Last Friday was a long day for this webmaster! I joined the Whisperer around 10 am, and we set out to complete a few chores before beginning the day’s bee removal.
The first job was setting up a new box to give more room to a struggling hive. I didn’t get any photos of the actual job, but the bees did pose for one great close-up!
The next task was to drop off The Whisperer’s new display hive somewhere with plenty of room for it to thrive. This hive has clear panels so that you can watch the bees do their work! If you want to see it in person, check out the Presentations page to see when The Whisperer might be speaking at an event near you!
With the chores finally out of the way, The Whisperer and I set out for Moscow, Tennessee to remove bees from an almost-new house. When we arrived on the scene, a bulldozer was rumbling in the background, smoothing the ground for the new back pasture.
The bees had made their home somewhere underneath a stone façade on the front of the house. The homeowners had attempted to caulk and steel wool the entrances thoroughly enough to discourage the bees, but the bees had been persistent enough to find a new way in!
We thought at first it would be easy to find the place in the wall that the bees had built their hive… but it was an hour and forty minutes of careful prodding through sheetrock and insulation before we found the hive!
That is the most bees I have ever seen in one place! The Whisperer immediately set out to vacuum up the bees and remove the hive. Because the hive was a healthy one, we were able to place the pieces of hive into a couple hive boxes for relocation.
One piece of hive we found had four queen cups – cells specially designed for growing queens! One of the cells actually hatched out while we worked!
By the time all the hive and bees were removed, we had two boxes and three vacuum buckets of bees!
With the bees safely sealed up in the boxes and buckets, we set out for the Bartlett area to take the bees to their new home. We left around 8:30pm and arrived at the bee field around 10:15. It was late, and The Whisperer and I were both singing to the radio just to keep awake! But it was worth it to see the heaviest bucket of bees opened!
I got to bed that night just short of midnight. Was it worth it? Definitely. The homeowners no longer have to worry about the children and pets being stung, and the bees are happy in their new home.
Wednesday, working my second cut-out with The Bartlett Bee Whisperer, I learned that working with honeybees involves some risks. Besides the obvious risk of being stung, there are some “workplace hazards” one might not immediately think of.
The call came from John Cook. The front area around his house had been invaded by some of nature’s best and some of nature’s worst. John’s attempts to clear the scourge of poison ivy from his front yard had been thwarted by honeybees, who had chosen the wrong home: behind the house’s wood siding.
Poison ivy is a very real workplace hazard for me, as I am very allergic! The Whisperer quickly removed the poison ivy near the hive (as I gladly watched from a distance), and pulled the siding from around the hive. Beneath the tiny hole in the picture above we found the second “hazard”…
The pungent smell of rotting hive! John had attempted to discourage the bees, by using pesticide… Though the old hive eventually died out and was overrun with small hive beetles, another group of bees moved in right beside it! Or the surviving bees from the first colony moved one stud left! The honey left in the old hive fermented, reminding me of a winery I once toured at the Biltmore Estate. I will never forget that smell!
In very short order, we had the bees vacuumed up and the nasty comb thrown away.
Though the bees hadn’t meant to be a nuisance, they had found themselves between a man and his yardwork – not a good place to be! The bees are now in a new, far more welcoming home!
Because there was no queen in this colony, they were added to an existing colony to strengthen their numbers. A sheet of newspaper was placed between the 2 boxes (and the 2 groups of bees). By the time the bees chew trough the paper their pheromones will have mixed enough for them to think they are all the same family.
After relocating this hive, we might have driven off into the sunset, leaving the bees to their happily-ever-after… but what is a day in the life of a beekeeper without a little risk?
The Whisperer wanted to check on one last hive… one that he said was more aggressive than most. Within a couple minutes of opening the hive, a hurricane of bees formed around our heads. Oh, and he had used his smoker to calm them down! Suddenly – ZAP! Pain shot through my leg.
I got stung! This being the most obvious “workplace hazard” for a beekeper, I knew it would happen – but I hadn’t expected it at that moment. I mean, a little warning would have been appreciated. Oh well. The good news is that the pain quickly subsided and no swelling occurred! Apparently I’m not allergic! Maybe it was the Benadryl The Whisperer threw to me.
Even better, I have no poison ivy rashes! Sure, beekeeping comes with its hazards. But with a little care taken, it is well worth the risk!
Just call me Michael. I’m the webmaster for TheBartlettBeeWhisperer.com. In the past, I’ve wondered what a day in the life of a Bee Whisperer is like… and a few days ago, I got to find out!
The Whisperer got a call to remove bees from a ceiling in a vacant apartment, and I got the call to go with him. As a person whose experiences with bees involve a lot of running and slapping, I was a little nervous about purposely entering the bees’ home. Did I get stung? Well, I’ll tell you…
We arrived on the scene about noon and unloaded the equipment. The first sign of bees was a foreboding bulge in the apartment’s ceiling.
I quickly donned the “relatively bee-proof” jacket and hat. “You’ll get hot in the jacket and start to sweat; where the jacket sticks to you is the danger zone.” The Whisperer’s warning caused me to sweat a little more.
The Whisperer wasted no time cutting into the ceiling to expose the hive. Abandoned comb had melted into the ceiling, causing the bulge, but newer comb was full of bees: about 40,000 I was told.
Piece by piece, the Whisperer removed the honeycomb and vacuumed the bees into a specially-designed bee container.
The comb had very little usable honey, but we saved the comb to make wax. One piece of comb caught my eye because of the colorful pollen.
“Grab the clip out of the top of the toolbox! Quick! See that bee? Catch it in the clip!” I caught the bee he was looking at. “That’s the queen! Russian, by the looks of the tail!” My friend the Bee Whisperer had been downcast for some time because of the lack of brood (eggs and babies), but was so excited to have caught the queen! He said that having the queen would ensure the success of the hive once it was relocated. We took quite a few pictures of the queen and her attendants.
Through all this, I had managed to not get stung. After pulling out the last of the combs, I took off my protective jacket in order to cool off. Then I realized I needed one last shot of the ceiling, with the hive now gone. Though some bees were still buzzing around, I was now comfortable enough to eeeeease over to the ladder and climb up to get a shot.
Climbing back down the ladder, I had a great sense of accomplishment! I’d just helped complete a honeybee removal for the first time! We’d collected a lot of comb to be used as wax, and caught a queen to make sure the captured bees would thrive in their new home. And I’d not been stung!
Then a bee landed on my shirt. “Don’t swat! That’s a drone, they don’t sting!”
That’s why he’s called the Bee Whisperer.
March 8th: The queens have started laying real early this year if the hives are trying to swarm out now. Got an emergency call from a friend, Rich Faber. Tried to (phone)walk him trough a quick split of his hive to prevent the swarm urge. After a couple minutes on the phone I realized I needed to visit his girls. If any of you new beekeepers see something like this, reversing the hive bodies may not work. Do a split and shake to set up a second hive. When we left all bees were in the hives.
I’ve been reviewing some photos from last year’s cutouts. Thought you might like them as we are ramping up for the Spring swarms.