Saturday, June 25, 2011

My First Anaphylatic Reaction

While doing some bush and tree trimming today, I was suddenly hit on the forearm and stung by a bee. Weird, but I figured I must have startled it off of some trimmed lavender or pepper tree blossoms, and it just reacted.

No sooner do I brush away that stinger than another blasts into me, taking no prisoners, and stings my shoulder. I hoof it away from the area, head up to the house to fetch my bee-jacket, and go back down to finish up.

But after bending down a couple times I felt my face getting tingly, and I felt a little dizzy. Not good. I hustled back up to the house and looked in the mirror. Sure enough, my face was bright red, and my lips were swelling. My scalp and ears were itching like mad, too.

I took two Benadryl capsules, shot a couple blasts of albuterol to make sure I kept breathing, and threw an ice pack on my shoulder. My scalp continued to get hot and itchy, so I took a cool shower. By this point my lower lip was looking like a sausage.

It was a scary hour or so, and I came close to hitting the Epi Pen at one point, but things started calming down. I went back outside to do some chores, and eventually the reaction receded to localized swelling (as I write, the one from my shoulder has migrated to the side of my pec, and is itching quite insistently).

Lesson learned here: I have only one Epi Pen, in my swarm toolbox I keep in the car. I'm going to get some more, and put at least one down by the main beeyard, another in my house, and another in the Gator (my ranch utility vehicle). I've never reacted like that before, but they say a bad reaction can happen at any time, and I already swell up so badly from any sting, I don't want to push my luck.

I'll Take Pad Thai and Bees to Go, Please

Got a call from Steve over at the Ventura County Fired Dept in Camarillo, about a swarm that had taken up residence next to a Thai restaurant. The owner followed up with a call to me too, begging me to come get the bees. She told me she'd make me lunch, so we settled on some chicken & shrimp pad thai in exchange for driving out there to get the swarm.

Here's what it looked like from a distance:

Talk about easy! Right there at about chest level... piece of cake. I took a closer look...

Gotta love it when they're this easy. I stuck a box underneath, shook the branch, closed it up and put it in the truck to go home. Ann, the owner, came out with my Pad Thai (unfortunately she hadn't held the peanuts as I asked, and I'm allergic, but oh well) and I was on my way.

It was such a small swarm I put them in a 5-frame nuc. A check today seems to indicate all's well; I won't actually open them up for two weeks, to give them a chance to settle in.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Home is Wherever You Find It

The adaptability of bees never ceases to amaze me. A recent swarm had gathered on a brick planter, and evidently someone swept it off--- because when I showed up, there was an abandoned broom on the sidewalk, and a load of bees here...

I figured the swarm was doomed at that point, so I didn't do a capture. that's my friend John's trailer, and he reported later that they actually started building comb inside the wheel chocks!

Meanwhile, I got a call from Kate out in Thousand Oaks about a hive in a fence. She didn't want to kill the hive, and it sounded like a fairly straightforward extraction (no ladder involved!), so I took my new bee-vac and decided to give it a try (I just bought one; prior to this I used a homemade version--- plans on Beesource.

I took a wrecking bar and pried a few fence boards off the middle 2x4 rail, and here's what I found:

Here's a closer look...

The new bee-vac worked quite well, although I think next time I'll damp down the suction a bit more--- I clobbered a fair number of bees, unfortunately. Still, I was able to rubber band the comb into medium frames, and I installed the crew in a medium with no entrance reducer for the time being, so they can all find their way in.

Noteworthy about this hive: lots of brood, capped and otherwise. But very little food stores, and literally no capped honey in spite of the huge flow going on right now. Leads me to believe this hive is a reasonably recent (within 21 days) swarm who took up residence in the fence and has literally been living hand-to-mouth, without enough resources to build up any reserves yet. Tomorrow I'll probably steal a frame or two of honey from one of my strong hives to help this one along.

All in all a fairly easy extraction, took about an hour total, so I only charged the show-up rate of $50. I do swarm captures at no cost, but I charge for hive extractions primarily because only 50% (at best) actually stay where I relocate them, and those that do stay--- well, it's not a sure thing that I was able to get the queen, while with swarm captures I nearly always get her.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Tremendous Honey Flow On

I haven't posted in awhile, mostly because this is fire clearance time and I have very little spare time to check on the hives. When I do, it's mostly to throw on supers, because thanks to a long rainy season and mild temperatures this spring, we've had a huge sage, yucca, salvia, hollyleaf cherry, and lemonadeberry bloom. And now, the buckwheat is coming out in full force. I'm out of frames; I'll be making a run into L.A. on Tuesday to pick up 40 medium frames, as I've still got 4 spare supers I can use.

One of the hives filled up a shallow super in 10 days! That was a swarm I caught in a swarm trap last year. The other hive that's going super strong is the one that used to be in the community garden; I've got three supers on them right now, and they'll need another soon.

Of the three swarms I've caught this season, two are doing quite well. In fact, I had to throw another deep onto one of them, making them a double-deep hive. The other is kind of stagnating as a small hive; we'll have to see how they do.