Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Bears and the Bees

Every summer bears venture down from the mountains into our north-east Pasadena neighborhood.   They are looking for food and every year there are reports of trash cans overturned or fruit trees raided.   From what I've heard, few people in the neighborhood ever actually see a bear and even fewer seem concerned about the animals.  Until this summer, I had experienced only one real bear encounter.  Early one morning a couple of years ago, our dog surprised a bear who scrambled up a tree and then watched me while I took his picture.  It was a fascinating morning. 

Well, this summer I had another bear encounter.   Actually, our bees suffered the encounter and I just watched.   Last year we kept bees without any incident.  No such luck this year.   Above is a photo of our little five-box high bee hive.  The hive had been healthy and happy all summer buzzing along and making honey.   At about 2 am recently I heard our dog barking and watched out the window as a bear stood on its hind legs, put its paws against the top of the hive and knocked it over.   The frames spilled out and the bear gorged itself on honey.  It was a sad, sad sight.

Amazingly, though, the hive survived, was put back together and moved to a new home.        



Bellis said...

I guess the bear is immune to bee stings? I'm sorry you lost your honey, but you made a bear very happy. I don't know how they survive in the wild at the moment - there's not much food around and many of the wild fruits aren't ripe yet. When I see bear poop it's full of undigested stone fruit and berries. The other day, one poop was also full of plastic bagging. Trash can raider!

How close to the foothills do you live?

Anonymous said...

Not sad for the happy happy bear!

Michael Coppess said...

Hi Bellis -- Good point about the bears' survival. I've talked to the Human Society and others about animals venturing down from the mountains. Whether by trash, fruit trees, small animals or bee hives, homes produce food for other animals. My impression is that more and more animals are feeding in our neighborhoods - and not just in the foothills. Incidentally, we are surrounded by houses, but within walking distance of open mountain area.

Anon - I imagine we made the bear's week. He's down looking for trash cans and scores a bee hive. Big night for the bear.

David Sneiders said...

Hear that is how bees hives are designed, honey (bribe) on outside, & brood (future) on inside center. Bears usually become satiated w/ the sweets & leave brood alone or stings deter em before further feasting on the nursery.

I haven't had bear issues w/ my bees but solved the skunk issues but now gophers been digging near hive stands. If not one thing its another,lol.

God bless your beekeeping operations & raising my cup to your copious honey harvests sans bears.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

Are all those bee corpses the result of death by stinging? Makes me wonder if Poo Bear is walking around with his eyes swelled shut. Hunger is a powerful drive if your willing to endure that kind of assault.

Michael Coppess said...

David is right on. In fact, this hive endured two bear attacks and remained functioning, meaning that queen remained alive and well protected. The bear got to the outside honey and massacred a raft of worker bees, but didn't get at the queen who was in the bottom box.

Michael Coppess said...

Good observation PA -- The photo shows the aftermath of quite a battle. The worker bees go after the attacker to protect the queen, brood and honey (which the bees need to survive over the winter). Once they sting, they die and I suspect the dead bees on the battlefield are those who gave their lives for the hive. The bear's fur is too thick to be affected by stings. But, its face can be stung and I've read that bears going after honey can get swollen faces from stings.