I’m sitting again in a derelict parking lot off the interstate as I await the arrival of a nondescript truck pulling a white trailer, wondering whether the late night run last year with my husband or this solitary dreary raining afternoon is better. I imagine the outcome depends on whether this package of bees survives the winter or I’m sitting in this same neglected parking lot again next year. I definitely do not believe that all three-pound packages of bees are exchanged under circumstances that would inspire a horror novel or criminal charges for possession with the intent to distribute, but, thus far, I have experienced no other exchange.
Looking around the parking lot, the mood is different from last year; the cold rain prevents the mingling of beekeepers who had congregated in groups under light poles to share stories and strategies and words of wisdom. Even if no one is gathered together, the beekeepers are still easy to identify as they pull into parking spaces and remain in their parked cars, occasionally rolling down windows to confirm the accuracy of the location as they drive past. Just like bees, beekeepers are averse to cold rain, each of us content to warm herself in the comfort of her own hive, sipping away at something sweet. Then in a sudden whirl of white, the trailer is parked, and beekeepers emerge from their cars to stand in line as they patiently pick up this year’s dreams.
I have really missed the hubbub of activity in the corner of the yard, so the pleasant droning of the bees was such a treat to hear again (the cats liked it too). Although I would never inspect a hive on a cold, rainy day like today, installing the bees can be a different matter. I had planned to wait until the rain let up, but this week’s weather forecast is beyond bizarre; we decided to quickly install the bees rather than let them wait for the capricious Kansas weather.
Except, of course, nothing is ever simple.
The hive with its drawn comb that we had carefully disassembled and stored earlier this winter to prevent wax moths laying eggs in the comb and destroying it… had wax-moth larvae in the comb. I’m not sure whether the wax moths had laid eggs while the hive was weak and unable to defend itself or they wormed their way in while we had stored the comb in the garage. Either way, they had a little party in the comb. Jerks.
Wax moths are pests that sneak into the hive at night if the sentinel bees do not adequately do their job. The adult moths will lay their eggs and depart before dawn. The larvae then eat their way through the comb, leaving behind fluffy debris and slimy poop and wrecking everything in their paths. Infestations can wipe out a hive, but luckily we caught the damage before it became too extensive.
When storing your drawn comb, the only sure fire way to prevent a wax moth larvae infestation is by keeping the comb in a freezer. We don’t exactly have much real estate in our freezer, so this isn’t really a feasible option for long-term storage of surplus comb. Instead, we scraped out the comb that was damaged (happily displacing some angry looking larvae) and put the undamaged and least damaged comb in the first brood box. From there, we will freeze the remaining combs in rotated batches, and hopefully this year’s hive will be strong enough not only to survive the year, but also to kick some serious tush. After all, I don’t want to have to explain to a police officer why I’m loitering in a parking lot at some bizarre hour next year. So, my bees have to kick some tush this year. Just not my tush.