Monday, November 21, 2016

Musings on Bees in the Cemetery

I went for a walk the other Sunday to stretch my legs with Scooter, my dog. Of all the possible routes we could have taken, I decided to head for the town cemetery. I wanted to also go looking for some stingless bees. The cemetery is a good place for this. 

The older mausoleums begin to deteriorate and crack, so it gives the bees a place to enter the tombs. Most are small native stingless bees but occasionally you might find a colony of Africanized bees.

I didn’t even cover half of the cemetery. I found five colonies with four different varieties, including one with Africanized bees. 

The stingless bees got a little upset when I tried to get some photos of them. They started flying around and getting into my hair. They don’t sting but they do bite, sort of like an ant. Bothersome.

I won’t touch these bees, even though I would really like to have some of those stingless bee colonies (those are on my “to do/to have” list). There’s enough other ways to get bees, such as capturing swarms and splitting hives. 

Stingless bee colonies in the graves. One characteristic of many of them is the entrance tubes they make with a combination of wax and propoleos.

And there’s something that’s not quite right about entering a grave to get a colony of bees. It doesn’t sit well with me (and probably with most people for that matter). I’ve done it before, however, but at the request of the family. 

Many a year ago, a drunk guy pulled down the entrance plug of an old mausoleum in the town cemetery, which had cracked all the way around. This tomb had to be more than 50 years old. A colony of Africanized bees had moved into it. He wanted a bit of honey but instead got all stung up before high tailing it out of the cemetery. He left empty handed.

I was contacted to see if I could help. The colony had been causing problems anyways by stinging people when they would go to clean around the graves. Now it was opened.

It was a big colony and the first comb was right in the entrance of the grave, forming a wall of bees and wax that went from the top to the bottom. It was a bit bigger than two deep frames in size. There were about five of these before I got to the wooden casket. Some smaller combs continued over that. 

Two Langstroth boxes got filled with brood comb and bees. This old comb eventually got weeded out as the bees filled frames with new comb. The honey got dumped.

It’s kind of unnerving to go into a tomb but at times beekeepers are required to do this type of community service. I won’t go looking for the family of this newest mausoleum colony in order to ask them if I can remove it. But I suspect, if they come looking for me, I’ll say yes.

The mausoleum with the colony of Africanized bees. It looked like someone may have actually tried to remove the bees since the entrance plug is loose. But since there is no marker on the top part, maybe it’s empty—waiting to be filled.

Part of my plan was to find that first mausoleum to see if it had bees again. It’s in the old part of the cemetery, but I didn’t get that far. If I remember right, it got cemented shut but maybe it’s cracked again. It will have to wait for my next walk.


A simple mausoleum in the town cemetery. The stingless bees had their entrance tube coming out of the upper left edge of the rounded plug for this grave.

An old grave in the cemetery, unusual for its shape. It was the only one I saw like this. The marker had if dated in 1948.

Some graves are humbler, marked with a simple wooden cross. Others have a small metal fence around the mausoleum and shrubs or flowers planted.

For more posts about my bee adventures in the cemetery, see these past entries:

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