In July I received a call from a resident who discovered she had some unwanted residents living under her deck. I asked her the color of her residents, and was able to confirm they were honeybees. They had likely swarmed last year and found the opening under her deck quite perfect for their new home. The only problem was, it was inside the structure, and could become quite a nightmare to remove as time went on. I decided to pay her a visit, and sure enough, there the bee-line was, going in and out of an opening in the stucco under her deck. They were very friendly and paid us no attention as we looked closer, but I knew this wasn’t a job I could do alone.
I felt in over my head, as I am skilled at collecting swarms, but not comfortable with cutting into any structures to remove comb and all. So, we decided to look for someone who might be willing and able to tackle this, potentially huge, project. Months went by, schedules got very busy, and we lost track of things. However, I was lucky enough to come across a local business, Colorado Bee Rescue, at the Parker Honeybee Festival in August, and called their number.
Guy answered, and I told him about the bees, and he agreed to call the resident and assess the situation. He agreed to help her along with my help. I was very excited, as you all can imagine, being the bee hugger that I am.
When I showed up, Guy had already begun, and was using a bee vacuum he designed specifically for this purpose. Guy has kept bees for 12 years, and has owned two contracting companies before this endeavor, so he knows how to cut into structures with minimal damage, which is then easily repaired. What a complete package of skills he has for what he does now!
The space the bees had filled was roughly two feet deep by two feet high by 3 feet long rectangles under the deck.
The comb was beautifully symmetrical; amazing that honeybees can draw such perfect comb every time!
I helped where I could, collecting bees with the vacuum. Before we could finish, some neighborhood robber bees started showing up, sucking down piles of honey left on the concrete, and many even piled up onto the cut comb. It became challenging to determine which bees belonged where! So, we stopped vacuuming, as Guy said that usually collecting all the colony doesn’t typically take that long.
When Guy opened up the screened vacuum box, thousands of little faces peered out at us, and a few stragglers started to cling to the outside of it, exchanging pheromones through the screen, and even fanning to help any other stragglers to find their way home.
The top picture shows a daughter bee faithfully fanning her wings to emit the queen’s pheromones to guide sisters to her.
Here a group of sisters are exchanging pheromones via proboscis contact. It also looked like they were caring for a younger sister, maybe feeding her too.
The volume of bees in a hive is so amazing, and to hear them all together in such a small space makes you realize just how many there are! I placed my gloved hand on the screen, and the vibration was exhilarating. This took me back to swarm season, and that amazing feeling of thousands of bees sitting on my hand as I guide them into the rescue box. What amazing little creatures honeybees are!
I love what I do, and knowing that this resident’s connection with me helped to save these bees from extermination, is exactly why I do what I do.
Here’s a face to go with the name, Guy Shingleton. Thank you, Guy, for the sweet treat, and for all you do!
Check out this sweet treat I scored for helping out today! So delicious straight out of the comb!
Some things to keep in mind, if you find yourself in a situation like this one are as follows:
- If it is fall when you find the colony, please consider letting them be until spring. It is very hard for a colony to survive the winter when they are moved in the fall. They have spent all the warm months making honey stores for winter, and moving them destroys much of that work. This colony will need to be fed sugar syrup through the winter, which doesn’t contain the same nutrients as honey, so not ideal, but necessary.
- Exterminating them is pointless, aside from unethical at this day in age, as we need them for so many reason. Killing all the bees leaves all the honeycomb in your walls, or whatever structure they have decided to occupy. This serves as bate, leading another colony into that space, and you are faced with this fate all over again. The best way to cure this situation is to have a professional remove the comb and the bees, and then fill the space with insulation so there isn’t an open cavity begging to be occupied again.
- Leave it to the professionals to get this done properly. Attempting to remove a honeybee colony without proper equipment and protective gear is very risky, even if you aren’t allergic to stings.
- If you see a swarm in the spring, call the swarm hotline, or call me, and we can find them a proper home so they don’t move where they aren’t wanted.
Thank you for joining the movement to save our bees!