Hello Fellow Readers,
We had a near stinging episode from a garden pot begging for its annual dressing; a task not yet done due to a humbling hand procedure gratefully on the mends. A client grew tired of deer spraying and passed along Hosta which I nested in the pots as a temporary measure. When Curt was helping to dig them in, a slew of yellowjackets emerged. “Run,” he yelled and run we did. Thankfully avoiding their sting. Curt’s experience with the stealth aggression of yellowjackets now qualifies him for an EpiPen. “They’re dirty bees,” the doctor explained when in truth yellowjackets are predatory wasps that feed largely on insects including garden pests. But their garden benefits can be dangerous if their nests are disturbed, many of which are hidden underground.
At first glance, yellow jackets and honeybees look similar. However, yellowjackets have distinctive yellow and black bands while honeybees sport brown and yellow. Plus, honeybees are hairy and readily collect and disperse pollen as they go from flower to flower. Yellowjackets are hairless. Don’t hold that against them though. So is Curt. (Sorry dear, I couldn’t resist.) They still can serve a pollinating role when hunting for insects or when seeking sugar from nectar in late summer preparing for next year’s queen.
In February, my lifelong friend Linda in California shared their sixty-year-old olive tree is packed with honeybees. I remember during a visit convincing her the tree, though technically too close to the front door, should remain. The tree has such character with multiple gnarly trunks bursting into a dense green canopy offering a shady seating spot below. Now with all the bee activity, there’s no sitting under the tree. More problematic is their dog Sugar had a near death experience when she was stung.
In the spirit of saving the important pollinators rather than extinguishing them with pesticides, Linda sought out a bee relocation company. They closed the openings in the tree then installed a metal mesh cone that allowed the bees to exit the hive but not reenter. The estimated hive of 20,000 bees were enticed by pheromones to enter a temporary box hive below the tree.
I checked in on Linda to learn the bee status. Four months later they are still there. The first box of pheromones didn’t attract them and it turns out Linda’s honeybees “acted oddly,” according to Dan the bee man of We Save Bees who never saw anything like it. After seven visits to seal up entries, each time the bees managed to find a way into their hive by digging in the ground. Linda described the bubble of bees working and the “bee pile of the lazy buggers who opted out of the dig.” It turns out theirs was a subterranean hive in the underground caverns around the roots. At last it seems they’ve managed to plug up all the entries.
There’s now an estimated 50,000 honeybees in the box hive ready to be relocated to Temecula, CA where they will work on a farm. “I have enjoyed my bee experience and will miss the little guys,” wrote Linda who added, “Were it not for Sugar I would have set up a hive and officially become a bee keeper!”
Garden Dilemmas? Askmarystone@gmail.com
Need to relocate a honeybee hive? Your local Beekeepers Association can guide you in finding bee relocating providers; many who are beekeepers themselves. Many don’t charge for their service, though they advise there are often repairs the homeowner will have to make after the bees are removed. In our neck of the woods, contact The Lehigh Valley (PA) Beekeepers Association or the Northwest NJ Beekeeper’s Association.