Crawl Space Bees

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Of all of the calls for help with bees this spring, this one stands out because of where the bees ended up, in a house crawl space.

My beekeeping friend, David Draker, and I tend to answer calls together and this one initially seemed typical. The caller had spotted bees going into the side of a house when he was mowing. It didn’t take us long to realize the bees were going in through a 2-inch hole below a junction box and possibly settling under the house.

After getting access to the crawl space on the opposite side of where the bees were entering, it was apparent we would have to lift a hive over pipes and lug it above mud and rain-soaked plastic. Getting a pair of padded knee pads was in my very near future.

It also meant to make sure we had most of the bees, we needed to borrow a bee vacuum.

A bee vacuum is just what you imagine it to be, a vacuum attached to a container so bees can be gently removed. It is usually a jerry-rigged contraption connecting a shop vacuum to a container. Our Dixon beekeeping friend, Cheryl, had rigged one up so we knew it would work.

We also brought in reinforcements, a beekeeper who lived nearby and the beekeeper who was going to get the bees.

When everyone was suited up, off they went crawling across the wet space to find bees literally hanging from floor joists. The bees had been there for at least a couple of days, beautiful brand new white comb getting built so the queen could start laying eggs and worker bees could store food for the colony.

Bees swarm in spring to perpetuate themselves, an old queen leaving with half of the colony to set up a new home while a new queen remains behind.

You noticed I said, “Off they went”, didn’t you? Well, someone had to stay behind to call  911 in the event of an emergency. Besides, I came in quite handy when the extension cord needed to be checked and hive equipment had to be handed in piece by piece. I could partially see the group on the other end of the crawl space but not well enough to make out the bees. My American Bee Journal magazine kept me company as I waited. Much more interesting than fashion magazines, truly.

Once most bees were removed, it was a slow process of getting everyone, including bees, safely back out.

There were no mishaps. A few bees were going to come back at the end of the day to find their sisters gone but that couldn’t be helped.

The hive, with the entrance sealed, was moved to a trunk and taken away to its new home. It is recommended that bees be moved at least 5 miles from their original location so they can’t go back. This hive was going to Edgar Springs so even if the bees wanted to return, it wasn’t going to be through flight.

From reports we have, the bees are doing well.

I now find myself wondering if knee pads will ever become a fashion statement. Probably not, the shoulder pad phase was daunting enough.

Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a beekeeper, gardener and sometimes cook. Published by El Dorado Springs Sun once in print and online with author’s permission. Copyright 2017, all rights reserved. This column may not be reprinted, republished or otherwise distributed without author’s permission. Contact Charlotte at gardeningcharlotte at gmail dot com.

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NUISANCE BEE HOME – The bee colony had settled in nicely under floor joists accessible only through the crawl space. (Photo by David Draker).

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BEE MOVING CREW – From left, Mark Taylor, David Draker and Cristina Serafini get ready to crawl under the house with the bee vacuum and a sealed up hive to remove a colony. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins).