Vacuuming up a bunch of bees is just another day for this swarm chaser

A Minnesota beekeeper rescued a hive near the GoMN office.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Rule No. 1 when you find a swarm of bees: Leave them alone ... unless they're in a not-so-great location, like the honey bees GoMN spotted near the office last week.

Honey bees aren't dangerous, but they do need an appropriate home – and an electric box doesn't fit the bill.

Thankfully, there's a growing movement of people in Minnesota who will help in this kind of situation, including Minneapolis beekeeper Terry McDaniel. She's part of the Minnesota Hobby Beekeepers Association – a nonprofit made up of over 400 beekeepers and bee-lovers from around the state.

Along with raising bees at her home in the Nokomis neighborhood for the past 10 years, McDaniel is also an active swarm chaser. If someone finds a swarm of bees, she'll go collect and relocate them.

And last week, GoMN got to see her in action.

Rescuing the swarm

Beekeepers call this time of year “swarm season.” From late May through July, honey bee colonies are expanding and splitting off to look for a new home.

That's what the swarm near the GoMN office was doing. Except they must not have found a good spot, so they tried to make due on an electric box.

Here's what the swarm looked like after five days on the box, when McDaniel was called in.

Normally when McDaniel collects a swarm, she just brushes the bees into a bee hive box or uses a cup to scoop them up.

But this swarm was a little trickier because the bees were already building honeycomb (the little white specks in the photo). Plus, a lot of them were in a hard-to-reach crack.

To get the bees, she cut up a cloth grocery bag and fashioned it into a tube, which she put inside a vacuum hose. Then she sucked up the bees, trapping them inside the bag – a first for this swarm chaser.

"If anybody sees a swarm of honey bees, they should call [a beekeeper] right away. That way it's easier for the swarm chaser to collect all the bees," McDaniel told GoMN, noting how difficult these bees were to rescue.

If you see a swarm of bees, call the Minnesota Hobby Beekeepers Association at 651-436-7915.

Looking for the queen

McDaniel brought the swarm to her backyard bee farm, and has been examining the hive to see if she got the queen bee – the single reproductive female in a colony, and basically the ruler of all the other bees.

So far she hasn't spotted the queen, but the colony will still be OK.

McDaniel put a frame of eggs and larvae from one of her other hives in the box. If the queen's not there, the bees will start giving some of the eggs the "royal jelly" in order to make a queen cell.

If the bees don't build a queen cell, that means the queen is in the box and will start laying eggs – McDaniel will find out in about five days.

Meanwhile, the bees are busy buzzing to and from McDaniel's backyard, gathering nectar, pollen, and other things they need to thrive.

"Bees basically work themselves to death," she told GoMN, explaining that honey bees only live 4-5 weeks in the summer.

GoMN visited McDaniel's bee farm on Tuesday – check out this video to see what's it's like to be an urban beekeeper.

It's not an easy time to be a bee

Populations of bees and other pollinators have been declining over the past 10 years or so, and scientists have been scrambling to figure out why. It's a problem because we depend on bees to pollinate our crops.

"They pollinate like one-third of our food. If the bees weren't here, we wouldn't have fruits and vegetables. We wouldn't even have beef, because cows eat alfalfa, which is pollinated by bees. Everything is connected," McDaniel said.

If America loses too many bees, we could end up in a food disaster.

If you want to help save bees and other pollinators, planting a bee garden is the best way to start. Grow a variety of plants so there's something flowering all season long, providing food and a safe habitat for the insects.

And while you're gardening, use only natural pesticides and fertilizers – many studies and reports say popular insecticides are partially to blame for the dying bee population.

Other ways to help

Tell Minnesota decision-makers to create stronger policies at the state level to protect our pollinators. More info here.

Buy local honey and support local beekeepers by donating to the Minnesota Hobby Beekeepers Association, or becoming a member.

Take a beekeeping class and start raising your own bees – some cities like Minneapolis have made it easier for residents to apply for a permit to keep bees on their property. More info here.

Next Up

Screen Shot 2020-12-02 at 9.55.05 PM

Small plane lands on northbound I-35W in Twin Cities

A large police presence is at the scene.

Plainview

Judge orders Minnesota gym that defied shutdown to close

Attorney General Keith Ellison sued the gym after it remained open.

montana cutbank

Charges: Man shot victim 'without provocation' using sawed-off shotgun

The incident happened on Nov. 24 in Ten Lake Township, located in Beltrami County.

Governor Tim Walz

Watch live: Walz, first responders address Minnesotans

Some departments have been forced to shift staffing or suspend service due to COVID-19.

covid-19, coronavirus

CDC says COVID-19 quarantine period can be cut to 10 or 7 days

You can come out of a 7-day quarantine following exposure provided you've had a negative test.

maple grove fire

1 person found dead inside Maple Grove business that burned down

A person had been unaccounted following the fire that destroyed Hanson Implement and Storage Tuesday night.

One-dollar bill, cash, money

Appeals court rules MN high school students can get unemployment benefits

They've been denied the benefits, and some were even asked to pay them back.

covid-19, coronavirus

Dec. 2 COVID-19 update: 77 more deaths in Minnesota

The death toll is closing in on 3,700 in Minnesota.

City Pages

Fan creates City Pages archive, Star Tribune tells him to remove it

After word spread that the defunct newspaper's website would go down, a fan created his own copy. Then he got a cease and desist letter.

Adam Thielen

Vikings activate Adam Thielen off COVID-19/reserve list

The star receiver missed last week's victory over Carolina.

Screen Shot 2020-12-02 at 10.27.14 AM

Naked man shot by St. Paul cop is charged for sexual assault of ex-girlfriend

The 31-year-old suspect remains at Regions Hospital after being shot.

Related

Vacuuming up a bunch of bees is just another day for this swarm chaser

A Minnesota beekeeper rescued a hive near the GoMN office.

There's a swarm of honey bees near the GoMN office

These bees appear to have made themselves a home on an electric box near GoMN's office. Now what?

There's a swarm of honey bees near the GoMN office

These bees appear to have made themselves a home on an electric box near GoMN's office. Now what?

Video: Swarm chasers are rescuing bees around the state

When bees show up unannounced, Swarm Chasers come to the rescue.

Minnesota couple helps create first solar bee garden

Everyone's talking about their Solar Honey.

Get some free seeds or drink a beer while helping bees for Pollinator Week

It's a week to celebrate pollinators and raise awareness about how to protect them.

Get some free seeds or drink a beer while helping bees for Pollinator Week

It's a week to celebrate pollinators and raise awareness about how to protect them.