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How a professional beekeeper removes hives from homes

Summary List Placement

The following is a transcript of the video.

Erika Thompson: My name is Erika Thompson, and I'm a beekeeper. As a beekeeper, my favorite thing to do are live bee removals. So, sometimes bees build where humans don't necessarily want them to build. So, one of the most common calls I get for bee removals are from water meter boxes. And hopefully they'll call someone like me, a professional beekeeper, to come and remove the bees.

During that process, I go in and I assess the situation. I look at where the bees have built, and I make a plan for how I can best remove those bees, keeping in mind the safety of, of course, all the people around, but also the bees. A lot of removals, I'll wear a veil or I'll wear a full bee suit, and a lot of removals, I don't need to. The first thing I do when I show up to the removal is to assess the temperament of the colony as best I can. Sometimes they will just start stinging you, and that's one signal they'll send, but sometimes they'll start flying sort of erratically around you and kind of bumping into you. Sometimes the frequency of their buzz goes up.

After I get into the hive, then I just slowly start to remove each piece of the hive. I'll start with the comb and I'll work my way through the hive, removing all the comb and then removing the bees. The tools that I use for bee removals are pretty simple. I always bring a new hive for the bees to move into, and that has frames for me to put the honeycomb into. So, once I remove the comb from the original hive, I'll take it and I'll place it into wooden frames of the new hive, and I'll do this using rubber bands. The bees will then chew through the rubber bands after they have attached the comb to the wooden frames of the new hive, and they'll actually drag the rubber bands out of the new hive after they're done with them. It's really remarkable to see, but they will just put their hive back together. All the while you're doing that, you're looking for the queen bee.

So, the queen bee is the largest bee in the colony. She has one job, and that's to lay eggs for the colony. And if you are lucky enough to find the queen bee during a removal, that makes your job as a beekeeper a lot easier, because the colony wants to be with their queens. So, when I find the queen in a removal, I usually put her in a plastic clip. It's actually a beekeeping queen clip, and there are little slots in the clip that the other bees, the worker bees, because they are smaller than the queen bee, they can go in and out of the clip with ease so that they can still care for the queen and attend to the queen. Once you find the queen and put her in a new hive, hopefully the other bees will start to pick up on her scents and signals and the signals the other bees are sending, and they'll go right into the new hive. I started scooping bees into the hive just out of necessity. I was on the job and needed a way to get bees into their new hive quickly and just started to scoop them up with my hands, and it ended up seeming like a good method that felt very humane to me and lets me have a good read on the bees' temperament. When I shake them off my hand, it doesn't harm them. They have pretty hard exoskeletons, so they just kind of roll off and into their new hive. After I remove a colony of bees, I bring them back to my home. I live on five acres on the Colorado River, east of Austin, and, you know, it's pretty much a bee sanctuary.

Once I get the new hive back to my house and get them settled in, I'll give them a day or two and I'll release the queen, and she will continue to lay eggs, and the colony can continue to do the important work that they do, just in a place that's safer for them and for people. A lot of colonies that have been rescue colonies that I've removed, and, you know, I'm not keeping bees in the colony. They can choose to move on if they'd like; if they need somewhere else to live, they can find that, but I bring them here and I give them everything they need to continue to do the important work they do.

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