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Saturday, May 7, 2011


After two years humoring this bee colony in my building at work, they were starting to get me down. Twice last week they began swarming inside the hallway below, through some cracks in the wall apparently. I just had to show up and spray them all dead, which was gross because, not only did I end up with hundreds of dead bees, but they basically death-barfed honey everywhere. I guess when they prepare to swarm, they load up on honey for the journey, so they're like living honey bombs if you kill them.

After two rounds of exploring an area of ductwork and ceiling-to-wall joints where errant bees kept popping out of holes, I sealed all cracks with expanding foam and seemed to have them sealed outside again. The next day, I went on the roof to check on an air conditioner problem. Just 20 feet from the main hive, I found this pile of bees.

iPhone shadow converging on honeybee convention

Just a few days earlier, I'd seen this on the hive wall and called a beekeeper, but by the time he got there a few hours later, they were gone. He'd said he was going to spray them with sugar water and scoop them into a wooden crate, so I decided to try it myself. I had a jug of Sprite syrup from a soda fountain. I had kicked the habit of adding it to water to make a Sprite-flavored kool-aid drink, so this would be a good use for it. I mixed a spray bottle of around 4:1 water to syrup. I punched some air holes in a 5-gallon bucket lid. Then I put on a ski mask, hooded sweatshirt, and heavy gloves.

The sugar water was supposed to keep them from flying, which didn't really work. There were always a number of flyers whose job appeared to be air defense. I kept misting the pile and the flyers, but there was really no keeping them down. Luckily, most of them remained docile in the swarm heap. I started scooping them up with a plastic dustpan and dumping them into the bucket. Soon everything became sticky with Sprite. My shoes were sticking to the roof and I was trying not to step on bees. Every minute or so, the flyers would get more numerous and aggressive, so I'd mist them, back out, check myself for mad bees, and start again.

Soon I had about 90% of them in the bucket. I sent a picture to the beekeeper and told him I was catching them. I put the lid on the bucket so they wouldn't fly out, but for the most part they just sat in there regardless of what I did. I took the bucket down to the ground, then got a small cardboard box and put the last few hundred bees in it. The beekeeper said he would come get them in a couple hours, and said I should put the bucket out of the sun, so I did.

is the queen in here?

inside the bee bucket

So I handed the bucket and the box off to the bee man. I never got stung, which I think is more about the bees being good and less about my technique. The main hive seems normal again. Hopefully I sent the swarm off to better opportunities, where they won't get sprayed with poison or flat pop. Now pollinate, my swarm!

1 comment:

Sam said...

Man of action!