Bee Removal aka: Happy Endings

One hot summer day, some of our workers reported that we had a large concentration of bees in a big open-end warehouse at Taylor & Sons Lumber in Canyon, Texas where I worked while attending West Texas State University back in the mid 1970s.  As instructed by my boss, Jack Taylor, I called an exterminator. The exterminator agreed that he’d be willing to eliminate them for us, but suggested that involving a beekeeper might be a better solution.  The beekeeper that I called from an ad in the yellow pages did an excellent job of removing the bees and didn’t even charge. He was happy just to have the bees.  I’m glad I was there to watch what turned out to be a remarkable experience…

The beekeeper drove some 30 miles and arrived for the job just before our closing time of 6pm. He determined that the hive was inside of a large jumbled mess of crooked, mismatched wood moldings that had accumulated in a corner of the warehouse over a period of several years. Strewn about like “Pick-Up Sticks” he carefully took the pile apart one piece at a time as another lumberyard employee and I stood by and watched.  He started the task wearing street clothes and a beekeeper’s hood, but soon overheated and removed the hood. He wore heavy gloves with long cuffs that lacked several inches reaching the sleeves of his short-sleeved shirt.  Explaining that it would help to calm the bees, he occasionally used bellows to blow puffs of sumac smoke into the most concentrated part of the swarm. The air was FILLED with bees. They bumped into us from head to toe and from every direction. None of us were stung.

When he finally reached the hive there was lots of comb and lots of honey. He broke pieces off and we ate it where we stood. With the hive now exposed, there was a mass of bees larger than a softball.  He scooped up the mass and manipulated it back and forth from hand to hand, draining bees off the edges until he could hold what was left in one hand.  At that point, he removed a glove and used his fingers to gently push away more bees until he was finally able to point out the queen.  He put her into his wooden beehive-box set the lid, and predicted that by sundown, most of the rest of the hive would join her.

The process took less than an hour. We arranged to meet again after sundown so that I could let him back into the warehouse to pick up his box.

The following day, there weren’t more than a few dozen bees left behind.