Honeybees as Housemates

I receive a lot of calls for bee removals at this time of year.

This is a lousy time of year to remove honeybees, and, believe me, it’s a tough challenge to encourage homeowners to live throughout the winter with their hive of bees as housemates.

Asking some people to live with their honeybees is sort of like asking them to live with their cancer for a little while longer (yes, I know this analogy falls short because cancer is serious business and honeybees are simply a nuisance, but go with me on this one).

Usually, the bees have been living undetected in the home for some time. So, it’s not as if this is something that needs to be addressed immediately. For some reason, however, simply KNOWING about the bees’ presence seems to instill a sense of urgency in their removal.

However, if we can keep our wits about us, we will make better decisions…decisions based on information and made with a cool head.

In just a few weeks, the honeybees in Ohio will cluster. They’ll be quiet. They’ll stop flying around the doorframe or the windowsill or from the attic where they’ve previously been so active. They will simply live out their winter in a quiet ball of sweet humming. Over the winter, the population of the hive will slowly decrease. And that great store of honey they’ve collected all summer will dwindle as the colony slowly consumes it.

If we were to remove the bees right now, the bees could not survive—removals are hard on the bees, and they need some nurturing from their beekeeper to recover from it…and this late in the season, they don’t have time to reestablish themselves before winter hits. So, even though we can rid the house of bees, we would lose the bees entirely. And my priority is to establish a viable hive from whatever bees I remove.

If I can convince the homeowner to wait until late March (or after) to part company with their bees, we would find three things beneficial to a successful removal:

  1. There are far fewer bees to remove because the hive population dwindles over the winter (this also translates into less expense for the homeowner).
  2. There is far less honey to deal with because the colony eats through the stored honey over the winter. Therefore, there’s far less mess to clean up from the space in which the colony overwintered (this also translates into less expense for the removal). It also means far less honey remains behind to draw ants, mice, and other pests which the homeowner surely wants to avoid.
  3. Most importantly, if we remove the bees and all their honeycomb in the spring, the hive stands every chance to recover and thrive and pollinate and produce local honey (a portion of which is usually gifted back to the homeowner). In the spring, we would expect a healthy, vibrant hive to carry on once it’s re-hived and re-established in a bee yard where it can forage and flourish. Doesn’t that make you happy, Reader?
I sort of like the thought of overwintering a hive of humming honeybees in the warm walls of my home—a dog, a cat, some mice, a few spiders, and a hive of honeybees. It all adds heart.




Kill the Yellow Jackets


I kept seeing all these little yellow jackets as I was feeding the August Boatwright hive yesterday. I squished a lot of them with my hive tool, but they just kept coming, so I investigated. Hundreds of them were coming up from beneath the cinder block on which I’d placed my new bee-tree hive. Shit. Looks like there’s a nest beneath the beehive, and they went straight for the sugar water I fed the bees.

I swear, I’m not sure how to handle this one. The August Boatwright hive isn’t yet back on its own two feet after their removal from the bee tree. They’re still recovering, and their hopes for survival are slim even without this f*cking yellow-jacket invasion…they haven’t yet built up enough bees or the defenses to fight off yellow jackets or other threats.

I immediately reduced the size of the hive entrance—I would move the hive to another spot altogether if I thought they could take another relocation, but I hate to mess with them just as they’re getting their legs back under them.

Treatment for yellow jacket nests? Douse them with gasoline and let the fumes kill them.

Problem with that? Their nest is just beneath the bee colony, so the fumes would kill the bees, too.

JP, my new friend on Beemaster.com, suggested I soak them with hot soapy water—the soap suffocates them. I have to do this at night when all the yellow jackets are in their nest. So, last night I mixed up two five-gallon buckets of hot, soapy water, put on my full-fledged bee suit, stumbled out to the beeyard in the dark, and dumped all the water and soap where I think the nest is.

The sun isn’t yet up this morning, so I can’t assess how this worked. I’ll let you know, though.

Douse the Suckers with Soapy Water
Douse the Suckers with Soapy Water
Nighttime Beekeeper
Nighttime Beekeeper
Good Bye, Yellow Jackets
Good Bye, Yellow Jackets