Friday, May 14, 2010

Got another swarm call! This colony moved into an apartment!

Wednesday is normally a relatively mild day for me. I like Wednesday because not too much is usually going on at work and then the weekend will be here before you know it. But my office called and said that the manager of a local apartment complex, West End Plaza Apartments, wanted to know if I would like some bees they found on the property. So I took the number and called them back but got no answer, so since the complex is about five minutes from my house, I decided to ride over to see where the swarm was located and what equipment I would need.

When I arrived, I met Tammy, who is the complex manager. I also met Dave who is the maintenance manager who took me to see the bees. When I got the call, I was thinking that maybe the bees were on a tree limb or maybe a swing set at the complex. Boy was I wrong. No, the bees in question had become squatters on the apartment complex property and had moved -- into the building! Apparently they found a hole at the corner of one of the buildings and liked it so much that they decided to move in. 

Knowing that the project was more than I really wanted to do, I politely declined. But I told Dave I knew someone who would probably take them, so I called my good buddy Jared Watkins in Winston Salem, who had previously told me he would like to do a cut-out sometime. Jared's been itching to use his homemade bee-vaccum and to do an extraction -- so when I called him he agreed to come up and sure enough, he got here about an hour later.

Upon Jared's arrival, here's the greeting he got! The bees in the apartment were in full swarm mode and piling out of the hole. Remembering the story that noise will settle swarming bees, the people that lived in the apartment gave Jared some pots and pans, and he banged on them to settle them down. And luckily, it worked. When I arrived a few minutes later, the bees were hanging on the bricks and headed back into the hole in the building. Knowing that dusk would arrive soon and that it was going to take awhile to get the bees out of the building, Jared decided it would be best to come back on Thursday and remove the bees.

Here I am looking out the window as the bees settle back into their home in the wall. Dave the maintenance guy pulled back the carpet so we could try to listen and find their exact location (we could hear the buzzing through the carpet) -- and when he did, Jared pointed out a bee who was making her way through a hole in the floor. So it was obvious that they were right there between the floor joists or along the wall somewhere. And we were right, when they pulled the floor up on Thursday, the bees were in a relatively small space in the corner.

Due to prior plans, I couldn't be there on Thursday. But Jared was able to get some help from Greg who is a fellow beekeeper in Forsyth County, and Dave, the apartment complex's maintenance manager. So when the three pulled the floor boards up, there they were. Jared told me later that it was a small colony, maybe three to four pounds or the size of a package you would buy. And believe it or not, even with all the pulling and prying, he said they were pretty laid back. And get this, he also said that this wasn't the first colony that had inhabited this small corner space before; they found old comb there that indicated that prior squatters had checked in before. And the old comb had signs that a mouse had been there. Maybe the old comb is what attracted the bees to the spot this week.

Using the homemade bee-vac, Jared and Greg were able to vacuum up the girls from the floor space and later put them into the 8-frame boxes that Jared prefers to use. They also cleaned up what old and new comb was there and then all that would be left to do would be to take them to their new location which is near the Smith Reynolds Airport in Winston Salem (named after the son of tobacco magnate, R.J. Reynolds). Jared said that while the bees were laid back while being evicted, their mood changed and they were a tad testy once they got to their new home. Well you do have to admit, they had been through a rough day with being sucked into a vacuum cleaner and eventually evicted from their nice apartment complex. But maybe once they settle down they'll like their new home in the country better. Besides they'll never have to catch a cab to get to the airport.

To keep future bees from moving in the space again, Dave the maintenance guy filled in the opening with expanding spray foam. As you can see, a few of the returning foragers found their entrance blocked off...and I'm sure they were totally confused by it all. I mean, you leave during the morning and when you come home, this white foam is blocking you out. I am sure it was a "what the heck" moment.

While I was there on Wednesday, I praised Dave and the staff at the apartment complex for calling a beekeeper and not killing the colony. Come to find out, Dave's uncle is a beekeeper in the county whom I've met before and is a really nice guy, so he knows the value of helping the honey bees. And Tammy, the manager, once had three honey bee hives herself! So good job to Dave and Tammy and the staff at West End Plaza Apartments. And great job to Jared and Greg for taking the time to catch a wayward swarm and giving them a new home.

And an extra thanks to Jared for sharing his pictures so I could tell the tale!


  1. Hi Mark,

    Jeez, another one! Your reputation at the "man to call" is obviously growing. Fascinating post. Lots of information there that I never knew.


  2. I will have to do a piece on my bee vac... I only ended up maiming and killing a handfull. I think that is because they were sucked up 2-3 times as they continued to not cooperate and would fly from the brood box back to the old hive and get sucked up and shook in again.



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