My First Lessons As An Accidental Beekeeper

At any given time we could point out 4 or 5 wild bee hives throughout the farm. In the walls of an old building, hollow tree trunk, top of the hay barn, old tool box, you get the idea. And for years this has worked out just fine. They did their little bee thing and we did ours, never disturbing each other. Until a colony took up residence in one of the larger oil field pipes that make up the cattle pens. For most of the year this isn’t a problem, but the few Saturdays out of the year when we have 100 head of nervous cattle rushing through there with a dozen cowboys, it can get pretty rowdy. The last thing we need is an agitated hive of stinging insects thrown in. Enter beekeeper, stage right.


We have all heard of the bee crisis and I for one do not want to contribute to the decline of bees by any means, not only because personally we rely on bees to pollinate our crops for a living but also because 1 out every 3 bites of food we take is possible because of bees. But how do you remove bees from a solid half inch oil pipe with only a 2 inch rusted out spot to get in and out? WITHOUT killing them? SO I reached out to our local Beekeepers Association and was kinda surprised at how little people were willing to look into it. Apparently if it isn’t as easy as walking up to a removable object and carrying it off, there wasn’t anything to be done. So of course my next step was to turn to trusty old social media and after posting my dilemma, a man from almost an hour away contacted me and said he was willing to come look and see if he could help…free of charge!

 

Bees On Front Of Hive
Bees on front of my hive

After inspecting the pipe he believes he can rig up a trap-out device. He explains that it will take several weeks to work and many trips to check and monitor it to make sure they don’t find any escape routes (no wonder no one else stepped up to help!) but he was willing to try if I was. So began my beekeepers education.

True to my nature, I asked him 1,001 questions while he is assembling things, unloading the truck, and setting up boxes. I was fascinated! While assessing this hive we noticed another close by in an old steel toolbox. He offered to remove those as well since they could be done quickly and easily. Sure, why not?!? But first the pipe…

Bee hive in Pipe
Bee hive in Pipe

His idea was to place a wire mesh cone over the entrance of the hive so the bees could fly out to forage but would be confused on how to get back in. Apparently, their built in GPS that tells them where to land and enter the hive gets thrown off if you alter the entrance by a half foot or so. Who knew?!? He set up a box next to the hive and placed a few drops of lemongrass essential oil inside it to attract the now “locked out bees”. Why lemongrass? (you know I asked…) Because it very closely resembles the pheromone that the queen produces. Well what do ya know.

Trap Out Installed
Trap out is installed and bees are thoroughly confused

After the cone was in place and adhered to the pipe with silicone (only adhesive bees won’t chew through) all we could do is wait.A week later he returned to remove the hive from the tool box and hopefully use some of the brood (baby bees) to place in the trap out box to give them a jump start on making a new queen. He explained there is a chance the queen in the pipe never comes out or takes off without a second glance in the box’s direction. Several bees seemed to have moved into the box so that was a good sign. So on to the tool box.

Replacing Brood To Re-Queen
Inserting brood comb into new box…check out my handsome beekeeper on the right 🙂

Bee suits on and box and frames ready we opened the tool box. WHOA! 40-50,000 bees packed in there! Applying a little smoke to block the “attack” pheromone, he starts pulling put chunks of hive and inspecting them for good brood. After finding some he breaks off a piece and places it into a frame with rubber bands to hold itin place. This will go into the other box to make a new queen if need be. He completes this step several times and places these frames into the box which will be the new home to these bees. It was truly fascinating to stand in the middle of a cloud of bees, which really weren’t aggressively attacking us considering we just went all grizzly bear on their hive. It was also equally fascinating to see how the bees, as a mass, flow and move like a liquid. He would scoop them and drop them into the box and cover it, or sweep them off of comb and into into the box with a brush. Way cool.

Brood Comb to Replace Queen
Brood Comb to Replace Queen

He confirmed that the queen was in there and so we closed up the boxes and left them to give them a chance to settle back down. Then he springs the question… Do you want to keep these bees for your own? What?!?! Me a beekeeper?!? Certainly I’d thought about it before but it was always something for “in the future”. Well here I had someone offering to be my mentor and two hives full of bees. Well Hell’s Bells…looks like I’m now a beekeeper!

Bee Trap Out and Box
About 3 weeks later, all  the bees have moved into the box…PHEW!

Well after dark that night, after the bees where back inside the box, I loaded it into the truck bed and brought it home. While that was an adventure all in itself, let’s just say I safely (if not comically) transported my first hive and have started growing my own apiary. Wish me luck!

Bees On Bee Hive With Flowers
Bees On Bee Hive With Flowers

Anyone got any tips or tricks for organic beekeeping? I’d love to hear from you!

4 thoughts on “My First Lessons As An Accidental Beekeeper

  1. Wow, what an experience! Very interesting to read about the colony and how you got them moved. Glad it worked out… hope you’re enjoying being a beekeeper.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *