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

 

 

 

 

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
Nicola's first harvest from Hive Gobnait

Don’t Click on this Link Unless You Want to Salivate

Reader, it’s harvest time. And let me simply introduce you to two first harvests. I’ll let the images speak for themselves. No more from me about how wonderful this is. No word from me about toasted medallions of french bread spread with butter and warm, fresh, local honey. I don’t want you writhing in envy.

Nicola's first harvest from Hive Gobnait
Heidi and Anne and their first honey harvest

Of course, if you want this experience for yourself, call me. I’ll get you set up.

TwoHoneys t-shirt

The Honeycomb-with-a-Drop-of-Honey T-shirt

Reader, the newest installment of the TwoHoneys t-shirt is now available for purchase: $15 for a handoff exchange; $20 if we need to mail it.

You, too, can wear your very own glorious 2012 rendition (designed by the wonderfully taletented Nicola Mason) by contacting me (liz@two-honeys.com). Tell me if you prefer your design on the front or on the back and tell me your size. I wear a medium. I can also wear a large if I shrink it just a smidgin.

See how this shirt makes your shoulders and your back look friendly and strong and your waist look slim? Perfect.

TwoHoneys t-shirt

 

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

 

Nicola Mason: Bees and Bloom

Bee Love and Marketing

My new TwoHoneys Bee Co. business cards arrived yesterday, and I have to say that I’m delighted by them. The thermal printing makes the bee’s raised wings look as if they’re shimmering. I didn’t expect that…and I don’t think the printer did either. We were so happy to open the box and see all that shimmering going on.

So, to celebrate, I’ve created a new series of long-sleeve t-shirts over at Cafe Press (patience with the Cafe Press site. I set it up myself this morning and it still looks pretty rough. But it works). I’ll be adding more wonderful swag as TwoHoneys progresses, so if you have an idea for a t-shirt or other cool marketing brilliance, send it on to me (liz@two-honeys.com), and I’ll try to make it happen.

(I’ve asked Nicola to create a t-shirt for TwoHoneys, and she has enthusiastically agreed. Which thrills me. We will not rush her, though. Creativity needs space. Nicola says it also needs to learn Photoshop.)

As a teaser, though—just so you get a sense of what’s coming—here’s one of Nicola’s newest collages (to see more of Nicola’s work, visit her beautiful website.  Frankly, it’s worth the trip over there just to read the titles of her collages. Sometimes I go just for that):

Nicola Mason: Bees and Bloom

 

Capped brood and larvae

A Brood Frame Free of Nurse Bees

Capped brood and larvae
Babees: photographer Scott Beseler (Soapbox Cincinnati)

This is a frame of brood brushed free of its usual attending nurse bees. I’d brushed the bees off because I removed this frame from the Nicola hive (which lives in my beeyard)—named in honor of Nicola Mason’s first swarm capture—and I’d given it to a hive that currently lives in Nicola’s apiary, the Bebe hive. Why did I make that swap? Because the Bebe hive started out as a tiny, queenless hive and lacked the resources from which to make a new queen.

Giving a queenless colony comb containing either eggs or larvae (4-days old or younger) from another hive allows the bees in the queenless hive to make a queen from the donated eggs or larvae. So, it’s handy when beekeepers have other colonies from which to draw these resources…which is one reason most new beekeepers are encouraged to keep at least two colonies. Without another resource, colonies often fail.

If the Bebe bees choose to make a queen from the frame shown above, then their queen will be the genetic daughter of the queen laying in the Nicola hive…and the entire Bebe colony will eventually take on the characteristics of the very calm and productive Nicola colony.

In the image above, this is what you see (from bottom to top):

  1. empty cells (in the lower right-hand corner and across the bottom)
  2. larvae (the “C”-shaped, white, wormy things. It’s called “larvae” until it’s capped)
  3. capped brood (the lighter the capping, the younger the pupa. Once it’s capped and before it emerges, it’s called “pupa”)
  4. the empty cells spotting the capped brood? Cells from which young bees have already emerged. And that cell will forever be darker than the cells which never contained brood.
  5. You see more larvae in the upper left-hand corner. A good-laying queen lays her eggs in a circular pattern starting from the center and working her way out, so it stands to reason that larvae around the edges are in similar developmental stages. Yep, this is a good queen.
And this is a wonderful photograph. Thanks to Scott Beseler of Soapbox Cincinnati.