Friday, August 3, 2012

Feral Bee Extraction

The adventure started with a voicemail.  It said, "I have bees in the walls of a house and honey is dripping onto the floor.  Someone told me you may be able to help me."  So my instincts tell me I could score some free bees here, and start up a new hive.  Although I know absolutely nothing about feral bee extraction or carpentry...this still sounds like something I wanna get involved in.  So I make a few calls to some beekeeping buddies and we decide we are up for this adventure.  I am thinking maybe I need a little more knowledge on feral bee extraction.  So I watched a video or two on YouTube. Presto! Feral Bee Extraction Pro!

In the evening after work my two beekeeping buds and I head over to where the infested house is.  We have loaded up the truck with everything we could possibly need: bee suits, hives, frames, rubber bands, shop vac, tools, smokers, blah, blah, blah, the back of the truck is packed like the Beverly Hillbillies.  This is gonna be great.  We have 3 bee keepers with like 5 years of bee keeping experience between us, tons of tools and I watched a video on YouTube. This is gonna be easy is this.

We arrive at the house.  Things seem a little trickier than the video on YouTube.  First of all the bees are entering the house up on the ridiculously pitched roof right by where the electricity enters the house.  And oh yes the electricity is live.  After a few minutes with the caretaker of the house we determine that he is indeed drunk.  You may think this is bad.  Actually it is very fortunate for us, because a sober person would have never climbed up on that roof by live electricity, in a bee suit on a 100 degree day and start ripping siding off.  But this drunk guy would and did. 

After several test drill holes in the house we find where the bees are on the interior of the house.  Actually the walls were starting to look a little like Swiss cheese.  But we weren't charging these people and the house was a dump.  It turns out the bees are right above the stair well. So all we have to do in stand in the stair well, on a ladder, in a bee suit and drill with a circular saw over head.  Sounds easy.  As Bee bud, Barry attempts this I ready the plastic boxes.  He gets into the walls and starts handing honey comb down that is loaded with bees.  I take this outside and attempt to re frame it with rubber bands.  It actually worked pretty good. (Thank you YouTube.) I framed up about 8 frames and packed them in a super (beekeeper talk for box that the frames hang from).  It seems however, that there are many many more bees than we know what to do with.  We actually are not even near the heart of their hive.

Enter Beekeeping bud Lori.  She has spent the previous day rigging her shop vac with a mesh bag on the interior.  She hands her "bee vac" into Barry who keeps sucking bees.  He then hands it to guy on the roof and he sucks more.  To wrap this story up quickly....

There are just way too many bees, like millions, and they are also way in the interior of the roof and rafters.  We can't find the queen.  And without queen all the other bees that aren't removed with just return and start over.  After about 3 hours this fun adventure is really not fun anymore...just a lot of sticky work.  So we decide to take our mesh bags of bees, globs of honey combs, and sticky shop vac and head home.

I learned a lot that night:
  • Always bring a guy to a feral bee need someone to operate the power tools and lift the heavy stuff...thank you Barry.
  • Although the Shop Vac idea seemed like a winner...death toll was high.  It may not have been from high suction though as I original may have been that it was too late and dark to 'unbag' the bees that night and they had to spend the evening in the bags.
  • Be very sure you have your bee hood completely zipped.  I did not!
  • Sitting on the ground when in a bee suit is not a good idea if the legs don't have elastic.  Bees can enter here.
  • Feral bees seem to sting with more of an intensity than my 'domesticated' bees
  • And most importantly nothing is ever free.  Oh you will pay for it one way or another. 
After a couple weeks my new feral hive is struggling.  I just got them a queen.  There are down to about a hundred or so bees but seem to be accepting the queen.  Hopefully they will have time to hatch a batch of babies and store up some honey for the winter.  In the meantime they are living off the honey comb we extracted.

I had lots of messy honey comb that couldn't be framed up.  So I left it out in tubs and my other two hives of bees cleaned it up.  It was a good help to my one hive that is growing quickly and may need to be split.

It may seem like the whole adventure was pretty gruesome.  Actually it was!  The mortality rate was super high.  But any bee that I have in the feral high, I saved from extermination.  It turns out that the caretaker of the house had to spray and bomb the bees before he could have a contractor peel the walls and ceiling back so he could remove all the honey comb.


  1. This doesn't sound like much fun. I hope your feral hive makes it.

  2. If something sounded like the opposite of fun, this would definitely be it. Your new bee obsession, however, is fascinating in all of its directions.