Save Money on Honey – How to Move and Save a Bee Colony
Quitting Your 9-5
The Swarm – Here’s a picture of the largest swarm we could see
How to Move and Save a Bee Colony
I haven’t been one to seek out adventure. I mostly stick to what amounts to fellowship, work or family. But in this case I was heading to a friend to help around the yard when they asked,
“Are you ready to face your fears?”
Of course, I said “yes,” right? Actually, I said “Depends on what fear.”
“Bees!” was the reply.
If that doesn’t invigorate your day I’m not sure what will. I immediately thought wow, what am I getting into. I’ve been reading on the internet about our world-wide bee population problem and I’ve always wanted to learn more about them. If you haven’t heard, researchers and farmers are pretty concerned about the dying bee population. Not for the sake of the bees but more so for the sake of everything living; bees aid in the pollination of about a 1/3 of all foods! You can read more about that through a google search. Bees are extremely important to maintain our way of life and I’ve just been invited to relocate a nest.
But how does this relate to budgeting? Well as some of you know, Honey can actually be pretty expensive. Some of the cheapest honey is still about 65 cents an ounce. That’s roughly $20 a quart for cheap honey. But I know what you’re saying, it’s a lot of work to take care of bees just for honey but I’ll get into that more below. First, let’s see how it went.
Alright, I promise not to fill this article with bee puns. Here’s the story: a new neighbor that is moving in soon saw a few bees flying in and out of the outside of his home near a drain pipe. He of course talked to the neighbors nearby to see what he should do. Enter my friend Michael and beekeeper Dave. This meant, time to suit up and see what we could do. Michael had previously kept a couple hives going to feed the family’s insatiable desire for delicious honey so he happened to have a few nice bee suits lying around. His hive is a bit dormant now but all the knowledge and materials were still readily available. We suit up and head over to check out the problem.
The problem with bees, is they can enter through such a small hole and start a nest in some of the most inopportune spots. That also means it can be extremely dangerous if it’s in or near a house. In this case, it was inside of the walls of a house between two bath tubs. Disclaimer: I wouldn’t recommend trying to mess with a nest if you find one, call a professional. All it takes is a couple hundred bee stings to send someone into shock or worse. Just don’t risk it. And trust me, it may not seem like much but in this case there were thousands of bees.
Assessing the Situation
After checking out the entrance point we surveyed the area in the house and outside to see what the best course of action was. It happened to be from both sides of the wall unfortunately which mean drilling a hole from the outside and most likely breaking into the wall from inside the house. You can see the damage below in the gallery.
The Bee Experience
This was such a fun experience especially knowing how important bees are and how delicious honey is. I challenge you to venture out and connect with nature a bit in relation to food that you like.
After getting a good look at where they were nesting, we began our extraction. Now, Dave our LVBees guide had planned all along to relocate the bees. (He’s actually a software engineer by day and a bee keeper by hobby.) If possible, you always want to relocate the bees instead of exterminating them. If you do a little research in your area you can find someone to extract the bees for a price. But again, I can’t stress enough, make sure a professional does this. However, relocating bees isn’t as easy as just telling them to move, obviously. It involves the right equipment, a little bit of coercing and often a bit of time.
But let’s get back to the question at hand: why should you even consider raising, saving or moving a be hive? After talking to Dave a bit, he mentioned that one of his hives produced 150lbs of honey in one season. To put that into perspective with the price per ounce of honey, 150lbs at roughly 3 lbs a quart and at 65 cents an ounce is over $1000 of pure honey. But that’s on the cheap end. You can probably sell it for more at farmers markets to people looking to have locally farmed and produced honey. Besides, who can eat 150# of honey in a year? Pretty neat right?
Back to the story.
Piece after piece, we tried breaking into various walls and began extracting the bees as well as the largest pieces of honey comb that we could grab. We tried our best to keep the hive clean and in the largest pieces possible so that relocating efforts would be more likely a success. After all, no one wants to move into the same house after an enormous earthquake or tornado tosses your house across the city. For the bees, that could just mean flying off and starting over instead. You can see from the pictures: there was some serious beauty in the swarming of the bees and the dripping of the beautiful honey. Even seeing a fresh honeycomb that was pearly white was extremely impressive. Bees are amazing insects. But grabbing the hive and bees isn’t as easy as just putting them all in a box and moving on. Did I mention there’s a queen to calls all the shots?
The actual extraction process involved a bit of soft vacuuming, relocating large hive pieces and searching for the queen bee. In this case, we couldn’t find her by the time we were done and it was getting dark. It also would have been extremely damaging and difficult to excavate the entire area where the hive was to search for her because it would mean damaging multiple studs and bathroom tubs. Dave’s first instinct when looking for the queen was that we might have already vacuumed her up with the swarm and she’s in the box already. That would be ideal actually. The hopes were that we didn’t accidentally squish her in the moving process or drown her in honey. Or even if we did vacuum her up, did she survive the vacuum?
Without knowing much information, and since the light was waning, the strategy was to then leave the box with the relocated hive outside and near the old gutted hive to give the queen some time to join the swarm. This isn’t unusual but the queen may decide to relocate somewhere else in the area and not join the swarm. She, after all, is calling the shots. But if she wasn’t with the hive already we decided to give her some time to join her little workers in hopes that she was willing to take her work elsewhere. Also, as you can imagine, relocating a hive can be stressful for the little insects. There hard worked for honey is in multiple places and as much as we tried to be careful, their hive is roughly in shambles. Leaving them for some time to recollect their honey and settle down is a good idea. We decided to check back tomorrow.
After leaving the swarm for a day, the queen joined the hive which means a job nearly well done enough. In just about 8 hours time most of the bees had already gathered up the potentially lost honey to refill their new hive-box. All that was left was to spray a couple squirts of some revolting bee-repellent inside the open house cavity to make sure the stragglers leave and then relocate the hive to a safer location.
Dave has over a dozen bee hives already so this will hopefully be one to join the mix that will in turn help our crops and provide some delicious honey! Dave mentioned that it’s already doing well at his house. He’ll eventually move the hive from a 5-frame box to a 10-frame box as they settle in and expand. What’s neat about the box is that once the queen is inside you can extrude her from leaving for a time to avoid her running out immediately to start a hive in the neighbors yard. Once they’re settled in you can turn the excluder to allow her free reign and she’ll most likely stay. If you want to get in contact with Dave, he has a website here with additional info.
All in all the experience was amazing. The bee suit is an incredible piece of tailoring that really makes you feel safe around the little insects. It’s a mutual safety issue as you don’t want to hurt a lot of the bees but you also don’t want to be stung by trying to help them to a safer place. Dave was stung a couple times as somehow a bee or two got into his suite but beyond that, we all left relatively unscathed. I couldn’t help but want to eat the honey while I was near the hive but that would have meant taking off my mask and risking multiple stings. I’ll just look forward to starting my own hive in the future.
Starting a hive may take some resources in gathering proper equipment and learning some of the strategies but the goal here isn’t to fall in love with bees. The goal is to have the freedom through proper budgeting to do the things you love or want to do and also have the chance to make money at it.
For those who are ready for the jump into beekeeping, I found a neat resource online. Check out Discover Beekeeping Here. If you do decide to get into Beekeeping I’d love to know and I’ll do my best to be a resource from my own knowledge and the people around me. Toss a comment below so I can check it out and possible setup an interview in the future!
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