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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Victoria, Texas, USA
    Posts
    159

    Default bee vac disaster

    I have done 20+ cutouts with my bucket bee vac and rarely have many casualities. Maybe 5 to 10. I did 3 cutouts on Wednesday and vacuumed extensively during all 3 and got the queen by vac in 2 and they are now in hives. What im saying is i have have had great success with my bee vac - until today!

    Did a cutout from a roof overhang. Vacuumed a bearding cluster. All fine. Removed the covering and started vacuuming bee clusters around the comb. When I checked the screened bucket, all the bees were soaked with honey even though I hadnt cut comb yet. So dumped those bees in the hive and started removing comb. No major honey loss as i had help and was being very careful. Started vacuuming again and same results - honey covered bees. Stopped and switched to a hose and cannister i knew was clean. Vacuumed a few more and same results.

    The only thing I can figure out is this particular hive was vomiting honey in reaction to being sucked into the vacuum. The suction was exactly the same as the 3 colonies on Wednesday, and followup vacuuming for one huge colony on Thursday and Friday. So this particular hive seems especially vulnerable to being vacuumed.

    Has anyone else had a similar experience?

    This really stinks because these were EXTREMELY gentle bees. No attempt to sting at all throughout the entire cutout. We eventually just removed our jackets and gloves and still no stings.
    TxBeek. KTBHs. Victoria, Tx. along the Gulf coast. Zone 9b.
    Treatment free bees from traps and cutouts.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Rockford, MI
    Posts
    2,589

    Default Re: bee vac disaster

    Did you smoke the bees first?
    Everything was exactly the same? Length of hose, outside temps, etc.?
    You may have had a pre swarm scenario where the bees load up on honey before swarming.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Greene, (Upstate) NY. The Great USA
    Posts
    106

    Default Re: bee vac disaster

    Yep!!! Bees were vomiting honey. Tried to vac a swarm last year off of a railing. Giant sticky mess! Lesson learned....no more vacumming swarms. The bees you vacuumed must have been full of honey.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Location
    San Mateo, CA
    Posts
    4,887

    Default Re: bee vac disaster

    You are using too much suction. That turns the bees to mush. Get a Bushkill vac that sucks the bees onto a gentle ramp, allows them to crawl away from each other up onto combs, and has easily adjusted suction control. In a bucket they can hit the side or bottom too hard, are all squished together with no way to separate themselves, and suffocate. I have vacuumed dozens of swarms and cutouts with few losses using a Bushkill vac.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Victoria, Texas, USA
    Posts
    159

    Default Re: bee vac disaster

    But I have vacuumed many swarms that were obviously full of honey and had no problems. I used no smoke - the bees were 20 feet off the ground. It was late afternoon and in the shade. The vacuum suction settings, that I regulate by covering the main intake on the vacuum head were exactly the same as I have used for the preceding bees.

    I guess what I'm saying is that some hives of bees are more reactive to the vacuum.
    It almost seems the more docile and gentle, the more fragile they are. The mean africanized bees seem tough as nails. I just didn't realize there was so much variation within the physiology of honey bees.

    This would be an interesting area for study on declining numbers and maybe even CCD. Some strains of bees may not withstand the rigors of pollination transport, while others will. Some are more vulnerable to environmental stresses than others. This seems fairly obvious, but this experience was so dramatic that I will now be checking much more often how the bees are reacting to the vacuum.
    TxBeek. KTBHs. Victoria, Tx. along the Gulf coast. Zone 9b.
    Treatment free bees from traps and cutouts.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    30

    Default Re: bee vac disaster

    Whoa, thanks for sharing the experience. I'm not there yet but this is good to know.
    Adam Buchanan
    Call or email me to chat bees! 720-789-0243 adam@adamcbuchanan.com

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    killen,al
    Posts
    198

    Default Re: bee vac disaster

    I built my vac. I have extra relief holes in my outer box that I can open, or close to adjust the suction. I also just built two additional inter boxes because I believe that when the inter box gets to full it will put more pressure on the bees.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Victoria, Texas, USA
    Posts
    159

    Default Re: bee vac disaster

    Just did another cutout today. Same suction settings. Same buckets and hoses. Kept checking as I vacuumed. 2 causalities in essentially 5 gallons of bees divided between 2 bucket cages. Some hives are just more fragile than others is all I can conclude.
    TxBeek. KTBHs. Victoria, Tx. along the Gulf coast. Zone 9b.
    Treatment free bees from traps and cutouts.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Rockford, MI
    Posts
    2,589

    Default Re: bee vac disaster

    You may have had a pre swarm scenario where the bees load up on honey before swarming.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,125

    Default Re: bee vac disaster

    >Has anyone else had a similar experience?

    Yes. That's when I stopped using a vacuum. I would guess they overheated. Vomiting honey is what bees do when they overheat.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Victoria, Texas, USA
    Posts
    159

    Default Re: bee vac disaster

    Update: I did another removal today and did discover that there is a suction difference with one of my cannisters. It has less screened space on the side of the bucket, and generates more suction with the same vacuum head settings. That is strange since they all fit into another closed sided bucket with holes in the bottom. But the difference is noticable. And it was that bucket that was the scene of the disaster.

    But I also still believe there are physiological differences in response to suction between hives that I hadn't really considered before. I will be checking much more often when I vacuum from now on, and build all my canisters to the same screen space to minimize suction variables.

    But without the vacuum today, I would have lost a cutout hive. The queen flew into a tree with the majority of the bees as I was having problems getting the hive exposed and comb removed. I was able to stand on the bed rack of my truck, and tape the hose end to a potato rake and suck the cluster from the branch, including the queen. It gets tiring holding a 6' rake and hose over your head to suck bees off a cluster of branches. Cars lined the street to watch the show. It was a very small town on the bay, and I kept expecting a local newspaper reporter to show up with a camera and copy pad to cover the big local story
    TxBeek. KTBHs. Victoria, Tx. along the Gulf coast. Zone 9b.
    Treatment free bees from traps and cutouts.

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