This week the Bee Team had a difficult task: cleaning the observation hive. This hive is unlike those seen on the roof of Lisner Hall. Located in Professor Doebel’s laboratory, the device is four frames high and two frames wide, meaning that a total of eight frames fit inside. As the name implies, this specialized type of beehive is made for students, researchers, and the general public to observe and learn about bee behavior and actions within the hive. Separated by security glass and a large wooden frame, there is very little chance for the bees to actually get into the lab.
Except when trying to clean it, which brings us to our next topic: how we did it.
The construct is heavy, and we needed our entire team’s help just to get it off of the base and onto a cart to bring to the roof. We had to plug the tube that connected it to the outdoors with cotton and cover the spot in the window that the tube connects to so that bees could not enter the lab. Once we got to the sixth floor of Lisner Hall, we slowly lifted it up the stairs, navigating it around the corners and onto the roof. Once there, we leaned it up against a wall, ensured that it was sturdy, removed the cotton from the pipe, and left for the night.
The next morning we quickly went to work cleaning the hive. We suited up and brought over the smoker. Unlike our other beehives, these bees are disturbed less (unless you consider pimply, snot-nosed humans peering in on you at home every day disturbing), so we were sure to pacify them as we removed the safety glass. We went straight to work, dividing up labor to ensure that they were not disturbed for very long. Ricky and I scrubbed the glass clean as Professor Doebel removed excess wax from inside the device. We cleaned the air holes to allow the bees to breathe (they had clogged them with wax) and replaced the upper four frames with new foundation so that they could gather more pollen and make more honey. In the end, it was several hours of work, but we were not done yet.
Later that night we came back to the hive, which was once again leaned up against the wall so that it would not topple over. We went backwards through the same arduous process that we brought it to the roof to bring it back into the lab, but this time things got a little more complicated. While trying to reattach the pipe to the outdoors, the bees came flooding into the lab. Katherine and I got into our bee suits and equipped insect nets, trapping and releasing as many bees as we could find. Ultimately, all of the bees were released, but not without casualties.
Learn from our mistakes.
1) Remember that bees do not like the color black, and unfortunately Ricky has black hair. Ricky was stung twice, once on his hand and, you guessed it, once on his head. Be sure to always wear a bee suit when inspecting hives.
2) ALWAYS WEAR A BEE SUIT. No matter how experienced you are, bees will always get angry if you mess with their home or threaten their family. Professor Doebel was stung seven times during this extraction.
Alas, even I was stung once today. The bee christened me on my inner arm; however, it stung me through my bee suit, so all of the poison did not enter my body. I was lucky. If there is anything to take from this story, just remember to bee safe.
To infinity and beeyond.