A couple of weeks ago, The Bartlett Bee Whisperer got a call from Bobbie Wilkerson, another beekeeper, with an invite to help the Tunica County Soil and Water Conservation District with a Continuing Education seminar they were putting on for some of North Mississippi’s teachers. The obligation, put together 4 hours of intelligent material about honey bees! Oh yeah! This was an exciting, but also intimidating opportunity.
Oh! There’s the queen!
Display hive. Yes those are honeybees.
Although we have spoken in classroom setting with students, this was totally different. Teaching teachers! Need it be said again??? 4 hours! We already have a lot of photos of bees and shots of the amazing stuff we do with honey bee rescue and relocation services in the Mid-South. But… It was time to hit the books and type up a logical, non-kid presentation that would keep adults, not only awake, but interested, and asking questions. So we hit the books to gather “teacher-worthy” information about these marvelous creatures. It was also time to visit the bee yard and picked up 5 frames of brood, a marked queen and load them up into the display hive, making sure the queen was in the upper slot between the plexiglass.
Class time with The Bartlett Bee Whisperer.
To the elementary and high school students in North Mississippi, your teachers have to continue going to class just like you do! The more they learn, the better they can help you learn about the world around you. Oh, and by the way, no one fell asleep in my class. They laughed at the right time and went “Ugh!” at the right time. They listened. We hope you listen also and do well in this upcoming school year. The world is open with wonders for you to learn about, new things to do and see. Pay attention, listen and continue learning.
Thanks go out to the TCSWD District Administrator, JoAnn Ware, and to all those who helped bring in equipment, set up the projector and put together the whole CEU program at the Tunica Museum.We had a BLAST!
Honey tasting time!
I’ve had a few requests to explain how I put cut comb into frames to save brood when I remove bees from homes. So here are a few photos.
First, we take an empty brood frame and crisscross 2 rubber bands from corner to corner, on the same side of the frame. (Yes rubber bands bring out the kid in me. It’s a little hard to use them with gloves, but you can still pop your helper when he’s not looking.)
Empty frame with 2 rubber bands crisscrossed.
Second, the frame is laid on top of a piece (or a couple of pieces) of foundation, rubber band side down. This will act as a base for the cut brood comb to lay on while a second set of rubber bands are crisscrossed over the top of the comb. Most of the time the comb has to be cut to fit into the frame. Be sure to lay the comb in vertically as it was hanging in house or tree. Honey bees won’t work comb that is upside down, while eggs, larva and honey will fall out. Additional bands can be used to hold the comb in place. Try not to pop the comb or bees. They don’t like it and will tell your helper all about it, by crawling into his veil and whispering with their stingers near his ears…
Comb being laid into the frame.
The final framed comb looks kinda like this. The additional bands can be added across the top of the comb or vertically as needed. By the time the rubber bands break down, the bees will have added enough of their own wax to secure the combs in place.
Finished product with comb secured.
Honey bees rarely build comb on the outside of a trees in Tennessee. That’s why these photos are pretty cool.
Bees ON a tree instead of in one.
Because there were so many observers, I smoked the bees a little to make them easier to work and less apt to fly out at everyone. We ended up with 3 households and 4 dedicated kids anxiously watching the whole event. I pondered if I should start charging admission fees at colony removals. Did Steven Spielberg start this way???
A little smoke to calm them.
Because these bees had built comb, they were no longer a swarm, but were now a colony. Their benign attitude as a swarm changes to defense mode as a colony; they have honey and brood to protect. NO ONE GOT STUNG. But I donned the suit anyway.
Cutting the comb flat to fit in a brood frame.
The comb was cut from the tree and added to a nuc (nucleus) box. Then we waited for the stragglers to find the box and move in.
Bees crawling up the side to get into their new home.
Monday, the Commercial Appeal ran an article about KILLER BEES in Tennessee as a follow-up to a farmer getting killed in Moody, TX. It’s a shame that the term KILLER BEES was ever used to describe the Africanized honey bee. All bees sting in defense of their hives. This breed is just faster to sting and does so with more bees.
What most people fail to realize is that just about every hives south of the border is Africanized, yet people still go to Cozumel and Rio for vacation and come back without being killed by KILLER BEES… The beekeepers down there manage KILLER BEES as their honey producers and pollinators.
Yes, that breed of bees is more aggressive, but the take away on this article should be, if you have bees on your property, in your house or in a tree, call someone who is trained to remove them (like me). Don’t try to kill them yourself (unless you really do know what you’re doing) and don’t flip out running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Running around willy nilly never really helped anyone.
Whether the bees are Africanized, Russian or whatever, beekeepers everywhere are dealing with aggressive hives the way they always have. When a hive is overly aggressive, it can be fixed by replacing the aggressive traited queen with a queen with milder behavioral traits. That’s really what we do.We re-queen the hive with a more docile queen. Within 6 weeks, all the mean bees die out and the hatching brood from the new queen are more mellow. It’s the Zen of beekeeping, and it really works.
One of my hives had gone queen-less. I introduced a queen cell from a friend. She hatched out and took her maiden flight. She did not come back. She may have been eaten by a bird or got lost on her way back. Instead of purchasing a new queen, I have introduced a frame of brood from one of my peaceful, productive hives. The workers have started raising up new queens.Because queens is so much larger than the other bees, house bees have to elongate the waxed cells around the growing queens. The flat capped cells are workers and the peanut shaped cells extending from the comb are queens. In about a week the queens will hatch. The first out will find and kill her siblings. Here are photos of the new queen cells.
Three capped queen cells with capped and open worker cells.
For many in Mid-town Memphis, Young Avenue Deli is a staple for lunch and/or dinner. Would you believe they support saving the honey bees also??? Gotta love Tiger and the guys! I was called last night about a swarm of honey bees in a tree across Young Avenue. Their customers were watching from the deli patio as the bees were taken from the tree. They got the show of a lifetime, and a few laughs also. As the bees were shaken from the limb to a cardboard box, they left the box and returned to the limb. We finally had about 5 lbs. of bees in one box (taped securely), another with about 3 lbs. and a bucket with the queen and the remaining stragglers.
Very large swarm 20+ ft. up in the tree.
The bees stayed in a box overnight and while there they… They set up shop.
5 palm-sized combs started by the bees
After emptying 2 boxes and one bucket, they are entering their new home.
Deli bees in their new home
Today was our first Honey Bee Presentation of the year. Anita, with Wee Care Child Care in Memphis, called to schedule us for part of their summertime training for the kids. No photos of the kids (for their security). We took our demonstration hive and the kids went nuts! Good nuts. Hands were in the air and mouths were flapping. They just couldn’t help themselves. It was great!
Arlene, Anita, Suzanne and The Bartlett Bee Whisperer
I took my nephew, Wesley to help lug in all the equipment. He has helped with several honey bee removals in Memphis, Cold Water, Collierville and Germantown, but has always had a veil between him and the bees (except the ones that stung him when he wasn’t looking). With the new demonstration hive he got right up into the girls and had as much fun as the kids did. Go for it Wes!
How close is too close???
This tree has had honey bees in it for years. The current home owner saw them, but was entirely surprised when they decided to swarm out one day. “It was like they were flying around aimlessly, and then this conflagration of bees went off and didn’t come back.” Here is a photo of the tree. The rotten wood has been removed to better access the colony.
Full shot of a 7 ft. tree colony.
Bees from this tree were removed previously by heavily smoking it. Access holes were drilled into the base of the tree facilitating the smoke out. This smoking blackened the inside of the tree. At other locations the comb fell and desiccated. But, it did not kill the bees that remained. The blacken honey comb remained as did the queen and some bees, enough to set up shop in the tree again.
Heavily smoked comb and wood.
- New comb on the left. On the right, evidence of the old comb that fell after the smoke out.
After the comb was removed and boxed up, returning field bees and workers form the tree gathered above the entrance of the tree. They were quickly vacuumed and removed also.
Bees gathering at the top of the hive entrance.
I took my wife with me to be my flunky. She took her latest copy of People to read. Trust me. When you’re sitting on top of a ladder, it’s nice to have someone else available to run around getting tools and other things for you (She’s pretty patient, most of the time). Running up and down a ladder may be great fun at the gym, but when you’re bundled up in a bee suit and dripping with honey and wax, it really is nice to just sit in place and have someone else get things for you.
So here is the bee removal with which she helped:
Deb and Paul Parker called several pest control companies for help with a bee issue. One of them, Foundation Pest Control, told them to call us. Thanks guys! This photo is above their entryway. If you were walking up to their front door and could make it past the bees flying in and out, the bees would be about 10 feet above your left shoulder as you rang their doorbell.
I removed the ceiling area where the bees were and found the bees farther to the left, above the stone wall.
I then vacuumed the hanging bees out of the way to get a better idea of what needed to be done. What is not shown well in the photos is that the spot directly below the colony… has no bottom! That’s an empty void! Any comb cut, and not caught, would’ve fallen all the way down. Or put another way, the bees had about 12 cubic feet of space (straight down) to build in. They also had that same amount of space going to the right 3 more feet, for a total of about 36 cubic feet of space for their new home!!! I had to use blank foundation to catch the combs as I removed them.
Here is a closer look at the pristine white comb, the nectar being converted to honey, and the new brood being covered with tan cappings.
One final look and photo op, a few bees to vacuum, and then we were done. Julie was a trooper for it all, and I believe she finished her People…
We are still getting calls on honey bee swarms. Shirley Bilger found our website and called because these girls had moved to her tree.
One of the family members is highly allergic. So the bees must go. Here’s a closer view of some very peaceful honey bees.
A little sugar water and a good saw go a long way in recovering a swarm of bees. I misted the girls with the sugar water, then swept them into my ventilated trap bucket.
Here is the now bee-less tree.