14 Dec 2014

Possum box adventure - courtesy of Laurie

A group member Laurie submitted an extraordinary description of his adventure in converting a possum box full of bees into a Warre hive.   Thanks Laurie for sharing this with us, great stuff indeed.  We all look forward to future reports - how did it work.

Here it goes...

A Most Uncommon Problem
How to make a Possum Warre Hive

        Woz the swarm collector offered me an unusual bee colony as I had missed out on the swarm season. So, along with my neighbour (new to bee activities) we set off to Woz’s place in the hills to collect a rescued possum box and a nuc. The bees in the PB had already established their colony, so the issue was how to transfer them to a regular hive situation in the least disruptive way. Shouldn’t be too hard, I thought (I should have taken notice of the wry smile on Woz’s face) . So, we collected the two colonies, put them in the back of the car and following Woz’s suggestion, we kept our protective gear on for the journey. Good thing too, as we had missed a couple of holes in taping the PB up, and a few of the girls came out to party! Not a problem if the car has a boot, but mine is a hatchback! So we drove home surrounded by flying friends and laughing onlookers. So take note all ye bee gatherer – wear your gear for the trip home!

We put the respective boxes in the backyards and I went inside to do a bit of design work.

  I needed to make up an adapting collar to fit the PB to an existing Warre base as the box was slightly smaller. You can see from the photo of the PB that it needed modification to fit the collar. That required cutting off the entry cover, removing the base (glued and screwed) and cutting the right hand side at the base as it overlapped the bottom. All of this had to take place while the girls continued working through the large entry hole in the side.  So I made a collar to the exact dimensions of the base of the PB and allowed an overlap of a few mil to act as a water  runoff. Then came the process of cutting, chiseling and unscrewing to bare the base. I also left part of the overhang to protect from rain and sun. All went well and the PB fitted perfectly. Next problem was to block the large entry hole at the top and allow only entry from the base of the Warre. I screwed a side plate over the hole and waited – no bees came out where they were supposed to. I thought then that they may need a bit of training, so I drilled a 40 mil hole at the bottom of the box and waited again. Still no activity!

On closer inspection through the hole,I noticed a few leaves inside so I lifted the PB yet again onto the work bench and proceeded to extract 100 mil thick lump of possum bedding that was compressed in the base. It’s amazing what possums collect to make a comfortable bed!
Back went the PB onto its base and lo and behold, the bees came out and went about their business as though nothing had happened. The foragers returned from their activities and after flying around the old entrance for a while, made their way to the new front door.

 All of which goes to prove that they are very adaptable , having undergone several relocations, very intrusive noise and vibrations and extreme changes to their habitat while continuing to function as a colony.

 My next challenge is to ultimately get rid of the PB and turn it into a full Warre. One suggestion is to next year put a queen excluder between the boxes (making sure the queen is in the bottom box first) then clean out the top box and replace it. I welcome any suggestions from the group if you have any other ideas. In any case , it will be a long term process.

 Thanks to Woz for the opportunity to try something different. I imagine that this will be a one off, but it has been a most interesting challenge.

PS, the neighbours nuc transfer was a piece of cake!

Laurie Bradford
The Bee Group

Here goes the story.  Laurie submitted a series of photos, but these could not be shown in this post for reasons beyond the understanding of an ordinary lowly human, i.e. the editor.  Photos will be shown in the next post, if the software allows.  Have a look, it is worth it.

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