alex and the bee vac

A week-and-a-half-ago – a bit later than normal in the evening – and the treatment for Lyme disease was underway (it is now pointing toward something else – lupus or rheumatoid arthritis – both, of which, at the age of 30, I should not have) and the not-sleeping-well and the upset-stomach were on full assault modes. An email came in from a friend; it was a forwarding from a post to the UMD Farmers’ Market mailing list. Someone had a friend with a tree full of honey bees. They wanted the bees gone.

I called the number in the email and promptly asked for the wrong person; "I am sorry, you have the wrong number." NO! I did not have the wrong number, I was just an idiot and asked for the wrong person. I called back the next morning; I talked to someone else – I said I would stop over in the evening.

All day long, I kept thinking, "How am I going to remove these bees without destroying their tree?" During the day, I asked my friend Sam (often featured in the bee videos) to come along for the adventure; he agreed. I needed to get the bees out, though… A quick google search, and I found that, often, people will use specially constructed bee vacuums. I found some plans, but, I only had 45 minutes before I needed to be over to Sam’s to pick him up. I ended up pulling a Macgyver; i used an old five gallon pail, a set of old vacuum hoses & connectors, old screen from old windows we had in the garage, blue electrical tape, and electric fence wire. I also bought a new utility knife (it is now living in the Xterra), a roll of duct tape, and a plastic lid for the pail.

beevac 2k10

The connectors were put through holes in the pail, then screen was put around and in the connector that would be going to the vacuum. For taking me 30 minutes to make, and costing me $12 in parts, I think it was an overall success.

On the way to find the house, Sam and I turned into the wrong driveway; we were greeted by a pack of pomeranians and a fat dachshund. A cooky, elderly man, smoking a cigarette greeted us. "What you boys looking fir?," he puffed. I explained what we were up to and the address we were looking for; he pointed us down the road and called off the pack of dogs. Sam thought that, up to that point, it was the best part of the adventure.

The bees were located in a large frost crack in one of the family’s basswood trees. The main opening was 3/4" wide, but the crack ran several feet up the tree. Bees were all around in the air. I got to work and began sucking the bees into the pail. The man, seeing me put nearly an entire 4′ stick into the frost crack, went and got a large 90 degree heavy duty drill with a Forstner bit in it. I punched a hole into the tree and a wave of bees came out. Vacuuming them all the while. More holes were punch further up the tree; it appears that two feet up from the main entrance, the crack inside the tree widened significantly; this is where the majority of the bees were located.

We were there until just before sundown, and overall, about a pound of bees were pulled from the tree. The owner had me spray the remaining bees in the tree with foaming wasp killer. He was really freaked out by all the bees.

It was dark by the time I got Sam dropped off at his house, and then got back to my place. With a flashlight, I took an empty super with frames and poured the feral bees into it. Laying newspaper over this, I put the super containing the Minnesota Hygienic Italians on top; I also put an entrance reducer in place for the feral bees.

On June 26, 2010, I checked the hives. There were more MH Italians than before the requeening; this was a good sign. They also did not appear to be as many drones; this was also a good sign. In the bottom super, the one where the feral bees had been put, there were very few dead bees. There were holes in the newspaper where bees from either side of it had chewed through; it appeared that the merger of the two hives had completed. In the top super, there was a definite mixed variety of bees. The feral bees were nearly all black while the existing MH Italians were more golden.

Parting note: I have been lining up more people in the region who would like me to or are willing to have their chicken flocks photographed.