Comments: A bee in her bonnet

Would you call a beekeeper if this were your car? I would just by a can of yellow jacket spray and from 20 feet away blast them. Give it half an hour then go open the hood and if there are any in there give another treatment. Done!

Posted by GoneWithTheWind at June 16, 2017 9:17 AM

Is this a metaphor of some sort?

Posted by Rob De Witt at June 16, 2017 9:37 AM


works better than expected every.single.time.

Posted by ghostsniper at June 16, 2017 9:47 AM

We had a bee infestation between two floors of our last house. Hired a licensed beekeeper to remove them (actually a federal law to that effect to protect the bees, which are essential for agriculture).

He said that once he got the queen out, the rest would be easy. Once they were all boxed up, he told me it was a small colony with only about thirty thousand bees - and it was no more than 3-4 weeks old!

There is no apparent upper limit to a colony's size except what they can gather to serve the queen. As the keeper said, when bees start a colony in your house, one of you is going to wind up being kicked out by the other.

Posted by Donald Sensing at June 16, 2017 10:18 AM

Yes, would call a beekeeper. Bees are important.

Posted by pbird at June 16, 2017 1:20 PM

Don't bee silly.
Are beekeepers listed in the phone book under B or bee?
Do they even make phone books any more?
I haven't seen one in more than 10 years.
We have BIG carpenter bees on the front porch, they eat the railing. Size of a golfball, black and yellow. Hit em with the flyswatter and they laugh.

Posted by ghostsniper at June 16, 2017 1:33 PM


Carpenter bee traps work.

Look like a small bird house with smaller holes and a jar on the bottom. Even Amazon has them, as does Etsy, although we got our first one at Lane's Orchard in Georgia.

And they really work.

Posted by OldFert at June 16, 2017 5:44 PM

Oh -- and we had a Carpenter Bee dig a hole in a porch post out front. I filled the hole, smoothed out the surface, painted it, and the bee came back to the same place, hovering, looking for the hole.

The following year a Carpenter Bee was back at the same place, hovering around where the hole had been. Must've been an attractive location, or that bee had a great memory.

Posted by OldFert at June 16, 2017 5:48 PM

Edaddy is a beekeeper. Let me to explain what his happening and how a beekeeper routinely handles this sort of thing each year.

First, a bee hive is a super-organism. There is one queen in the hive and she does not produce queens, she just lays eggs. If the queen dies, and there are no viable eggs for the unreproductive female worker bees to turn into queens, then the hive itself will die.

What you see in the photo is called a swarm. A swarm is a HIVE'S means of reproduction. Scientists haven't quite figured out what causes the swarming urge, but it happens every spring/summer and beekeepers try to suppress or control it. For wild bees, there is no more way to control swarming than there is to suppress the sexual urges of nubile youngsters.

When a hive swarms it is splitting and producing another hive. What happens is that the queen leaves the hive with enough volunteers to start a new hive elsewhere. The queen should have left enough young eggs for the remaining workers to create new queens. New queens are created by workers feeding female eggs/larva royal jelly (yes, what you buy at the health food stores) which contains compounds allowing the larva to form functional female sex organs. Once she hatches, she has one or two mating flights where she receives semen from several drones and will never fly again unless there is another swarm later.

So, what is the deal with swarms? Before a group of bees leave an old hive with a queen they will engorge themselves on honey ... sometimes emptying a hive of honey ... for obvious reasons. The engorging makes the bees slow and gentle.

SO WHEN YOU SEE A SWARM OF BEES, YOU ARE SEEING BEES IN THEIR MOST GENTLE AND MANAGEABLE CONDITION!!!! It only looks creepy because Hollywood and MSM have conditioned you to think it is creepy and scary. The ONLY time I am willing to work with bees without a bee suit is when they are swarming just like in the photo.

Also, when a swarm separates from a hive, it flies a very short distance and settles on something while scout bees look for a new home. They will remain there for 4 to 36 hours. In the photo of the bees on the car, they would have left in a very short period of time if left alone. Also, since the main hive is close by, there is a chance that another swarm will land somewhere in the vicinity because a hive can reproduce two or three times each spring.

How would I handle this swarm? I would get a nucleus box prepped that contains a queen excluder (holes big enough for workers to enter, but too small for queen to leave). Then I would spray the bees lightly with sugar water which inhibits their ability to fly and causes them to start licking the daylights out of each other. I would then brush them into my box with a bee brush praying that I get the queen who is almost always in the center of the largest clump. Once I had most of the bees in the box, I would close it and watch what happens. The bees will move to protect the queen. If they start walking toward the box, then I know the queen is inside. If they walk out of the box, then I know she is still outside.

Catching swarms is one of the coolest things you can do as a beekeeper. When we see articles like this, we just groan. We groan because people in general, and journalists especially, are completely ignorant of the beauty and wonder of a swarm.

The next time you see a photo of a swarm look at them as a family desperately awaiting word from the scouts that they've found a new home. Also, think of them as very gentle. In fact, I challenge you to slowly (bees do not like dark colors or fast movement) walk over and examine them. You will be safe and thrilled while your friends stand back in awe at your bravery.

Posted by edaddy at June 16, 2017 6:09 PM

Oh, another thing, my apiary sits next to my orchard. In the spring, I have lots of swarms landing on tree limbs. Wherever they land, some of the workers automatically start creating comb. In my orchard are lots of trees with starts of comb that were set before I caught them or they left.

These bees in the photo MIGHT have established their new home somewhere under the hood of the car. I can guarantee you one thing, though, if they did not and just flew away, you would still have evidence of wax/comb where the bees landed on the car.

For the same reason that I have lots of tree limbs in my orchard with wax/comb on them.

Posted by edaddy at June 16, 2017 6:19 PM

One final comment. Honey bees are not native of North America, but were imported by the early settlers. There are still lots of natural pollinators in the wild that existed here before honey bees came to America ... Bumble bees, mason bees, yellow jackets, etc..

When you read about how we'd all starve without honey bees, just roll your eyes and know that it was originated from some researcher at a land grant university with his/her hand out for more government research dollars.

Posted by edaddy at June 16, 2017 6:28 PM

The only bees I don't really like are those big black ones that get into the basement and bump around. I don't know what they are looking for down there.

Posted by pbird at June 16, 2017 11:40 PM

The only bees I don't really like are those big black ones that get into the basement and bump around. I don't know what they are looking for down there.

BTW edaddy, I greatly enjoyed your posts and always wished that I could keep bees.

Posted by pbird at June 16, 2017 11:45 PM

I've had lots of mason bees around my garden. They kind of look like flies, but they don't annoy you the way flies do. You can also tell they're mason bees by the little red hats and white aprons.

Posted by Gordon at June 17, 2017 4:19 AM

Great posts, edaddy, I enjoy learning more about nature. And bees are wonderful creatures. I never set out to create a bee garden, but I grow a lot of things that flower and attract them. They really like the raspberry canes. When the raspberries are in full flower, the bees are out there constantly. In fact, they don't go home! If the sun goes down, they just go to sleep clinging to a flower, and wake up when its light in the morning.

Posted by Dr. Mabuse at June 17, 2017 7:29 AM

Thanks for the info edaddy.
A minor quibble or question- in SoCal, AZ, and TX, where Africanized wild bees are now common, would you recommend approaching a swarm, gentle or not, unprotected?

Posted by foodog at June 19, 2017 3:59 PM

Foodog, you bring up a great point. I thought about it after posting and wondering if maybe I should have addressed the topic of Africanized bees. All I have to base my thoughts on are what I've read in the media, so don't go near a swarm if they are known to exist in your area.

On the other hand, I personally would probably still go check them out. But I also am not going to present as much of a "threat" because I know what to look for.

Beekeepers are actually very positive about Africanized bees because over the years weakened bee genetics in the U.S. have lead to varroa mites and other hive disorders, maybe even colony collapse disorder. Once the Africanized bee genetics get incorporated into current genetics we feel our colonies will be overall less aggressive but still much stronger.

I would also like to note that bees that behave aggressively toward humans also forage aggressively and thus produce more honey.

A few years ago, I purchased two hives with Russian queens. The Russian genetics are interesting in that they can withstand harsh winters and the hives literally explode in size as in the spring. They are also incredibly aggressive. They produced a lot of honey for me, but I got stung a lot more than usual until their genetics were watered down over a year or so.

To me, successful beekeeping is like learning to live with an absolutely beautiful, strong-minded, high-strung woman who is hard to handle. Once you finally figure out how to settle her down, she is really satisfying. :-)

Posted by edaddy at June 19, 2017 6:00 PM

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