Hive Drive

| April 07, 2005

“By keeping the temperature even, around 38 degrees, the bees can stay in the reefer longer than you might want them on a flatbed. Obviously that’s an advantage in really hot weather,” he says.

“A trucker can also use them as a kind of staging point. He can leave the reefer running and go out and collect less-than-truckloads of colonies.”

Reefers work best in fall or winter when the outside air temp is closer to reefer temperature. Because bees keep inner hive temperatures about 92 degrees, the reefer can be hard to keep chilled.

Dave Miksa says that in the old days many beekeepers did their own hauling rather than rely on drivers who knew little or nothing about bees on flatbeds.

Beekeepers, he says, want to avoid drivers who “treat our loads as if they were just another load of steel or engine parts, drivers who leave the load and go home for a day, drivers who really don’t care whether the bees live or die.”

It took Meuchel two and a half days to haul his bees from Wisconsin to a pasture on Groveland farm. Accompanying him on every haul is Digger, a small black dog as enthusiastic for his life on the road as his master.

On this trip, Meuchel was hauling 45,000 pounds of honey bees on a 45-foot trailer. With the big trailer, he can get six more pallets of bees and run closer to his maximum. “I watered them every evening, somewhere at the back of the truckstop. If it’s too cold, I don’t mess with them at all because water can do a lot of damage,” says Meuchel.

The Miksas like Meuchel’s professionalism. He comes with his own bees suit, an indication of his dedication. “With the suit I can be in charge of the loading and unloading,” says Meuchel. “I can be sure everything is secure and the weight is right and the axles are right. A driver that doesn’t know bees just waits for the owner to load and drives away. That can be harmful to the bees and bad news for the driver if the owner really doesn’t know the dynamics of a trailer and the loading isn’t done right.”

Don’t Be Johnny Cash

Dark clothing, vibrations and quick movements can irritate a swarm

What do you do if your find yourself surrounded by a swarm of bees? You could heed the advice of Dr. Marion Ellis of the University of Nebraska.

“Bees are only defensive in the vicinity of their hive,” says Dr Ellis. “When foraging, their only instinct is to get away and return to their hive. But bees will defend their home and their food supply. Things that trigger defensive behavior around the hive include vibration, rapid movement and dark colors. The worst case imaginable near a colony would be Johnny Cash, “The Man in Black,” on a riding lawnmower, bumping into hives and swatting at the bees with his guitar.

“Do not attempt to open a hive unless you have a bee smoker that produces a lot of smoke. The smoke causes bees to load their honey stomach with honey and become disinclined to fly. Smoke also inhibits the bees’ ability to communicate alarm to their nest mates via chemical signal that guard bees release when the hive is disturbed.”

Veteran bee farmer Dave Miksa says that in addition to wearing light colors, he tries to avoid perfume, colognes or hair sprays, bright lights and loud noises.

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