Archive for the ‘honeybees’ Tag

Removing a Three-Year-Old Beehive: Photos From The Scene


My days of collecting bees are over.

by Keith Yancy

It’s over.

Honeybees have been part of my life for the past several years.  In fact, bees have been living in my HOUSE for the last several years.  This past Thursday, after repeated attempts to exterminate them myself (see previous blog posts) and after trying different exterminators, I finally had enough.

It may seem strange, but I was sorry it came to this.  We had fought each other for a very long time, and I had grown to respect them; no matter how many I killed, they just kept going, more and more of them, apparently oblivious to how many I had vacuumed.  I had hired an exterminator or two in the past, but nothing overcame their ability to keep up their work, and the swarms and steady stream of honeybees flying into my outside fascia continued.

But the time had come, at last, for them to go.  My wife has wanted to remodel our living room for a long time, and the bees needed to leave to get that project started.  I finally admitted defeat, found an exterminator who knew how tough a job it would be, and paid him to do it.

Below is a photographic “step by step” of the experience, complete with descriptions.

It started here.  My living room, before the carnage.  The beehive is in the upper left corner of this picture, near the picture window.  Note the “sea of beige” (it was this way when we moved in) that will eventually be replaced.

Tom, the exterminator.  Great guy who did a great job.  Taught me (and my girls) a lot about bees, beehives, and cheerfully endured my photographs and videos.  Here, he’s poisoning them before opening up the ceiling.  You could hear the bees buzzing angrily when Tom was doing this, which increased the tension level of the experience.

Tom, using a long scraper to find the hive.  It was at this moment that I realized a) he wasn’t wearing any bee suit, b) neither was I, and c) neither were my kids, all of whom were sitting on the stairs behind me.  I was proud of them — after telling me they didn’t want to be there, their curiosity overcame their nervousness, and they watched the whole thing.

Once he found the hive, Tom cut that section of the ceiling out.  A few bees few out, but what I noticed immediately was the honey dripping down from the ceiling.  A LOT of honey.  You could still hear bees buzzing at this point, but Tom was completely untroubled by this.  He mentioned — repeatedly, throughout the process — that it was a shame they couldn’t be saved.

The process gets messy quickly at this point.  Tom is looking at the honeycombs here, and you can already see honey on the walls. 

We had put a large garbage can below the hole in the ceiling, which was a good idea… the can would get full very quickly. 

Pieces of the honeycomb.  There were many.

Another photo of the carnage.  It was — and is — a gooey mess.

The hole in the ceiling.  If you look carefully, you can see pieces of the hive still there, along with marks on the flooring above where the combs were hanging.  Note that the hive extends well to the right of this hole, and down the wall.  Bees were all dead by this time.

Tom realized that the only way to get all of the hive out was to go in from the outside.  The entrance to the hive is located just to the right of the gutter, where the top corner of the board he’s pulling off meets the siding.  I killed many bees in this location.

Tom reached into the wall and handed me this comb.  He later taught me how to make a candle with it.  Tom was a fantastic guy — he regularly gives bee nests and other stuff he has to “manage” to science teacher friends.  He was genuinely sorry he had to kill the bees, and was quick to point out how social honeybees generally are. 

Whenever people ask me, “Did you get the honey?”, I always think of this picture.  This is the condition of much of the honey that came out, complete with bee guts, bits of hive, etc.  I like honey, but I like sausage too — and I don’t want to see either before it’s been prepared and packaged for consumption, thanks.  (It didn’t help matters that I had the flu during this entire experience, so thinking of eating this was not a good idea.)

Another shot of the ceiling, this time after almost all the hive was removed.  Blech.  Cleanup is going to be an incredible pain.

Three of the combs.  I put my foot next to them as a reference to their size.   I wear a size 11 shoe, btw… :)

The aftermath.  Not so bad, I guess, but the whole thing is incredibly sticky.  Not much of a smell, though, and thankfully, no living bees.  Now the real work begins of cleanup and repair.

The end.  It’s as gross as it looks. 

I took this last photo to show that the honey is all over the place — the door handle to the house, on the front porch step (shown here), everywhere.  Those bees were productive, if nothing else… there was, and is, a lot of honey, and a ton of cleaning up to do.

I hope this has given you a small glimpse of what it’s like to have a beehive taken out of your house.  All in all, a much better experience than I feared.  Tom from Pestmasters is an excellent exterminator — and a pretty darn good teacher to boot.  Even their prices were reasonable.  I’d recommend them to anyone.

And now, I’m going to start cleaning this mess up. 

Until next time… :)

Man vs. Beehive — An April 1 Showdown


by Keith Yancy

April 1, 2012

I have a beehive. 

In fact, I have a very, very large beehive, somewhere within the wall of my living room inside my house.  I’ve been trying to get rid of these uninvited pests for almost three years.  The fact that they’re honeybees compounds the problem, because people generally feel sorry for them (they’re dying due to pesticides) and when I bring up the topic to friends and relatives, I suspect they not-so-secretly think I’m cruel for trying to get rid of them.

I think it’s important to point out that I have nothing against honeybees.  They have never been aggressive, and I appreciate all the bee-related jobs they do.  I just don’t want them in my house, where — in the few quiet moments that occur in a house with three kids — I can hear them through the living room wall.   That, and the fact that they occasionally swarm outside the hive, creating an impressive but massive cloud of bees that even neighbors have stopped to marvel at.

Today, I decided to make a new attempt to get rid of them.  In the past, I’ve tried hiring a beekeeper (none would come to Plymouth due to distance) or poisoning them (both myself and with an exterminator), but nothing worked.  Bees by the thousands, coming and going via a hole in my exterior trim work.  But today, I decided on an entirely new strategy — getting them out by going through the wall in my living room.

It started well.

I began by drilling a 1-1/2-inch hole in the drywall where the hive is located, and immediately stuck a shop-vac nozzle into the hole.  Rather than vacuum them, however, I felt it would be a better idea to start by blowing air into the hive to get them sufficiently active.  This, by my thinking, would help me both blow out some of the bees from the hive, and potentially drive the queen out of hiding — something I’d been trying to do (unsuccessfully) for three years.

So, I blasted this massive beehive with air for a few minutes.  Nothing happened, at least as far as I could make out.  No huge massive cloud of bees left the hive, at any rate.  Eventually, I grew tired of this, so I quickly changed the shop-vac direction to vacuum them out.  This resulted in immediate progress.  I soon found myself with a 16-gallon shop-vac absolutely FULL of angry, swarming bees. 

Once I decided that I’d vacuumed up all the bees, I blocked off the hole, turned off the vacuum, and decided that, for the safety of everyone involved, I’d take the vacuum outside so that there wouldn’t be any stray bees flying around inside my house.  This was nerve-wracking… the vacuum was literally shaking with thousands of angry, vacuumed bees trying to get out to attack.  Anyway, I took the shop-vac outside onto the front lawn.

That’s where my plan began to fall apart.

Because the shop-vac was bulky, heavy and shaking, I somehow put it down on the lawn a bit too roughly, and the top promptly came off.  Not just a little — the top, almost in slow motion — first popped loose, and then inexorably slid off, just as I was trying to let go of each of the side handles.  I suddenly found my face, in fact my entire head, about 4 inches away from several thousand swarming, confused, angry bees.

Any hope that the bees would somehow leave me alone was immediately abandoned.  They came straight for me as I dropped the vacuum and started running.  I can still recall the shrieks of my wife and kids (safely in the house) when they saw what was happening.  Rather than risk getting them stung by trying to immediately run into the front door, however, I sadly thought that I could outrun them.

There’s something quite pathetic about seeing a man running around his own home, waving his arms wildly in the air and shouting, while a large swarming cloud of bees remains somehow perpetually buzzing and swarming all around him.  I was about 20 feet into my failing escape when the bees decided that the yellow gym shorts I was wearing was a good stinging target, and proceeded to take turns stinging me in my behind.  They were not patient nor polite about this, and immediately commenced with stinging my backside multiple times at once. 

I yelled some more as I rounded the garage and headed for the backyard, but they were having no trouble both keeping up with me and stinging me at the same time.  The very air around me was vibrating with their anger.  I remember making it to the backyard deck and going up the stairs, shouting and getting stung every step of the way… and then discovering that the first glass doorwall I tried to open was, tragically, locked. 

I did not stop to reflect on this disappointment.  Instead, I moved to the second doorwall and found it open.  I rushed in, closed the door, and killed off the few bees who chose to follow me inside, as my kids shouted and ran for safer parts of the house.  As I began to take stock of the number of stings I’d collected on my backside, I watched with a new respect as a massive cloud of bees swarmed with fury outside my glass doors, desperately wanting to continue their attack.  It might have been my imagination, but I think some wasps and hornets joined in just for spite.

That was three hours ago.  The current situation is as follows:

  1. The bees have now returned to their hive, inside my wall, angry but otherwise unfazed.
  2. I have a hole in my wall, an empty shop-vac laying on my front lawn, and a pretty large collection of dead bees smashed in various areas of my kitchen.
  3. My family refuses to enter the living room, because of the hole in the wall (which is still temporarily blocked).
  4. My behind has too many bee stings to count.  No, I’m not allergic to bee stings.

In other words, the bees are just fine, while me, my house and my vacuum look like we just lost a battle.  Because we did.

Just in the past 15 minutes, I’ve been contacted by the Distinguished Union of Hivemasters — Wasps, Hornets and Yellow Jackets division (DUH-WHY) regarding opportunities to star in their “How Not-To” series.  As I contemplate this new business opportunity while remove stingers with a mirror and tweezers, I’m thinking about leaving the house to the bees… and maybe the vacuum, too.

Happy April Fools Day.

Until next time… :)

UPDATE: Keith vs. Bees Pictorial


 
 
 
 

A glimpse of my bee problem... yeah, it's a BIG problem.

 

by Keith Yancy

Sometimes, the idea you think is the dumbest one turns out to be the one that works.

By now, most of you know of my ongoing saga with the large hive of honeybees taking up residence in the walls of my house.  I can’t say that I’ve done very much to get rid of them, mostly because my natural instinct to be cheap is much stronger than my need to be free of bees.  In other words, I don’t want to pay money to get them professionally exterminated. 

I’ve been content to co-exist with them for the past 18 months or so, but over time, like many forced relationships, familiarity breeds contempt; I’ve grown dangerously brave where bee confrontations are concerned.  I’ve stomped them, sprayed them, captured them in jars, smashed them with magazines and newspapers… all the while knowing that I wasn’t making much of a dent in the population.  (Tip: Do not capture bees in jars, then leave them on the kitchen counter for your wife to find.  Ooooo… that was not a good idea.)

Until now.  I’ve finally found a way to fight back in a large-scale way.

You see, my brother — the mechanical genius of the family — has been persistently suggesting (read: bugging) me to try HIS idea: vacuum the bees up with my shop-vac.  For months, he planned out how I could do it, how I could plug up the hose when I was done to make sure none flew back out, how I could vacuum them without being stung, etc.  And for just as many months, I demurred… figuring that some way, somehow, I’d figure out a better plan. 

I didn’t.

Ultimately, I was left to select from the following choices:

a) Act responsibly and pay a professional exterminator to remove my bees
b) Continue to ignore them, as they pose little harm to me or my family
c) Use approved chemicals to eradicate the bees in a proven, time-tested fashion, or
d) Attempt to vacuum LIVE BEES into a vacuum cleaner in the hopes that every one of them (including the queen bee) had a simultaneous suicide wish.

Ultimately, inevitably… I chose D.  Otherwise known as the choice of an IDIOT.

In my defense, it did take me quite a while to warm up to it.  I had a variety of other ideas for getting rid of them, including poisoning, or building a “bee box” and coaxing them into it, but none really seemed like a good idea; poison dust gets everywhere, and is dangerous to people and pets.  And building the bees a new hive just seemed like too much work.  Gradually, the silly idea of vacuuming bees began to look more and more do-able, much like how morons convince themselves that if they fell into the Grand Canyon, they’d somehow survive.

A few days ago, I was out raking leaves, occasionally looking over to see the hundreds of bees flying in and out of the wall of my house like clockwork.  As always, they were completely unconcerned with me, and were steadily going about their business.  Suddenly, I remembered my brother’s “shop-vac idea,” as I’d come to think of it.  Like the slow-witted, suburbanite, middle-aged man I’ve become, I stood there staring at the bees as it dawned on me that:

1.  The shop-vac was nearby in the garage;
2.  It was chilly, so the bees wouldn’t be as aggressive;
3.  Nobody was around to tell me I was an idiot; and
4.  I could run (jog) away if it didn’t work (or went bad).

This opportunity proved to be irresistable.  In just a few minutes, I had everything I needed to try my brother’s idea.  And, since nobody was around, I put my plan in action.  I got my shop-vac set up, rigged it to be aimed right outside the entrance to their hive, and even had a plan for the dreaded “what to do when I turn the dumb thing off” moment.  I set it all up, took a deep breath, turned on the vacuum, and high-tailed it out of there.

And, much to my astonishment, it WORKED.

I rigged my shop vac to suck up bees right outside their hive entrance. The neighbors thought I was nuts. Probably still do.

A closer look... the vacuum stayed on for about two hours.

The bees were able to avoid the vacuum when they left the hive… but when they returned, me and my Death Sucker 9000 were waiting.  (NOTE: The “Death Sucker 9000″ is my new name for the shop-vac.  And no, the “9000” doesn’t mean anything.  It just has a nice ring to it.)  The bees made an audible “click” sound when they got sucked into the plastic vacuum tube, which I found very satisfying.  I stared spell-bound at the entire situation for over an hour, an out of shape, middle-aged guy standing on his front lawn completely transfixed by a loud, shaking shop-vac hanging on the wall of his own home.  In fact, once the Death Sucker proved to be effective, I immediately began to take pictures of the action and send them to my brother, who was as elated as I was (and somewhat jealous that he wasn’t there to see it).  His passion for this experiment was so great that, when I expressed concern about leaving my shop-vac running for hours at a time, he offered to buy me a new replacement if it died (it didn’t).

In fact, I was such a dork that I timed how many bees the Death Sucker 9000 was consuming.  The highest rate was 22 bees per minute.  This gave my effort the warm glow of science as well as made me feel like I was accomplishing something.  This also took my mind off of the fact that my neighbors probably all thought (and still think) that I am not only a complete nut, but an incredibly cheap nut to boot.

The Death Sucker 9000. Looks like an ordinary shop-vac, but has a much more sinister purpose...

After it looked like the bee consumption had tapered off, I put my master plan into effect — I took the still-running vacuum hose down from the hive entrance and immediately sucked up some powder that was deadly to bees.  I was very proud of this idea, envisioning a spinning vortex of powdery bee-death in my shop-vac, then put another part of my brother’s plan into action, taping a clear pop bottle to the vacuum entrance to make sure no bees escaped (none did). 

I did not get stung even one time. 

Later, I opened up the vacuum to check my deadly harvest.  By my count, the score is now Keith 1,300 (est.), Bees 0.  Yes, I know… it’s probably cruel.  And yes, it won’t really solve my problem.  BUT… I didn’t invite them to live in my home, and if it thins the herd, so to speak, that has to be a good thing.  And, to be fair, let me say here that my brother’s idea actually WORKED.  Bill, I admit it… you were right.  It worked… at least for now. 

This is what about 1,200 vacuumed bees looks like. Despite the poison, I waited until it was about 45 degrees.

Then I put all the bees into a plastic container and brought them in the house when my wife wasn't around...

and was about to put the bees into the garbage in the garage, when I noticed some of them still moving.

So I put them in a warm place, under a hot lamp, and waited. Soon, about 50 or so bees were very angry and gave the entire bin a creeping, moving appearance. My daughters were creeped out, so I put it in the garage.

But they still find their way into my basement.  In other words, the fight goes on: Cheap Guy vs. The Bees.  At least I’m now in the game.

Until next time… :)

P.S.  For those of you who think I’m cruel and should call a beekeeper, I’ve tried.  I’ve called several, none of which were willing to help me due to time, distance, and lack of interest in the honey.  It may seem like I’m cruel, but I do not wish to have bees living in my home, and would gladly have a beekeeper take the bees alive if any would do so.  To date, none will.  For those who STILL think I’m cruel, look again at the first picture, and ask yourselves if you would like having that in the same area YOUR 8- and 11-year old kids play.  I bet not.

K. 

Keith vs. the Bees


The tree with the basketball-sized hornet's nest.

by Keith Yancy

Bees.

Some people fight the war on poverty.  Some people fight the war on diseases, or global warming, or abortion.  Some even fight angry Republicans or self-righteous Democrats.  

I fight the war on bees.  And I think I’m losing.

Unlike my dad, who (as I’ve mentioned before) has no fear of bees whatsoever, I have a healthy respect for bees.  While I am not mortally afraid of them, I’ll admit that the last time I was stung, I let out a yell that sounded like a scared 12-year old girl.  In my defense, the little bastards (there were two) stung me twice on the inside of my arm at the elbow and took me completely by surprise, but it was still embarrassing as I wildly ran out of my own flowerbed in a mad dash for safety.

I believe that our Heavenly Father has a fantastic sense of humor.  As a result, because I don’t like bees, he sends them to me with almost as much determination and constancy as those LL Bean people send me catalogs in the mail.   I read somewhere that there is some sort of honeybee shortage, but I think that’s complete crap.  I can’t get rid of them.

Think I’m exaggerating?  I wish.  The following facts are all true:

1.  I have bees living IN MY HOUSE, RIGHT NOW.  As I type this, I can hear them in the wall of my living room… crawling around doing whatever it is they do.  There is a large honeybee nest in the wall of my home, and I’ve learned that they do not die from hornet poison, exterminators’ powder, or me swearing at them.  The last time I attempted to kill them, about 10,000 promptly came out of their hive — which, again, is located in MY HOUSE — and swarmed around my head so thickly that you couldn’t see through the swarm.

2.  Last summer, some different kind of bee started boring holes in my cedar deck.  This angered me greatly, so I again attempted to poison them with hornet killer, and discovered (to my great disappointment) that this only made them drunk.  These bees were large — very large — with hair and muscular legs (I’m not making this up).  I’d spray them, they’d fall onto the ground, lay there a minute (thus my knowledge of their muscles) and then fly around and look for someone to sting (you guessed it).  These bees were freaking HUGE, and ANGRY, and EAT MY DECK THAT I PAID TOO MUCH FOR. 

3.  Wasps make nests at my house every year.  These little bastards prefer to have lots of small nests that require constant extermination, but at least they’re polite enough to die when I spray them with hornet killer.  They work in volume — “go ahead, kill us, we’ll just be back tomorrow” — and love living in the canopy on my deck.  This results in wasps flying around people’s head a lot… but the upside is that the canopy is generally a kid-free zone.

Remember… I hate bees, and I now have 3 different types living at/in my house.  But there’s more.

4.  There were the hornets that made a gigantic soccer-ball-sized nest in my backyard tree.  THESE guys (different from the other guys) were naturally ticked off, big, not really hairy or muscular (a plus, I suppose) but again had the irritating ability to not die from poison.  Unlike the hairy ones, poison didn’t make these guys drunk or sleepy — they went straight to really, really RIDICULOUSLY TICKED OFF mode, and attempted to express their anger at anyone nearby (guess who!).  This problem was particularly bad because they were so naturally grumpy that my kids refused to play in the backyard while they were there.  Facing a summer of three kids constantly in my house forced me to take drastic action and call for reinforcements.  My 80-year-old dad (the reinforcements… hey, he’s free) came over, and promptly formulated a plan: He would cut the tree branch the nest hung from, and I would catch it in a garbage bag and quickly seal them inside.

Think about this plan a moment.

The fact that two reasonably intelligent, grown men thought this was a good idea is good enough for a separate blog post… but our grand plan quickly developed problems.  First, I was too chicken/smart to actually stand there with a bag while a huge nest of angry bees fell from the sky, so I put it in a garbage can and placed it under the nest.  Second, I was too chicken/smart to hold the can.  Third, I didn’t think my dad would actually do it, considering he was on a ladder with a pair if pruners.

Anyhow, being us, we pressed on.  I decided (by now you can see that my decisions in this tale were consistently poor ones) to stand about 5 feet from the can so that I could seal the bag quickly.  Dad cuts branch.  Branch and nest plummets to the ground.  Nest goes into bag.  All good, right?  CAN FALLS OVER.

So… my 80-year old dad is standing on a ladder 6 feet above the ground with a pair of tree pruners waving in the air, there’s a bees nest full of gigantic, non-hairy and enraged wasps on the ground looking for a target, and an idiot standing there 5-feet away who’s supposed to seal them in a bag.  Only my instinct to protect my dad (who seemed pretty unfazed by all this, by the way) spurred me into action.  I managed to quickly seal the bag. 

Now, said idiot who hates bees is standing in his backyard holding a plastic bag full of angry bees.  This bag immediately took on the look/feel of those old Jiffy Pop popcorn things you heated on the stove — popping sounds, with bees trying to get out in every direction.  I probably would still be standing there holding the damn thing if my dad hadn’t been there.

At this point, another weakness of the plan became evident.  What the hell does one do with a bag of angry bees?  After discussing this with my father, we decided the best course of action was (I’m not making this up — I swear) that he would put the bag in the trunk of his car and take it home.  We reasoned that since his garbage pickup day was the next day and mine was several days away, this was clearly the logical thing to do. 

I felt a little guilty about this, but in the end, his lack of concern and willingness to do this won out.  I heard my mother was very irritated at this solution, but he managed to dispose of the bees without incident.  

5.  Two days later, I discovered that some small little “mini bees” had made a nest in the ground in my yard.  At this point, I raised the figurative white flag and waited for winter.  I’d had enough.

By the way, all of these incidents have happened in the last two years.  This is NOT a lifetime of experiences.

So… I apologize for the length of this, but anyone who knows me knows that I’m always, always, ALWAYS fighting bees.  This winter, I’m secretly vacuuming them up from my basement, and not sharing that they’re down there with my kids.  In the meantime, I’m gearing up for another summer of bee-wars… and any help/advice would be appreciated.  Until then, I’ll reflect on the fact that while God gets a good laugh out of sending me damn near every bee in His creation, at least he made sure I wasn’t allergic to them.

Until next time… : )

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