Doctor, Doctor?

Okay, I had a totally “Twilight Zone” experience today:

Yellow Jacket Combs w/brood

Yellow Jacket Combs

I was called out to check on some bees in a horse barn.They ended up being yellow jackets nesting in the ground at the corner of the barn.

After removing them and making the barn safe again for the way-friendly horses, I got into a conversation with the home owner, which started with “So, what got you started working with honey bees?”

As I told my story, Ehud told me about a patient he’d treated in the ER, who “rescues honey bees” in the Memphis area by “removing them from houses and setting them up in hive boxes on farms in the Mid-South.” (Sound familiar?)

Yes, it took a few moments to realize that we had actually had this conversation back in September 2012 as he treated me in the ER for separated ribs. (In my defense he didn’t look like the doctor who had treated me. He didn’t have his white jacket on or his stethoscope out, and I wasn’t in any pain.)

Thank you Dr. Kamin for taking care of me last year and for the opportunity to help you this year. (I gave my business card to his wife this time.)

Tunica County Soil and Water Conservation District

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!

Oh! There’s the queen!

Display hive. Yes those are honeybees.

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. 

Almost done.

Almost done.

Class time with The Bartlett Bee Whisperer.

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!

Honey tasting time!

 

 

Rubber Bands and Bee Comb from a Memphis Removal

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,

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.

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.

Finished product with comb secured.

 

 

Honey Bees on a tree in Cordova, TN

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.

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.

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.

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.

Bees crawling up the side to get into their new home.

 

 

KILLER BEES

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.

RE-Queening in Bartlett, TN

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.

Three capped queen cells with capped and open worker cells.

Two queen cells almost ready to be capped. The larva have not straightened just yet. The bottom cell is capped.

 

 

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.

Young Avenue Deli Swarm

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.

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

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

Deli bees 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???

Bees in a Tree – Cordova, TN

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.

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.

Heavily smoked comb and wood.New comb on the left. On the right, evidence of the old comb that fell after the smoke out.

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.

Bees gathering at the top of the hive entrance.