Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Bee Adventure

Last weekend we noticed there were honey bees moving into our porch ceiling. I had wanted a hive (at some point) and so at first was pretty excited. Then I learned this was potentially very bad. After doing some reading it became clear we needed to act quickly before the bees established themselves. We tried to find help from other beekeepers but everyone was busy, so we were on our own. The time for action had come.

I borrowed some equipment and made ready to remove the bees. The plan was to smoke the bees, open up the ceiling and relocate the bees to a box. From the box, I hoped to establish the bees in a hive in the back yard. I prepared by building a bee vac, donning the suit, and lighting the smoker.

As I opened up the eave, I smoked the bees so that they were not worried about me and were busy trying to save the honey. When I finally got the eave opened up, I was amazed by what I found.

It was now time for the Bee Vac. This is a simple device which uses a shop vac to suck up bees, but does not kill them. This was key since the idea was to relocate them to a hive in the back yard. My bee vac consisted of: a cardboard box with a small shop vac on one side and a hose on the other. Inside the box was a wire screen to keep the bees in the box, and not let them go into the vacuum. The box was duck taped up to make it more or less air tight.

As I vacuumed, I was also collecting the comb and putting it in a bucket. The comb needed to be saved and put into the bee hive so that the bees would know that was home. Most of the comb was white and empty, but some of it had honey. When the bees are filling the comb with honey it means they are established, and reproducing.

One of the tips I read about the bee vac was not to apply too much suction or you would kill them all. So, I was not able to suck up every bee, but tried to get the majority of the colony. The key was to get the queen. Without the queen there is no colony. So I did my best to get all the bees and comb, and then we headed out to the destination bee box.

I removed the center four frames and put the comb from the house into the box. Next I took the cardboard box and cut a hole in the bottom and placed it on top of the bee box. Then I tied it down, to secure it from the wind.

The idea is that the bees will find their way out of the cardboard box and into the bee box. There they will find the comb, decide that's home and then carry on with their business.

We are still waiting to see what the out come of all this will be because there are four possible out comes. I'll list them from best to worst. 1) The queen is in the box, decides she likes it and I have a bee hive in the back yard. (honey!!) 2) The queen is in the box, decides that it sucks and moves out. 3) The queen died in the move and the workers will wander around until they die in a few days. 4) the queen is still in the house and will rebuild her colony in a harder to access place (very bad).

It's too early to tell, but I am very hopeful we'll have a hive in the yard. When I checked today there seemed to be good orderly bee business taking place out there. However there are still quite a few bees buzzing around the porch. Truthfully I'd take any outcome but number four. More on this later when we know more.

PS. Sorry for the lack of chicken posts, but the girls are doing well and growing a lot. They are very chicken like now and nearly egg laying age. They have a large run, and have had access to the entire backyard on more than one occasion. On a sad note, we are morning the first loss: a barred rock hen died last night, and Sheridan lost our trust.



April said...

Great story! I was on the edge of my seat as I read, and the pictures were great, too. I'm rooting for you! I hope the queen survived and likes her new digs!

I'm curious to hear why it would be so terrible to have bees setting up shop in your roof. I get that it is annoying, but would love to hear more on why this is BAD news.

Whitney said...

It would be bad because the honey will attract wasps, ants and all kinds of other fun things to deal with! Plus, the moisture can cause mold and rot, eventually ruining the boards and structure. It seems like such a nice idea to share our home with bees but it would end badly! We just want them to enjoy their private cabin in the backyard :)

April said...

Ah, that totally makes sense.

Don Rota said...

I love your pics and daily journals, makes me want to move out of Leominster.

If you really wanted to - you could build an indoor hive, with one side glassed-in, so you could watch them all day, - even in the Winter. They might even help heat your home. (is sugar water cheaper than oil/gas? ) You just need a pipe to the outside of the house for an exit, though with all the other fauna that live in hives now, that part might be a little creepy. ;^)

I'm planning on putting hives in my back yard this year, and I'll be taking a course at the end of January. (though given all the videos on youtube, I'm not sure if I'll learn a lot more in the class or not.) There are even some good ideas to make simple swarm traps to hang in your yard... This is a great one!: and , (to help you catch bees when your own hives swarm - this way you won't have to fish them out of your house. You can also use the flower pot trap for a neighbor's tough tree swarm using a rope, hoist it up to the swarm and come back the next day.)

I don't have the luxury of space here in Leominster, MA, but at least I got the 'OK' from our zoning/ordinance board and animal control folks (one of which is also a bee keeper).

Thanks for blogging! Its great to listen to your journey.