Cincinnati swarm

Cincinnati Bee Swarm Removal

Cincinnati swarm

Call: 513-675-9897

Friends, we’ve entered the most exciting time of the year…it’s SWARM SEASON!  If you happen upon a sweet swarm of humming, morphing, happy bees hanging from a tree…or from a lamppost, a porch railing, an awning, or from some other curious support…don’t panic. A swarm is one of the universe’s great gifts to us.

Please call a beekeeper who will collect the swarm and re-hive it where it will live on to forage and pollinate and make us all happier.

My phone number: 513-675-9897. And if I can’t get there right away, I’ll call someone who can.

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Praise of the Bees by Barberini Exultet Scroll circa 1087

Bee Season: I Am Ready, and Yet I Am Never Ready. Which Is Thrilling.

Praise of the Bees by Barberini Exultet Scroll circa 1087

 

Dear Reader, it is Easter time, and in Ohio this means the beginning of bee season.

The colonies that successfully overwintered in my bee yards are bursting at the seams. Which suggests to me that swarm season may come earlier than usual this year…I usually expect my first swarm call on Mothers Day. It’s one of the most exciting calls of the year, and all my nerves are alert for it. Which is why I love this “Praise of the Bees” image. Because it is in every way full on glorious bee.

In this image, beekeepers smoke a swarm and cut the branch on which it hangs. This swarm will then become a happy hive in the beekeeper’s yard. Bees fly in the air, and it seems to me that they’re all over the blooming trees and shrubs and flowers. Another beekeeper cuts comb from a suspended long hive, honey runs through a sieve, and his assistant collects the small amount of honey in a jar. (I like that this is a sustainable practice. They are not taking more than the bees can give and not more than the beekeepers can use.)

For several months each year, I’m this busy. I’m deliriously, exhaustedly busy and I’m happy with that. And who wouldn’t be? It’s so freaking exciting.

So, friends, if you happen to find a swarm hanging sweetly in a tree or on a bush or on a lamp post or wherever, please contact me. I’ll be delighted collect it. I might look tired and dirty when I see you, but I will be happy. And I think it will make you happy, too.

Bees with pollen at their hive entrance

Scenes from a Bee Removal

It was a beautiful day for a bee removal, Reader. And because it’s been an long and vicious winter since our last one, I thought it might perk you up to see our happy team at work together on a roof.

Two years ago, the homeowners who hired us watched as a swarm of honeybees moved into their roof through this gap. But because the hive is on the second floor, the bees weren’t a problem until the homeowners built a two-tiered deck. Now the family wants to utilize their second-story deck, and the bees make it difficult for them to relax there.

Bees enter their hive beneath the roof

Terry Evans—who works for Jerry Hof, our brilliant contractor—removed the shingles, the siding, and the chipboard in order to access the hive. Terry worked methodically and thoughtfully to expose the hive without destroying the existing structure. His careful work paid off once the bees were gone and it was time to replace all the parts…the reconstruction took much less time than the deconstruction, and now the space looks as if neither we nor the bees were ever there.

Good teamwork makes the day bright

We flipped the chipboard with much of the empty comb still attached. The comb heavy with honey and brood and bees, however, collapsed into the soft insulation.

You know, Reader, I have to tell you how much I love working with Nicola Mason. She will scamper onto a roof or shinny up the scaffolding. She will dig her arms deep into dark and mysterious bee- and honey-filled cavities. And she does it with such glee and energy that she fills me with glee and energy, too. She is a giver of enthusiasm.

Nicola Mason reveals the hive

Once we’ve exposed the hive and accessed the comb and bees, we begin removing one comb at a time. We determine where each comb should go in its new hive…and we also always always keep a sharp eye out for the queen.

Liz Tilton assess each comb to determine its place in the new hive box

It’s not easy to spot the queen in the chaos of a bee removal, Reader, but we’ve become rather adept at it. On this job, Nicola took responsibility for cutting and removing the bee-laden comb from its original location. After a while, she quietly and matter-of-factly said simply, “I see her.” Then she calmly removed her queen clip from the pocket of her shirt and collected the queen in it.

Capturing the queen guarantees the removal’s success because all the other bees will follow the queen’s pheromones…there is no more chaos or indecision. Wherever she goes, they go.

Shouts of joy were heard throughout the neighborhood

We catch the queen in this clip (which keeps her from flying away) and then attache the clip to a bar with rubber bands. This way, the worker bees will go into the hive where we place the queen.

The queen clip keeps the queen from flying away

You know, sometimes you simply have to stop and look around and wonder how you got to be so lucky—lucky to be high up on scaffolding on a beautiful day with nice people and a hive of honeybees. Especially after you’ve got the queen, and all is well.

Stopping to enjoy the moment

Some bees are reluctant to go into the box…once the queen’s in there, they’ll eventually find their way to her, but we can’t always just sit around and wait for that to happen. Which is why it’s good to have a bee vac on hand. We vacuumed the reluctant bees and reunited them with their sisters when they reached their permanent home.

We vacuumed the last of the bees

Once we vacuumed the stragglers and sprayed the area with bee repellant, we closed the hive and lowered it to the ground for transport to its permanent home.

Steady, boys. Steady.

And after a nice drive in the bed of a gorgeous pickup truck, the Alexandria hive reached her permanent home. The bees are now busy exploring their new neighborhood.

Bees happy at home

 

 

 

 

What to Do When You Discover Honeybees Living in Your House with You

At this time of year in Ohio, during what we call a strong “flow” (when nectar is flowing like crazy from trees and flowers, and when bee colonies are building their populations and storing honey and pollen with abandon), my phone begins to ring off the wall. Why? Because some people suddenly realize that honeybees are coming and going from a tiny, previously unrecognized hole in their house.

Yes, Reader, honeybees love to live in houses, too. Or in garages or storage sheds. They don’t actually want to live inside your house with you. Nor do they want to grow to the point that they take over your entire home. Unlike us, honeybees are satisfied with only a small, manageable space to call their own. They simply need a small, dry, safe, empty cavity in which to live. And they often find just the space they need in an uninsulated hollow created between floor joists or wall studs or in soffits. Etc.

So, my callers almost always ask me about their options regarding this home-sharing situation.

To my mind, there are three viable options:

  1. Leave the bees alone
  2. Remove and relocate the entire live colony…this includes responsible handling of all the living bees—all the eggs, larvae, brood, and queen—all of the honeycomb, and all of the stored honey
  3. Kill the bees

And, Reader, what most homeowners who contact me don’t yet understand is this: It’s not the bees that are the problem here. Honeybees are generally very mild mannered and don’t want anything to do with humans. We are simply movers in their world. They don’t want to hurt us. They have more important things on their minds…such as happily flying in the sunshine, visiting flowers and trees, swimming, eating watermelon, taking care of their home and their young and their queen, treating themselves to blackberries, cleaning house, and storing honey for winter. They don’t care at all about us.

Of course, if the bee colony is located near a space often used by humans or pets, then things can certainly get unsettling. None of us, not even full-time beekeepers, really want to deal with bees whenever we step outside or sit in our lawn chair or eat our lunch on our patio.

The problem with honeybees in the house lies in the honey they store there. And as long as the bees are alive, this stored honey isn’t a problem, either. In the heat of summer, the bees cool the hive enough to contain the honey. And in the winter, the bees stay in their nice cavity and eat through all that stored honey. Our problems begin in earnest when the bee colony dies off.

When the colony dies, the honey is left unattended. Let me tell you…when the weather warms up, that honey smells terrific. And who doesn’t love a great big store of sweet honey?! I love it. And so do raccoons. And squirrels. And possum. And mice and rats and ants and beetles and moths and yellow jackets and hornets…yes, now you get the picture.

Also, in the summertime, unattended honeycomb full of sweet, drippy honey gets surprisingly heavy. And because there are no bees to cool the honey-containing beeswax, the comb sags and detaches from wherever it hung. And then the honey runs out. And it coats everything. You cannot imagine. And all those previously mentioned pests that love honey follow it wherever it goes.

One of the pests drawn to that aroma of honey and beeswax and propolis is…another swarm of honeybees. Yep. There is NOTHING more enticing to a swarm looking for a new home than an already lived-in perfect space full of already-built honeycomb. Same song, second verse.

This post has gone on way too long, Reader! I shall stop now and give you a break.

Morning sunlight glistens on the scaffolding

We Are Awesome at Removing and Relocating Honeybees

It’s not often, Reader, that I write about our bee-removal jobs. Why, you ask? Because the bee removals involve homeowners, and I’m not very comfortable writing about people who never intended to end up on a public blog.

But I spend a good deal of time in the company of some cool people as we remove honeybees and beehives from structures, and I am never ever ever bored by it. Often I am unnerved, but I’m never bored. Anyway, in the event you’d forgotten what I do with much of my time, I’m sharing a few photos of yesterday’s job with you.

Yesterday’s job was cool—not because of the size of the hive but because of the height of the nest.

Kudos to Jerry Hof and Co Inc (Jerry performs the contracting on all these bee removals with me) for constructing such a high and stable scaffold, for exposing the nest, and then for repairing the structure, and to Nicola Mason (a brilliant artist, writer, editor, beekeeper and all-around adventurous woman) for scampering effortlessly up and down and up and down and up and down the 40 ft. scaffolding all morning and for removing all the comb from the hive.

Reader, if you’ve discovered honeybees in your house or in some other structure, if you live in the Greater Cincinnati area, and if you want a team that’s not only great at this stuff but also delights in the work and is fun to spend time with, contact me. Not only can we safely remove the live bees and comb and honey and relocate them to one of our beeyards, but we can put your place back together so no one will ever know we were there.

Morning sunlight glistens on the scaffolding

 

Don't look down

 

Three bees flying home
Beautiful comb containing pollen, brood, larvae, and bees

 

Liz, Nicola, and Jerry at work removing honeybees
Amy's capped honey

Delirious in Honey, Honey, Honey, Honey

Amy's capped honey

Reader, as you may know, I spend a good deal of my time these days removing bees from houses. I usually schedule only one of these removals each week because it seems to take me a week to deal with all the attending ramifications:

  • return to the home at night or unbelievably early in the morning to remove the bees
  • invest some time in customer and community relations regarding a general uneasiness about all the bees still flying around (really, the site of these removals draws quite a crowd of neighbors)
  • vacuum the bees that clustered overnight at their old entry site
  • situate the bees in one of my beeyards,
  • clean EVERYTHING of honey
  • crush the honey-containing comb and filter the fresh, warm honey
  • clean EVERYTHING of honey
  • rinse the wax from which the honey dripped
  • render pure and glorious-smelling beeswax from all the comb we remove from the home…including the wax from which the honey dripped
  • clean EVERYTHING of honey
  • unpack my car
  • clean all the equipment of honey
  • haul all that stuff to the basement
  • clean my car of honey and bees
  • wash honey from all the clothes and bee suits
  • pack it all nicely honey-free for the next removal

All of this is to say that I’ve had less time these past weeks to enjoy my visits to my other beeyards. And here we are at the time of year when we harvest the spring honey.

I harvested some early capped frames from three beeyards…I sort of like doing this in stages as the summer progresses rather than doing it all at once. I invite you over to Amy’s blog to see some pictures of and to read about our first honey harvest.

I’ll tell you that I seldom suit all the way up, but when you rummage through a hive in order to rob it of its stores, the bees are not at all pleased.

 

Good neighbors

Good Beekeepers as Good Neighbors

Good neighbors

Yesterday Nicola and I removed a newly hived swarm of bees from a suburban home (the fact that those removed bees found a new entry point into the same house and may have absconded the on-site hive box only to return to another part of the house is a story for another day. Let me just tell you that I’ll be on site addressing that again this morning).

Here’s what I want to think about today: A man in the neighborhood where I removed yesterday’s bees keeps bees in his backyard. For some reason, I think I heard someone say that he keeps 8 hives. And now all the neighbors are sort of considering this guy the source of the bees-in-the-house problem.

I may have contributed to this blame-the-beekeeper sentiment because when the homeowner told me that the guy right up the street keeps bees, I probably raised my eyebrows as if to say, “Ah-ha. That explains it.” And it may. I mean, bees swarm…and when they swarm in a suburban place with limited trees, I guess they’ll go into the next-best-available empty cavity.

I’m thinking this through because I keep my bees in populated areas, too. I keep about 8-10 hives in my backyard apiary, and though there are hundreds of acres of woods behind my home, there are also hundreds of homes within flying distance of my bee yard. And because my phone has been ringing off the wall with calls from all over the city and all over the state about bees in homes, it’s really on my mind lately.

According to movie “Vanishing of the Bees,” small-scale hobby beekeepers are one of the most hopeful connections in rebuilding the sharply declining honeybee population. So we can’t vilify beekeepers, whose bees pollenate our neighborhood gardens and trees, when bees find a home in a house.

I don’t know the answer to this, which is why I’m writing about it.

And those bees wouldn’t enter a home if there weren’t open, uninsulated cavities waiting there for them to live in. So, I guess it’s just as much the responsibility of homeowners to keep their homes caulked and sealed and insulated against pests.

This post is already way too long. But I leave you, Reader, thinking about neighbors and about the importance of good neighborly relations.

 

 

Long trap-out cone (I plan to shorten this today)

I Worried all Night about the Trap-Out Bees

Two days ago, a woman called me to say she had just witnessed a swarm moving into the roof of her porch. And lately there’s been a discussion among my Beemaster.com forum friends about how easy it is collect a swarm immediately foll0wing its move into a structure, so I decided to give it a try.

Now, let me say right up front, that it’s a LOT easier to capture a swarm BEFORE it moves into a structure. When my friends say it’s easy to trap a swarm, they mean it’s easier than cutting (which is a helluva lot of work and destructive to the home) or trapping an established hive (a process which usually takes 12-16 weeks). No matter what, setting up a trap out is sort of complicated.

So, yesterday I assembled and installed my first swarm trap out. But I think I got a few things wrong, and I need to return today to make it work better.

There are details I won’t add here because the process may bore you…but the theory is this: We want to encourage the bees to easily transition from their porch home and into a hive box. At this point, because they’ve lived in their porch cavity less than 48 hours, the colony has very little invested there…they’ve built very little comb, they have no brood, and they have very little stored honey—all of which means they will more willingly leave it.

So, before setting up the catch box, I spent some time closing off all their other entrance points by stuffing holes in the porch with insulation and calk…for a trap out, it’s important to control the bees’ point of exit and reentry. I designed a cone from #8 hardware cloth that will allow the bees to leave for foraging but will confuse them when they try to reenter. And near their old entry point, I’ve placed a very nice new home (one that some of my bees lived in over the winter…so it smells like bees), complete with open brood (from one of my other hives…the new bees will find the open brood very appealing and will want to take care of it, so they’ll choose to stay) and a few frames of honeycomb (from a recent cut out). I’ve added a few drops of lemongrass oil and swarm lure to make it smell like home.

I placed the lure box near the entrance to the bee’s new porch home, so when they return from foraging and find their old home inaccessible, they can simply wander right into their new digs.

Today I plan to move the lure box closer to their porch entrance (which I’ll have to do by suspending the hive box with ropes), and I plan to shorten the cone so the bees won’t have so far to travel out of it…we want their leaving and their choosing a new home upon their return to be easy.

It stormed all night long, and I could hardly sleep wondering how those bees were doing over there. This stuff is tough on the psyche, but it sure is good for keeping the brain exercised.

Long trap-out cone (I plan to shorten this today)
20120505-065150.jpg
Catch box and the trap-out cone
It looks like a big fish!

Exhilarated and Exhausted

Reader, let these images speak for my day yesterday. Nicola Mason and I spent all day with our heads in beehives removing two hives from a home.

I wish wish wish I could send other glorious senses—like sound and smell—to you through these posts. You cannot imagine.

And while we were up to our necks in bees, my phone was ringing off the wall with reports of swarms entering churches and houses and neighborhoods. It’s an exhilarating and exhausting time of the year.

When I got home and was unloading my car and washing HONEY FROM EVERY SINGLE THING, my friends Kim and Bob stopped over for a visit. Bob set about diagnosing and solving the problems with my table saw, and Kim discovered a swarm in my tree. I was too tired to deal with it, so she lit the smoker, suited up in my bee suit, collected the swarm all on her own, and hived it in a spare top-bar hive.

I’m not kidding when I say this: MY FRIENDS ROCK!

Also let me say that I am too old for all this.

It looks like a big fish!
Nicola Mason...covered in bees
Our first glimpse of comb
New comb filled with bees and honey

 

Ya Do What Ya Gotta Do

Just when I posted that this is a difficult time of year for removing bees from a structure, I get a call from a guy doing a renovation project on a historic home in Kentucky. They’ve got a huge, 15-year-old hive in the ceiling of the old porch, and they’re ready to tear into it now…they can’t hold the entire project off until spring.

There’s already a lift on site. And there are contractors waiting to take the porch apart and put it back together again. And the homeowner has volunteered to be my assistant.

So, I guess I’ll do it. If I don’t agree to remove these bees, they’ll have no choice but to open the cavity and exterminate them. And then we’ll lose all the honey and the comb as well. So, I told the guy I’d do it.

Perhaps I can add the bees to one of my existing hives and see if they’ll live through the winter. I’ll save the comb I collect from the removal and use it in a new hive next spring.

I’ve assessed the situation, and I’ve answered, “Yes.” Which is my new motto (except when I answer, “No”…which often results in just as much fun as “Yes”).