Bee Report — Study Hive Splits and Bee Vacuum

Things are going well for the bees. The institute currently has four hives as part of its mite-tolerant breeding program. To increase the number of hives going into the winter, about a month ago, I split our two original hives into four: I pulled the queen, two frames of brood, and two frames of honey, and put them into another hive with empty frames and two shakes of bees. These hives were then put in the yard of a volunteer neighbor. The idea is to spread these hives around the village and create a breeding zone of bees with a certain set of genetics.

The two original hives were left to raise new queens from existing larvae. I checked on them last week and was worried that one hive had two of the special cells where queens develop but the other one had only one of these cells and it was being taken apart by worker bees. I gave it another week and came back to check and to my surprise, the hive with the broken-down queen cell had eggs and fresh larvae, meaning a new queen was in residence and the other hive had none! Because it is so late in the season, I’ll have to combine these two hives into one, and we’ll go into the winter with three hives for the breeding project.

Bee Vacuum

BeeVac in action.

In a previous post, I described the cutout of bees we’re undertaking in Brodhead. These ladies are being obstinate, and I can’t blame them. They have plenty of nice comb and resources in the walls of this home, but they aren’t welcome. I’ve placed a trapout hive over one of the entrances and am sealing all other entrances to force them into this new home. Unfortunately, they’re good at finding small gaps and continue to fill up the foyer of the home.

This week, instead of trying to smoke and shoo them out of the foyer, I’ve built a bee vacuum. This is basically a container vacuum with adjustable suction and some special additions to keep the bees from being hurt when they’re sucked up.

Suction varies by opening port.

I took the lid of a 5-gal pail and cut a semicircle out. I kept this and covered the opening with 1/8-in screen. I then attached the cut-out semicircle with bolts and washers so it could pivot over the opening. This will allow me to vary the amount of suction I’m dealing out to the bees.

BeeVacI then used PVC couplings attached through a hole drilled in the lid to make tight fittings for the vacuum hoses. The smaller hose goes to my shop vac. To keep the bees from being sucked up by this vacuum, I attached a cut-up PVC pipe covered with a screen below the fitting. I used a miter saw to cut a series of slices part-way through the pipe on both sides. This dissipates the force of the suction over a large enough area that bees won’t be harmed when they come in contact with it. The other hose is a larger diameter and simply connects through a large fitting through the lid. The bees will enter the container through here when the suction is running.

Close-up of cut-up PVC pipe covered with netting.

This worked well to catch wayward bees and I was able to deposit about five hundred of these little ladies into the trap-out hive.


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