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Discussion Starter #1
I got a Bushkill bee vacuum for Christmas, and last Saturday I finally had a good reason to use it. (Short answer: it worked GREAT!) A friend was walking through the neighborhood and met an arborist who was cleaning up a big laurel tree that lost a big hollow branch in the wet weather last week. The arborist was flummoxed by how to deal with the bees, so my friend tells him "I know a guy...". I got the phone call at the park with my kids, and 20 minutes later I swing by to assess, then headed home to grab gear. Another beekeeper down the street saw the action, and asked if he could help, so he suited up too and we both went to work on extracting the hive. First, we gently rolled the log over to get better access, then one of us vacuumed bees off the comb and the log while the other carefully cut salvageable comb with brood and tied it into empty frames.

The active part of the process took a couple of hours, but would have been virtually impossible without the vacuum. The trick is adjust the suction with a bypass so that there is just barely enough air movement to grab the bees but not so much that it beats them up. The last picture is after winnowing through all the comb to salvage as much as possible, vacuuming bees as we went (often with a very gentle nudge with a bee brush). When there was no more comb and the remaining bees were scattered and hiding in crevices, we reversed the connections on the vacuum and used it as a blower to remove the last bees from the crevices in the log. (The arborist was anxious to finish removing debris from the site) At this point, we put the hive up on a table, opened the entrance (that had formerly been the vacuum port) and left it for a few hours to let the remaining airborne bees find home. At dusk, I sealed it up and brought it home, let it settle overnight, and then on Sunday afternoon I re-stacked to remove the vacuum components (at the top and at the bottom) to put them on a normal bottom board and lid, and add a baggie feeder w/ 3 quarts of syrup to stimulate some comb building.

In my experience, catching a swarm is typically like bringing home a labrador puppy- docile, happy, eager to please. Doing a cutout capture of an established hive that just survived having their home fall out of the tree, then lying on the ground in the rain for a couple of days, then getting all their comb hacked up and taking a ride down a vacuum hose.... Well, this hive is initially more like dealing with a rottweiler you just stole from a junkyard and threw in the back of your pickup truck. They were very gentle before we started ripping the hive apart, but after going through all that it may be a couple of days before our backyard is a friendly place again. There are a few guard bees that follow you around and orbit your head! Ingrates. I hope those few get eaten soon by a blue jay. :)

My wife says she regrets not having pictures of me doing the "bee dance" with a butterfly net, but I got so fed up with the feisty guard bees in the back yard that I sat out there yesterday afternoon (two days after the cutout) on a lawn chair with my net, and any that were ornery enough to orbit my head on a strafing run got swiped up and then got their head squished. After catching a dozen or so of the mean ones, the back yard is much, much calmer and they aren't following me to the house anymore. Has anyone else tried that strategy? Since my back yard is less than 1/4 mile from the tree that lost the branch with the hive, I'm surprised they didn't just go back to where home used to be and leave me alone.

Getting back to the Bushkill bee vac, I'm impressed. You can vacuum bees into a hive body while putting tied comb frames into another hive body, then use a dividing screen to stack them without letting the bees out and pull the divider to let the bees move back onto the brood comb. Very nice! I left the hive bodies assembled with the vacuum for about 24 hours to get them settled down, opening the entrance the first morning after getting them home the prior night. They did some cleanup during the day emptying trash, but when I lifted the hive bodies later that afternoon to restack onto a normal bottom board, there was very little debris and no dead bees at all- just a couple of small chunks of comb or rotted wood that had been sucked up by the vacuum but were too large for the bees to fly off with. Wow. We were very careful not vacuum near nectar or uncapped honey, and it paid off.

In the chaos of the undulating and partially collapsed comb we didn't see the queen (although we did see young larvae, and they were still bringing in pollen to the log 5 days after it fell), so now starts the impatient wait until next weekend (don't want to disturb them too much) hoping to see eggs and/or new larvae.

That's a fun way to spend a Saturday! (click the thumbnail images below to see larger)

-Knute
IMG_2634.jpg IMG_7367sm.jpg IMG_7370sm.jpg
 

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Yes, a Vacuum kinda demoralizes the Bee's, or maybe it has a disorienting effect. I know the feeling of getting them in a hive successfully.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Someone forgot to tell those bees they have to live in a vertical hive, not a horizontal one...
Ha... The branch was about 45deg, so they would probably be just as ticked off with either horizontal or vertical hive orientation. And now they have a bottom entrance instead of a top entrance, just to further confuse them.

I took a quick peek this morning after things warmed up, and they're in a nice, thick basketball sized cluster, aggressively drawing nice new white comb on the frames adjacent to the cutout brood. Yay!

Temperament is back to calm; they barely cared that I opened the lid, so maybe they've finally forgiven me for the ride in the vacuum.
 
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