Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Extracting bees

Last week I got a call from a guy who had a swarm move into a pillar on his front porch and start building a hive. "I've got grandkids. I can't have bees there." I reassured him that the bees weren't dangerous and said I'd try to find someone to help remove them. That someone was Michael, with his BeeVac.
Yes, a bee vaccuum. Who knew? The first time I heard of it, I laughed. It's got enough suction to pull a bee in, but not enough (you hope) to really injure her.
Some people refuse to use BeeVacs, preferring instead to remove the comb and string it up in a hive box, then brush as many bees in as possible and wait for the rest to follow on their own. That would have been very simple to do in this case (and saved the bees' work for them), but I can see the appeal of expediency.

Michael does try to be as gentle as possible.

Bees that are established in a spot are usually trickier to remove than a swarm because they have a babies and stores to defend, and may have built out a significant amount of comb that will need to be removed as well. If you leave the comb behind, it will attract all manner of pests (including, possibly, another swarm of bees).
But these girls were very mild-mannered. Neither Michael nor I was wearing any protective gear, nor did we need it. Emptying the hive took about 45 minutes. The girls were all together and headed off to a new adventure in someone's backyard hive.
I felt sorry for them in their undoubtedly great confusion.

As Michael was putting everything away, I saw workers coming in from the field with full pollen baskets, alighting on the pillar and looking completely lost. Can you imagine?

Happily, when Michael realized it was more than just a few bees, he hooked the vac up again and was able to nab a couple dozen stragglers.
Here's some of their comb. It's so new and white! Older comb turns yellow, then black, as countless bees walk all over it. Some of this comb had honey in it, other parts had pollen.

And the honeycomb that looked empty was anything but. I've enlarged a section for you:
You can click on the picture to make it even bigger. And what do you see in each cell? That's a bee egg! The queen was a busy girl.

And I hope she and her workers are now happily settled in again.


  1. I just wanted to say that all of the bee posts have been fascinating. We're thinking about maybe getting some bees down the road (chickens are first on the list) and this has been great reading. Thanks!

  2. Yes, I must agree with Wendi-- these bee posts are absolutely fascinating and very informative! Thanks again for a great post! :o)

  3. Each new adventure is just so full of information! Question: why didn't you add these ladies to your own colony? Too many? Would this group compete with the already established group in your hive? I hope you didn't already explain this somewhere and I missed it (have you noticed how often this happens in blogs...the answer to a reader's question is somewhere but b/c we all skim-read so much these days a lot is missed).

  4. KB, I agree. The bee posts are fascinating. What a cool hobby.

  5. I'm impressed with your photo of bee eggs. It's amazing that these little insects can make a honey comb that looks so perfect.


  6. Glad you guys are enjoying these adventures!

    Wendi, I was tempted to try chickens, but went with bees first, since you don't need a bee-sitter when you go out of town, and bee-houses take up less space. Someday, though, maybe!

    Pam, I hadn't covered that, no. ;-) It's possible to combine bees, but only if you get rid of (or lose) one of the queens. This group had a good, laying queen, so it was better to rehive them in their own space.

    Diane, it is amazing, isn't it? And this comb is actually a little mushed and degraded around the edges of the cells because it was handled and was melting a bit.

  7. THAT is SO cool. I love the comb enlargement.

  8. simply beautiful pics and awesome video! first time i had seen a bee vaccum in action. i can see how it could be useful and looks like the bees fair well with it! thanks for sharing! hugs :)