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Rescuing a hive attacked by bears - it’s Brenda’s job!

These hives were damaged by bears. (Brett Kent / For the Enterprise)

By Brett Kent / For the Enterprise

Welcome back to the Beehive. These past few weeks have turned out to be eventful ones. It started when we received a phone call from a woman named Sharon who lives southwest of Park Rapids. Sharon told me that she and her late husband used to be beekeepers. She said that she had since quit beekeeping and that all of her beekeeping equipment was stacked up under the eve of her garage.

Sharon went on to say that, a swarm of bees had moved into her empty hive boxes last summer. The swarm had done quite well and had actually survived the winter, and that she was looking forward to harvesting some honey from the hive this year.

Sharon went on to say that, the bears had found the hive and had tipped the boxes over. They had strewn the equipment all over and ruined many of the frames. Sharon had attempted to stack the boxes of bees back up, but had been stung several times in the process.

I could tell she was very upset by what had happened. I know a lot of you may not understand, but I will say that if you have ever been a beekeeper, and you have suffered a loss from bears, it is devastating. It is not so much the loss, or the cost of the equipment, but rather it is the emotional attachment to the bees.

I know this sounds strange, to some of you, but I know exactly what she was talking about. I will add that I have talked with many beekeepers over the past few years; most are not in this for the money. The hobbyist beekeeper of today is doing it to help the bees. During this struggle to keep your bees alive, you become very attached to these little critters.

When you have a hive attacked by bears, it rips your heart out.

Sharon explained that the bears had returned the following night and had done more damage. She was able to contact a neighbor, also a fellow beekeeper, and he had come over to help get the hive back together. The neighbor ran into some stiff resistance from some very aggressive bees. He got stung several times through his pants, so he had to give it up. So that’s when Brenda and I were called.

Brenda and I got our equipment together and headed towards Sharon’s house right after work, say about 5 o’clock. I was thinking on the way over to Sharon’s that these bees had been knocked around by the bears for three nights in a row and they have become extremely agitated.

So I was thinking I would have Brenda go in first. What? It’s not like she didn’t get to wear her bee clothes. I’m kidding. Stop. I’m kidding.

We drove into Sharon’s yard, and saw the damaged boxes the bears had destroyed. Our plan was use lots of smoke. Remember the smoke keeps the bees from communicating and sounding the alarm to defend the hive. So, I did the bold frontal attack with the smoker a-blazing. It looked like a Cheech and Chong movie.

The bees were more aggressive than we were used to, but not unmanageable. We were able to get the hive back together. I added a new bottom board and a deep hive box. I screwed the boxes together and the bees settled right in. We talked with Sharon and let her know that we would return right after dark. This would give the foraging bees time to return to the hive. Then we would move the hive.

Sharon was very appreciative. We could tell she was relieved, that the bees would be taken to a safe place.

Brenda and I returned just after dark. As we were driving down the driveway, I said “what if the bears are there now?”

Once again, I was thinking Brenda should go in first. I’m kidding. Brenda doesn’t listen to me anyway. Stop it. It is humor. The hive is doing great. I will have to save the next adventure until next time. You folks take care.