it's too bad we don't live closer - he would be a great mentor.  It is not easy to find people who have a lot of experience practicing small-cell, organic beekeeping and Denny is one of those people.

After packing up all of the bees and making sure there were no holes for the girls to escape from, we loaded them in the car. I drove home with 50,000 or so bees riding in the trunk behind me.  Fortunately we had done a good job sealing them up!

After about 5.5 hours driving, I was back in Philly.  I installed the bees in their new home right away - with some help from my assistant.  This site is a small abandoned park a few blocks from the other site.  Penny is planning on using it as a staging area for plants for her greening projects and also for raising cut flowers.

Here's a good shot of the queen - she is marked with a blue dot.  This makes her easier to find but also each year has a designated color so that you can know how old your queen is.

The installation went very smoothly.  The bees were mellow and no stings at all.  They were set up in their new city home.  I came back the next day to check on them and to feed them some honey to help get them started.  Much to my surprise, I arrived to a scene of destruction.  This was the view right outside the park.

Somehow, one day after I installed the bees, the owner of the vacant lot next to the park had decided he wanted to have the LARGE tree, which overhung the park, cut down.  I mean, give me a freakin' break - look at that tree, it has to be at least 15 years old if not more.  What are the chances that the day after the beehives were installed, the tree has to get cut down? I go inside the park and this is what I see - a large branch at least 6 inches in diameter is literally touching one of the hives.  The hive had moved a few inches but nothing was broken or damaged - unbelievable!  A few more inches and the hive could have been toast!

I was in complete shock.  I called Penny and she had no idea that this was going to happen.  The guys that were cutting down the tree had no idea there were bees in the park, just a few feet from the tree they were cutting down.  I showed them and they came in and cleaned up the area and were more careful with finishing their job.

So, the Green Mountain bees got a rude introduction to city life, but I think it will just make them tougher!  The plan for now is to keep them in this spot, but as I have quickly learned, with beekeeping you never know what will happen next!!


  1. Sounds like you had a fun time. I've always driven to pick up my bees as well, sometimes though I think I'd rather take my chances with shipping them. Thanks for sharing the pictures.

  2. Yeah it was a fun drive - I enjoyed it. Reminded me that I need to get out the city more often!

  3. Wow, five and a half hours in the cars with bees! I was nervous driving my wild caught swarms across town.

    I'm impressed that you got small cell nucs. And also that you formed your own beekeeping association. Here in Northern California, there are tons of small scale organic (or nearly organic) beekeepers.

    I'll be following your blog!