Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke


beesWhen I got home from work (and junketing all over the Valley) this afternoon, what should I discover in the backyard but a young colony of bees flitting in and out of the compost bin!

Dang! They must have only just moved in, because I tossed some leaves from the pool in there yesterday or the day before.

I love bees. But unfortunately, here in Arizona virtually all wild colonies are now Africanized, and we have had a number of incidents where humans and pets have been seriously injured after annoying some of the little ladies.

So I called a beekeeper. Explained that they’re in my organic compost bin and I really, really don’t want the compost sprayed with some evil chemical. And that’s when I started to learn a lot more about bees than I imagined I already knew.

To start with, over the phone I couldn’t explain what the compost bin looks like clearly enough that he could visualize it. He said normally a beekeeper can remove a colony if it’s still swarming, but once the bees have taken up residence inside a nest, it’s usually too late. However, he added, if they’re in something moveable that you can throw a big plastic bag over, you might get away with it. I think that describes the composter, but my description of it was pretty fuzzy.

Otherwise, he said, the preferred way to eliminate an established colony is soap and water, which should do no harm to the organic compost. Truly evil pesticides are the last resort.

Composter cum bee hive

Composter cum bee hive

I said this compost bin has a little hinged hatch you open to drop in vegetable matter, and that’s where the bees were squeezing in to their plastic “cave.” It had occurred to me that if I waited until after dark, when the bees are asleep, I could tape it shut with duct tape. In time, they’d die.

Problem is, said he, bees don’t “sleep” in quite the way we think of sleep. Bees rest. He was afraid that if there was more than one hole to tape up and if I didn’t work very fast, they’d come pouring out of there the minute they were even slightly disturbed. I allowed as to how there were four, not one, slits around the hatchway, and that it would take a few seconds to cover each. He regarded this scheme as risky.

So tomorrow he’s going to come over and see what he can do. I hope he doesn’t have to assassinate the little critters. One way or the other, it’s going to cost me $125…so, good-bye to all those pennies I’ve been pinching by way of storing up for the allegedly pending layoff. Yacan’t win for losin’, eh?

Photo of bees in cereus bloom: Mila Zinkova

Author: funny

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  1. Could you get a few people over and tape up all the entrances at once? That would work if you’re sure there are no other entrances to the hive. Also, it might take a while for them to all die.

  2. Oh man, that sucks. I love bees. It sounds like these bees are going to die. I have to agree with the beekeeper, with Africanized bees you don’t want to DIY and risk them pouring out and attacking you. Live and learn. I noticed in that link you posted there was a section on bee-proofing your property to avoid wild swarms, but who could have predicted an invasion of a composter? Amazing.

  3. Interestingly, too, he says that once a colony of bees has moved in to a spot, even after they’re gone future bees are attracted to it, because the first colony leaves its scent there.

    I’m hoping he can pick up the composter and take it to where he can extricate the bees without hurting himself or anyone else. It turns out that not all Africanized bees are of a kind: some are less fierce than others. If a relatively mellower bee is at hand, then they can “Europeanize” the hive by transferring them to a manmade structure, removing the queen, and replacing her with a European queen that has been fertilized by a European drone. They acclimate the rest of the bees to the queen by putting her in a little bee cage whose entrance has been plugged with a marshmallow. By the time the worker bees eat their way through to the queen (whom of course they’re intent on killing), they realize she’s the only queen in there and accept her. Then they care for and raise her offspring, with the result that in a season the whole worker population has been replaced by European bees.

    One way or another, keeping them out of the composter should be easy: just roll it over to the hatch is on the bottom and the stuff in the composter blocks the cracks around it.

  4. Remember the bees are dieing quickly and if we’re not careful they’ll become endangered. Why try to kill them when there are solutions to have them (and the compost bin) removed so they can continue pollinating our flowering plants, fruit trees, veggies and all.

  5. Actually, one of the guy’s early proposed strategies was to remove the bin. However, when he saw the way it was constructed, he decided (wrongly!) that they probably had built their new hive on the underside of the lid. He felt it was too dangerous to open or move the bin, because it would enrage the little ladies and cause them to come pouring out–not necessarily all over him, because he had the bee costume, but that they could harm any passers-by. The bin was directly next to a sidewalk, separated only by a fairly low wall.

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