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Last Friday’s removal of honey bees from a house in Moscow, TN

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!

Honeybees checking out their new box

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!

Honeybee display hive

The clear portion is currently blocked off to keep the bees happy.

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!

Steel wool and caulk could not discourage the bees!

The bees’ new entrance is in the dark crack below The Whisperer’s arm.

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!

Thousands of honeybees

Where is the hive? All I see is bees!

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.

Hive with four queen cups placed in frame

This piece has four queen cups!

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!

Hatched and hatching honeybee queen cups

We captured the hatched queen and placed the hatching cell in a queen catcher.

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!

 

Buvket of honeybees

One of the buckets of bees. Their feet are linked together in the center of the framework.

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.

Wee Care Child Care Bee Presentation

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

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???

How close is too close???

Workplace Hazards

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.

Bees and Poison Ivy

The poison ivy on the left is more frightening to me than the threat of stings from the bees on the right!

Honeybees on siding

Beautiful as these bees are, they made their home in the wrong place!

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”…

Dead honeybee hive beside live hive

Proof that pesticide is a very temporary solution to a bee invasion!

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!

Rotten Honeycomb

The old hive looked just as nasty as it smelled!

In very short order, we had the bees vacuumed up and the nasty comb thrown away.

Finished honeybee removal

Now there’s a proud Bee Whisperer!

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.

Relocating Honeybees

The bees now have their own apartment!

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!

Saturday in Collierville, TN

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.

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I removed the ceiling area where the bees were and found the bees farther to the left, above the stone wall.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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Summer Swarm in Arlington, TN

We are still getting calls on honey bee swarms. Shirley Bilger found our website and called because these girls had moved to her tree.

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One of the family members is highly allergic. So the bees must go. Here’s a closer view of some very peaceful honey bees.

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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.

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Saturday Hive Check-Ups

One of the important tasks of being a beekeeper vs just having bees is monitoring the bees and the hives. This is done by periodically  opening up the hives and peering in to see what the bees are doing. Sometimes the queen has died, or pests (skunks, coons, mice, ants, “and tigers and bears! Oh, my”)  have been irritating the bees. Whatever the case, looking in on the bees lets the beekeeper know what they need. It’s kinda like checking on your kids in the middle of the night. Most of the time nothing is needed. Same with the bees. Most check-ups include cleaning up spurious comb (burr and bridge) that bees build throughout the hive, and removing the copious amounts of propolis (bee glue) gunking up everything. At other times, extra food (sugar water or pollen patties) might be needed, or if the bees need more space, extra boxes are added.

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At this time of the year, most of the Spring swarming is over and it’s time to start adding honey supers. These are the boxes the bees will use to put up the beekeeper’s honey. This may appear greedy on the beekeepers part, but bees put up more honey than they will ever need.  I use 2 deep brood boxes, which allow sufficient room for brood as well as honey and pollen storage for the colony. This is enough room for their food storage. Everything above the second box is the beekeeper’s honey. Here is a frame of honey in the making.

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While making checks, it is always important to look for proof that the hive is “Queen Right.” This means an active, laying queen resides in the hive. Most of the time I am only looking for eggs, larva and capped brood, while trying not to squish the queen (she’s usually photo-shy and hides during hive checks). If these are in the hive then the queen is in the hive.

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Today, we were able to get a photo of one of the queens. She posed for us. This gives us a great opportunity to show off her regal features. Check her out…

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Although she is their mother, she does not look much like her offspring. Her wings are about the same length as the workers’ wings, but her abdomen is much longer. Where the workers’ bodies are fuzzy, she is smooth-bodied, much like a wasp.

All in all, it was a great day in Bartlett and Arlington, TN as well as in rural Fayette County. Honey supers were added to several hives and all hives now have two brood boxes. Three hives have failing queens, but I am letting the bees raise up new queens. Please note the queen cells (peanut shell items) on the foundation in the next photo.

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The Whisperer’s Apprentice

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.

Bulged ceiling from melted honey bee hive

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.

Honeybees in a ceiling

Piece by piece, the Whisperer removed the honeycomb and vacuumed the bees into a specially-designed bee container.

The Bartlett Bee Whisperer using his bee vacuum

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.

Colorful honeycomb

The camera’s flash exaggerates the color – but it was beautiful even without the flash!

“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.

Queen bee with her attdendants

The queen is the larger one on the left.

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.

Ceiling after a honeybee hive removal

A few bees are straggling, but the hive is gone!

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.