Bee Update: Harvesting Wild Bees {TGP}

Today I have a special treat for you all – an update on the bees that my brother-in-law (affectionately known as ‘Zack, the Bee Man’) keeps on our property and how he harvested wild bees from an old barn! You may remember when I first told you about the bees arriving and when The Bee Man gave us a BeeKeeper’s Perspective and a ton of great information about raising bees last year. Well, there’s bad news-good news on the bee front and Zack’s back again to give us an update:

Bee Man Harvesting Wild Bees::An Oregon Cottage

Last year I started keeping honeybees as a hobby and I ended up falling in love. I quickly became emotionally attached to my “girls” and would often find myself gazing at them in wonderment as they buzzed from flower to flower collecting nectar and pollen, all the while pollinating the garden.

I refer to them as “my girls” even though a couple hundred male drones live in the hive, but rarely leave. Male honeybees have no stinger and do not help out with the daily chores around the hive (cleaning, tending to the brood, collecting food for the winter, etc). Subsequently all the girls kick the boys out in late fall so they don’t eat all the food stores over the winter!!

As I wrote last year, I’m a novice beekeeper and am still learning how to manage my girls appropriately. Last fall I tried to get away with not medicating my two hives for mites, but unfortunately both of our hives did not make it through the winter. I was heartbroken!

This spring I decided I still wanted to keep honeybees but now I had the task of somehow getting more girls to populate my empty boxes. There are really only three options to get more bees:

  • Option #1: Buy two more packages of bees from a local beekeeper for $80 a piece.
  • Option #2: Get the bees to come to me.
  • Option #3: Find and get the bees myself.

Because I promised my wife this was just a hobby and I wasn’t going to spend a lot of money on this new hobby, option 1 was off the table. I then tried option 2 and for two months I tried to “bait” the empty hives with lemongrass essential oil, but that didn’t pan out. The summer was starting to drag on and I was becoming worried that I wouldn’t find any girls in time to make a strong hive that would survive the winter!

Harvesting Wild Bees: first cut revealed

Then one day about two months ago I was contacted by a property owner in a nearby town who owns an old gymnasium that is scheduled to be demolished and had honeybees living in the walls. He wanted to save the honeybees so he contacted me to extract the bees. For me it was a perfect scenario – I got free bees and I didn’t have to worry about the large holes I would be leaving in the walls.

Harvesting Wild Bees:Extracting with Homemade Bee Vac

So, it was option three and I quickly purchased a second bee suit for friends who would accompany me with the extraction process and then I built a bee vac that I would use to suck up the bees from the walls (here’s the video I used to build my bee vac).

Wild Bees:Extracting bees from an old barn

I was able to extract six hives from the old gym. Some of the hives were very large and had lots of extra honey in them and others were quite small or had been recently evacuated. All the extra wax from the hives was melted down in a large pot and will be used to make beautiful beeswax candles later this year. A great Christmas present to go along with a jar of your own honey. Shhh, don’t tell my sister-in-law!

Harvesting Wild Bees: Barn wall fully opened

The process of extracting bees from a wall is very exciting. The initial cut with the skill saw on the wall puts all the guard bees on high alert. They pelt your bee suit like a shotgun gone off in your face.

How to Harvest Wild Bees::An Oregon Cottage

I vacuumed the bees into an empty bee box then cut out their own honeycomb and tied that comb into empty frames and placed those frames into an empty bee box.

Harvesting Wild Bees: Bees into new hive

When all the honeycomb had been extracted and a majority of the bees sucked up, I placed the new box with their comb on top of the box where all the bees were and then removed the mesh in between the two boxes so the bees could repopulate their own comb.

There was definitely a steep learning curve to the whole process. After four trips to the old gym (over a two month period) I ended up extracting six hives. The first two extractions didn’t make it. I combined two of the weaker hives together and now we have three strong hives that hopefully will make it through the winter.

Wild Bee Honey

I medicated all three hives for varroa mites this year and I think they have plenty of honey to make it through the winter. Fingers crossed, hopefully I’ll be writing another guest post in early spring next year updating you about my three new beehives that made it through the winter!

Harvesting Wild Bees

Thanks, Bee Man! As for Brian and I – we love having the bees on our property and watching them pollinate our flowers and produce. We just make sure to stay inside for a bit when Zack brings another hive, ’cause they can be kinda upset about the whole moving thing!

Okay, onto the Tuesday Garden Party – what end-of-season treasures do you have for us today?

Comments

  1. says

    What a great story. I could hear bees buzzing around as I was reading! Here’s to three healthy hives next spring! Thank you for hosting the linky party – have a great week!

  2. Christine says

    Woooooowwwwww.
    I felt so sad that some didn’t make it through the winter or the move. Do they just die? Or do they incorporate into another hive? This is fascinating.

    • Zack says

      Christine, Unfortunately I think the girls last year came down with a varroa mite infestation. I did not medicate the hive last year for this mite and I think that’s was caused their demise. I medicated them this year, so keep your fingers crossed.

  3. Shannon says

    What a fun post! My dad raised bees in NC when I was a little girl. There was always so much excitement around the whole process. This brought back a rush of fun memories. Thanks and good luck to the new hives!!!!

    • Zack says

      Thanks for the good luck wishes with my new hives. Extracting bees from homes and old structures might be the way to go for me. It’s cheap, plus I get to save some girls.

  4. says

    That is fascinating! A lot of work; I’m glad some of the bees were able to make 3 new hives but like Christine, sad that 2 hives died. I wish Mr Bee would have explained what happened. I was speculating that the vacuum used for the 1st 2 hives was too strong and injured them. I hope the rest do really well long-term!

    • Zack says

      Natalia, I was extremely sad at the loss of my two original hives as well. The first hive I extracted from the gym was HUGE. The owner of the property said that particular hive had been there for over 10 years. It was the first hive to populate the old gym. It was easily twice the size of the hive I showed you in the blog!! Unfortunately I was low on the learning curve for that extraction and used a shop vac hose that I borrow from my father in law. The hose was 13 feet long!! Needless to say, the girls kind of got beat up too much on their way into the hive. I keep the suction low, but the distance traveled in the hose was just too treacherous for them :( After those first two hive extraction, I purchased a much shorter (6 feet) and larger diameter shop vac hose for sucking them into the hive

  5. says

    I loved reading this! My husband and our 15yr old son do live bee removals. We have 6 hives in our back yard and they are all rescued bees. I linked up our latest update on them and how they processed over 10 gallons of honey.

    • Zack says

      Love it!! Did you make your own shop vac for your extractions? I never knew extracting bees from an old gym would be so exciting. I just love the anticipation of what the comb looks like in the walls. It’s always amazing to see what incredible hives they build.

  6. says

    i DO remember last year and as to this year. ha ha typical guy understatement ” The process of extracting bees from a wall is very exciting”

    LOL! Love it! :)

    I had so many bees this year between all my bushes and flowers and I just loved that …I appreciate them so ! :)

  7. says

    Loved the story about the bees, what an adventure. We used to keep bees and I just loved having them! thanks also for hosting! Wanted to let you know I’m doing a giveaway for a food dehydrator this week on my blog! Stop on over if you are interested! Nancy On The Home Front

  8. says

    That is nothing short of amazing. He found the perfect solution and it worked out for everyone, including the bees! Love when that happens!

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