Photo documentary of Lee collecting wild honey bees

A bee swarm forms down at my Uncle’s house. We jump in the car and drive down there quick.

The bees are up in a tree so a ladder is found and legs are adjusted.

The ladder is put in position. Oh boy!

Lee is in place with the bee collecting receptacle (a hive box and base).

A quick whip of the tree branch and the bees fall into the hive box. Oh no, are those bees angry?




Let’s try this again. There is still a small cluster up in the tree that needs removed.

Maybe some duct tape around Lee’s sleeves will protect him from any more bee stings.

Checking on the bees.

My Dad comes to check on our bee progress from the safety of his car. He offers some sting kill that my Mom wanted him to bring to us. My Dad is very afraid of bee’s so I’m sure he had his foot poised on the gas peddle in case the bees got out of hand.

Hmm, maybe some gloves will make Lee feel more relaxed.

Take two. It’s time to brush the remaining swarm that stayed on the branch into a box.

Hey, don’t come near me until those straggler bees are all off your bee suit.

The hive box is duct taped and placed into the trunk of our car. I can’t believe that I am riding home with bees in the trunk!!! Lee drove home in his bee suit (he took the hood off first).

The box is in place and ready for the tape to be removed.

The Aftermath

Lee – I think our swarm capture went pretty well, all things considered. We definitely learned a few things. First, when the book says that swarms are “relatively gentle” compared to a normal hive, it’s like saying that Black Bears are “relatively gentle” compared to Grizzly Bears. When you knock 10,000 bees off a branch and into a box, a few of them are going to be angry. I got stung 7 times during that little operation. Fortunately, I didn’t go into anaphylactic shock when stung, and I didn’t even have any welts by the next day.

Second, collecting a swarm is art, not science. My in-law’s kept asking, “Do you think you got the queen yet?” I dunno. She’s only slightly larger than a worker. There’s no way to tell. She might have been captured in the first group, she might have been caught when I brushed the stragglers into a box and dumped them in front of the hive box, she might have been crushed when I put the lid on, or later that night when I slid in the missing frames. There is no way to know. In two weeks, we’ll smoke the hive and open it up. If we find comb and brood, that’s a good sign there is also a queen. If there is no brood, or if they all fly away, we probably lost her. As with most things, attempting something is no guarantee of success.

Third, bees are pretty forgiving. We knocked and brushed them into a box, duct taped it closed, hauled them 30 miles in a car, pestered them in the dark to add frames, and then filled the hive top feeder with 1:1 sugar syrup to get them started. Today, there were bees flying in and out as if nothing happened. Perhaps they forgave us. Perhaps we have the queen. Perhaps they will stay.

Fourth, next time I’m wearing the bee suite!

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9 Responses to Photo documentary of Lee collecting wild honey bees

  1. karl says:

    congratulations on the capture.

    bee suits are a good thing, no matter what anyone says. i badly need to get into our bees and harvest some honey. it has been like a blast furnace for the past week or so. too hot to get into a bee suit.

    may your honey flow.


  2. Lynn says:

    Yeah! You got your bees! I think you both should get bee suits, just so you have them when you harvest honey! I remember when I was a little kid my step-dad had honey bees. I used to watch as he harvested honey (and I had no suit!). I would always get stung, but thought nothing of it. There always used to be bees in the grass, I often would get stung if I walked barefoot in the summer… They say honeybee stings are good for you, anyway, don’t they???

    Well, you are still motivating me to want honeybees. But I have heard that honeybees and guinea fowl don’t mix well…

  3. Woody says:

    I couldn’t help but laugh a little…sorry Lee. So cool that ya’ll have jumped into beekeeping head first. Believe me when I tell you that I am paying close attention to your experience. I’ve wanted to keep a couple of hives for the past few years and have not taken the plunge.


  4. Ron says:

    Congrats on the capture, Lee. I hope it goes well for you. I’ve also contemplated bees, but never dived in.


  5. Matt says:

    Good to know that you put so much stock in literature!

    Are these bees only useful for honey? I’m thinking they might be helpful for guarding your property…

  6. Benita says:

    You know, I was wondering about that relatively gentle thing, and I was surprised to see the first pictures with no protective clothing on. I’m very glad youa ren’t allergic to them. Here’s to having honey!

  7. Jessica says:

    Where are all the pictures of Robin running for her life? See, I knew the smart thing was to wait for these to be posted instead of going down to see it in person.

  8. Leigh says:

    Whew! What an adventure! Very exciting that it was successful and also that the bees are now coming and going from their new home. Surely a good sign.

  9. lee says:

    Karl – Thanks. It was definitely a rush. Still not sure if it was successful or not. I want to smoke them and find out, but I’m determined to wait 2 weeks so there should be brood if it succeeded. (I suspect the bulk of them may have left.)

    Lynn – Yes, Robin says we need to get a suite for her too. I remember those bee stings on the foot as a kid. Those were the worst!

    Woody – It’s okay to laugh. Robin was laughing about it later. She wasn’t laughing about it when one bee got in her hair, and I had to chase her down and comb the bee out using the bee-brush. Somehow that part didn’t make it into the blog post …

    Ron – This is definitely one of those dive-in sorts of things for us. Next time it should go a little smoother. I’ll at least know what to expect, and I’m thinking that I will use an actual box instead of the hive box to do the initial capture. Then dump the captured bees in front of the hive and let them move in. I’m afraid I might have killed a lot of bees trying to add the missing frames back in.

    Matt – Hey, in my defense, all the books and most online sources say ‘relatively gentle’. Books are my source for pretty much everything we do here. I read about it, then try it. Usually the books are right. (Or close.) I suppose bees could be used as guards. Many people are so afraid of them that they wouldn’t venture near a hive, even if they weren’t nearly close enough to get attacked. Then again, I’ve also heard of beekeepers in the Midwest painting their hives green so as not to draw attention to them. Apparently hive-tipping is a favorite pastime for (really really dumb?) teenagers.

    Benita – I was wondering too! ­čÖé Then I was thinking, “Hmm, maybe this was a bad idea,” when there was a pile of bees falling through the air.

    Jessica – I don’t know why you are so scared of them. You aren’t really allergic. I tell Robin she has an unnaturally high aversion to pain.

    Leigh – I sure hoped it was a good sign, but the activity has tapered off during the days since then. I suspect they moved on, although I hope that’s not true.

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