The Buzz Of Moving Bees

My friend and alderman Karen Schmidt sent an email a bit ago, it read:

We have honey bees living in a corner of a gable in our house. Do you know anyone who might come and lead them to a new home? I can’t bear to think of spraying them.

I didn’t have an exact connection but when she shared she found someone who could move them humanely, I asked to observe and photograph.

I found myself completely fascinated.

Local retired firefighter and beekeeper Tom Elston moved the bees.  

He shared these details about himself and the process of moving bees: 

1.  I’ve been keeping bees for over 35 years.  I met an old beekeeper in Peoria back in the 70s and he helped me set-up two hives.  Over the years I expanded, and at one time I had 100 hives of bees.  At the height of the season, one hive may have as many bees as there are people in Bloomington, 60-70,000. My hives were spread out across McLean County close to farm fields and woods.  I started a honey business called Amber Bee Co., producing up to 5 tons of honey per year and sold my pure, natural honey to health food stores in Central Illinois, fund raisers and even shipped honey to Kuwait after the first Gulf War.  Over the years, like any agricultural venture, I had to contend with pesticides, disease and parasitic mites.  Many of the diseases and parasites were imported into the US due to globalization and human stupidity.  Since I did a lot of driving to my hives and delivering honey, two years ago when gas was over $4.00/gal, I was spinning my wheels and getting nowhere.  The last straw, was the Colony Collapse Disease (CCD).  This is were the adult bees leave the hive to forage for pollen and necture, only never to return.  Without the worker bees bring home the “bacon” the colony slowly starves and collapses.  A recent scientific study from the last government beekeeping laboratory, has said CCD is caused by a certain pesticide.  When a bee contacts the toxin, it makes the bee forget how to get home. I have a few hives at home now to produce honey for family and friends. 

2.  Since honeybees are a protected species and against federal law to kill them, I wanted to evict the bees from Karen’s house and relocate them.  1/3rd of all food that humans eat is directly or indirectly dependent on pollination by honeybees.

Upon inspection of Karen’s house, I found the opening were the field bees were coming and going.  The colony had been there only a few weeks, the swarm was small and the population had not build up to large numbers yet.  In order to evict the bees without tearing into the walls, I injected a strong smelling chemical called BeeGo (benzaldihyde.)  It smells like almonds, lots of almonds.  The bees do not like this odor and in a short time leave the confines of the wall and congregate outside.  When most of the bees have collected outside, I take a brush and knock them into a bucket, put on the lid and take them away to a new home.

Once the process was over Karen emailed again to share:

The end of this story is that Brad, our carpenter friend, sealed up the area where the bees where living.  There were still some bees and we have some live and some dead bees in our house now.  The dead bees are such sweet little beings.  Beeings is a better word.  I am so glad we saved most of them and I’m sorry for the loss of the others who did not get away.

Below my  images capturing the story of the process, sure helps that Karen has a gorgeous home!

I am hearing and reading more and more about folks interested in bee keeping.

I especially enjoyed this post, and while Soule Mama isn’t near, I really like the way she shared the story of her recent acquisition of bees.




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