Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bee Keeping

I always thought one day I would take up bee keeping. Ever since I read Virgil's Georgics in grad school. And I've consistently kept my eye on equipment and where to find bees. I never expected that bees would find me. I spotted a few outside the kitchen window about a month ago before I left town. Then the next time it approached a swarm. And now there are hundreds upon hundreds, especially in the late afternoon flying around in the shade of a trumpet vine a few feet from the Dutch door in the kitchen. I expected there would be a hive, the sort you see in Winnie the Pooh, and that I could just ask the bees for some honey, nicely of course. But no, they're in the wall. I put my ear up to it, and it sounds like the roar of a jet engine. Clearly thousands of bees busy making honey, flapping their wings to cool the Queen and do whatever it is bees do in their spare time. This is a whole city of bees, replete with a mall, supermarkets, even an airport. My first instinct is to live happily with them, but apparently the hive continues to grow and it's not at all good for the house. And there's no way to ask for honey politely if it's in the wall.  I'd definitely rather not kill them, given the status of honey bees in general. Does anyone know if they can be moved? Or if there's a way I can live with them? Or even transfer them to a conventional frame-hive? Or convert the wall somehow???


Chris said...

So this is a tricky one Ken... but here are my thoughts on the matter:
1) Contact your local beekeeping society; someone there will be delighted to assist you (or will at least point you to someone who will)
2) You've got an unfortunately short list of options in my experience, and you're more than likely going to have to CUT INTO YOUR WALL to remove the hive.... (because even if you can remove the bees, you'll want to get the honey and wax out of the house before it causes major problems). This is going to require a reciprocating saw, and will, needless to say, make your house very very unhappy.
3) If you're careful cutting into the wall, you can remove comb and many many bees (in fact, a variety of vacuum based devices are made for this purpose), and hopefully the queen, to introduce into a wooden Langstroth-type hive.
4) Alternatively, if you're unconcerned about honey in your wall and are very, very lucky, and have a little time on your hand... I have heard of people coxing the hive slowly using a "one-way entrance reducer," a lot of duct-tape, and some creative thinking. See this link for examples: or
This will not be easy for an inexperienced beekeeper, so see item 1. I realllly hope you do get into beekeeping; I have found it very rewarding, but this is a less-than-ideal way to get into the hobby. Good luck!

Ken Albala said...

Thanks so much Chris! I do have a friend of a friend who keeps bees, who just described this kind of one way tube. Ideally I'll be able to coax them into a frame. I'm not too concerned about the house funny enough. It's a laundry room added on not that long ago. A hole can be cut in the wall and repaired. No big deal. I DO very much like the idea of the bees choosing me rather than the other way around though.

sharon parquette nimtz said...

What a lemonade problem you are so cheerfully following here, Ken. Sounds like an ideal conundrum for Detective Sergeant Albala. We will definitely learn from this experience, Professor.

CJ - Food Stories said...

This is so interesting. Like you, dear hubby has always considered beekeeping ... Maybe someday we'll do it :-)