Bee on my cherry laurel

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bees in a Pole - the sequel

  Let me tell you a story. A story of desperation, hard work and perseverance.

  I begins in a wooded lot on the other side of town (not your town, mine). If you read my last post then you have a pretty good idea of what is going on here. I sometimes do silly things like for instance post things in Craigslist like "Will remove bees, swarms and hives for free.". While this generally does not lead to any real difficulties, there is always that one time.
 This, is that one time.
 I post the afore mentioned post on Craigslist. A few days later I get a call. A guy wants me to remove a hive of bees. Now as a beekeeper, a hive is a box where the bees live. He tells me it is  a thriving colony. Great, I say to myself, some nice easy free bees and they come in a hive! After speaking with him a few minutes, I realize this is not going to be as easy as it seems. So I head to the site (You know, the wooded lot mentioned earlier) and size it up.
 I arrive and check it out. Sure enough there is an old steel gate post full of bees. I think to myself, this should not be to hard and tell the guy I will get them out as soon as I can.
 Several scenarios entered my mind on how to successfully remove this colony. None of them ended up being the final conclusion to this epic rehoming saga.
  Here is how it went down.
  A few weeks ago I show up with plans to take the bees home. The bees wanted none of this and refused to go in the pipe so I could close it off. We went home empty handed.
 The night before last I head out there with some proper bee equipment (smoker and such) and smoke them. They grudgingly go into the pole and I screen it up.
  Now imagine this if you will. I have my truck, an inverter (a doohickey that converts 12 volt car electricity to 115volt household electricity), and finally a recently purchased 7" angle grinder with metal cutoff wheels. Also the angle grinder was bought at Harbor Freight. Those of you who have used Harbor Freight tools probably know what is going to happen here shortly.
  I did test this setup at the house prior to heading to the site. It errrr worked-ish. So at the "hive" I hook up said equipment and head over tot he post and get to cutting. Hmmm seems that when I get into it a bit it draws too much power for the inverter to handle. After turning the inverter off and on like 25 times, we give it up open up the hive and head home.
 Last night we return again we screen the entrances. But this time I have a 5kw generator. Hehehe Should be no sweat, right? Wrong. After getting about 4 inches around what is a 30" circumference post the angle grinder gives up the ghost. Ahh Harbor Freight power tools. So I leave the bees screened in and head home.
 This morning I arrive with the sun at Harbor Freight and trade my non functioning angle grinder in for a fresh new one. Again, we head over to the bees. Again I get to cutting. Poor bees. This time, however, everything goes according to plan and I manage to cut all the way around the post. At this point I realize the wall thickness on this thing is 1/2". No wonder it took so long to cut it. I would guess it took at least 45 minutes to cut all the way around the post. 45 long chigger and spark filled minutes. I also took breaks to allow the pole to cool so the bees would not overheat.
 While I am cutting it, I slide shims in the crack to keep the post level while I am cutting and to prevent the blade from pinching. After I get it cut off, I figure I will pick it up a little and have my son slide a piece of screen under it to keep the bees in. Lets just say that the pole probably outweighed me and it did not budge.
 Time to bring out the heavy stuff. I have a roll around A frame that has a 6' I-beam at the top that I can roll a chain hoist on. We drag it out of the truck and assemble it like a giant Erector Set. Now again let me set the stage here. I am on a "paved" road and the post is about 10 feet into the woods. My crane has 6" solid tires. It did not exactly roll into place but we got it. I wrap the chain fall chain around the post and clip it to itself. I begin to hoist it up. Here is where, in hindsight, I could have saved myself a load of issues. Instead of leaving it just clipped to itself, I should have tied I rope to the other side of the chain to balance the load. I didn't and pandemonium ensued. I started up with the hoist and as the last bit of uncut metal separated, the entire post quickly and violently came off the base and skewed at a 30 degree angle. There is now a nine inch hole out of which thousands of very excited bees rapidly exited. We didn't stick around to watch.
 After the bees kind of calmed down, I went back in and attached a screen to the bottom of the post.
 Now, I have to say, these bees are taking all this very well. I have not been stung or really harassed this whole time except once at the very start of this. I am working in shorts and a t-shirt with no veil.
 Getting the gantry in the woods was hard, getting it back out with several hundred pounds of steel and bees was a miracle. Especially with a whole load of bees buzzing all over the place. I would like to take time out to thank my wife for helping get this out of the woods and on to what passes for a road in that place.
 It gets easier now. We hoist it into the truck and tie it down and drive it home. After we get it home I hoist it back out and on to the ground. Unfortunately some comb was damaged and honey leaked out into the truck bed. I kind of muscle it into its temporary place (till I figure out how to get them to move into a lighter and more accessible hive) and open all the screens. They are currently repairing the damage I caused and out collecting nectar and pollen. I am glad they are finally here. I can't stop watching them. They are such a busy hive.
Here they are heavily bearding as the sun hits the post.

A close up of the beard.

A temporary resting place. I should probably level it out.


Here they are still strapped down in the truck.
A really big gate post.

The A-frame. The chain fall is in the bucket.
Look at how thick this steel is!!
The obligatory SHBs lurking in the bottom.
Well, this is where it's at till I figure out what to do with them next.


  1. I think a Hogan-style trap-out would work well with the post and would stand a very good chance of getting the queen. As the post is small in diameter, the queen will not have far to go.

    Here is what I would do:
    1. Build a Hogan-style trap. This is basically just a nuc or a deep with a short tunnel of some sort on one end and an entrance on the other.

    2. Fashion a funnel out of screen or #8 hardware cloth that either fits inside the tunnel or attaches to a hole cut in the tunnel inside the box. (You can use my design, or perhaps one with PVC pipe instead of wood, or even with no tunnel at all and just caulk the box against the post.)

    3. Attach the box to the gatepost, sealing the connection between the two. Leave for 2-3 days to allow the bees to get used to it.

    4. Pull three frames of brood out of other hives: one mostly eggs, one emerging capped brood, and one intermediate age. Shake off all the bees and put these frames (with no bees) into the box. Activate the one-way funnel.

    5. After three days, remove the one-way tunnel. At this point your box will contain all of the foragers and a three-frame broodnest covered by nurse bees. Remove the funnel.

    6. Inspect for the queen the next day. There is a very good chance she will be in your box. If no queen, re-insert the funnel and repeat steps 5 and 6. If you find her, proceed to step 7.

    7. Reinstall the one-way funnel. Either remove the queen and broodnest as a new colony and continue to trap out the remaining bees, or leave the queen in place and super the trap if needed (after verifying that no bees are going backwards through your funnel). After 4-5 weeks all of the bees should be out of the post and you will have the colony in boxes.

  2. Thanks. I was thinking of a short run of PVC to connect the box and pole. There is a ton of bees in there.