"My morning starts in the garden," I tell my family audience. "I come down the stairs to two soft- brown, white-spotted, baby deer. The guinea hens run past. A little gray bunny hops out from under a clump of golden raspberry bushes. The bees buzz from the hive to the flower fields beyond."
"You sound like Snow White," my son-in-law says, and I'm tickled that anyone could see me as Snow White, living in a fairy tale in a magical garden.
But one day, the allusion bursts-- a snake pops up just long enough for me to startle and cringe. On another day, I spy two foxes exploring the hill below the fence. I crouch and wait. If I didn't know they were foxes, I'd think they were just two dogs--two naughty dogs whom I suspect have been terrorizing my bees.
A queen is an absolute necessity for a hive's survival. On several hive inspections, I had seen the queen, but she wasn't laying eggs. The hive was doomed. Previously, I had heard a bee expert say that a troubled hive was often terrorized by skunks or foxes, who would stand at the hive entrance and scratch at the hive. The bees would rile, fly out to attack, but end up in the mouth of a predator. My non-laying queen couldn't fulfill her critical function in such circumstances--or so I hypothesized.
As I watched the foxes, I thought back to the times I'd come out to the bee yard and noticed things were amiss. An entrance blocker had been pushed back into the hive and items behind the hive were strewn around the front. Hmmmm. I needed a plan to outfox the foxes.
I filled a low and open box with sand and placed it beneath the hive entrance and waited. One day, I had my evidence: a fox footprint in the sand. My suspicions confirmed.
Since my discovery, I've found the foxes have not only been tormenting my bees but the dog up the street, an old border collie, who'd perplexed his owners by nervously hiding his bones, digging them up, then frantically burying them again. One day, the boarder collie's owner looked out her kitchen window to see the fox stretched out on the back lawn chewing her dog's bone.
I think I've easily outfoxed the foxi (not the correct plural form of fox, but I like the way it sounds). I took chicken coop fencing and placed it around the entrance to the hive, and it should keep the foxi away--but I'm leaving the sand tray, for I know the battle isn't over. I recently watched Zootopia, and saw how sneaky and clever a fox can be.