Saturday, July 11, 2015

Africanized bee removal

Yesterday I received a call from a friend asking if I would be interested in helping out on a hive removal of bees from the soffits of a home.   Why not I thought.   It's all a big learning experience.

There were four of us on this removal and two of us arrived slightly ahead of the other two.  When we walked over to where the bees were coming out of the corner of the home's roof,  almost immediately the bees launched into attack mode. The other guy (Tom) got stung on the ear and face a few times and the bees started hitting us.  We were calm and not that close to the bees so it was unusual to get pinged so quickly.  We quickly retreated and suited up.  I (wisely) even decided to duct tape my socks and around the shoes below where my bee suit hugs the ankles.

And then it gets crazy.  One experienced beekeeper with us who has been doing removals for 10 years and said this was the most aggressive hive he's ever dealt with.  Even with full suits, all four of us received stings.  The bees were determined to get to us no matter what.  I even had some sneak under my gloves and into the ripped netting on my gloves !  My poor hands were quite swollen the next day.  I fared much  better than the other guys though.   Mostly because of my type of bee suit.  Also the lady that was with us had a suit like mine and did pretty good in regards to stings.  But the other two guys weren't as lucky.

It was a lot of work, especially in the heat of summer.  I'm glad I did it because I always wondered about confronting an africanized bee colony so now I've faced that and know more what to expect.  These bees fan out and attack everything in a large radius.  We taped the area off to the road to keep the curious away.  Across the street a lady walked up to her sidewalk to tell us about her uncle's bees and we tried to quickly warn her away.  She kept saying she's ok around bees until a few found her (about 75 yards from the hot hive).  Then she hightailed it home.  Wherever we went we had a cloud of bees attacking us relentlessly.  We would retreat from the hive and get something to drink by our vehicles and all of us had clouds of bees aggressively head butting us.

One thing I learned is you can drink water through the net on your veil.  Thank God for that.  One guy who didn't feel so good after getting numerous stings through his bee jacket and jeans walked a block away to get away from the bees so he could relax.  Afterwards he said he's buying a better suit.

We opened up the soffit and removed the brood and honey comb which was plentiful.  Luckily they didn't build too far up the roof-line.   When we removed everything and sucked up most of the bees in the two vacuums I was ready to head home and was quite tired.  One problem was I couldn't remove my bee suit because the bees buzzing around me, even thought the cloud was not nearly as bad as earlier.  So I jumped in my truck with my suit on and only a few bees made it in with me.  Since it was only a few I removed the suit which felt good.  The suit I have is vented and I wore shorts and a short sleeve shirt.  Still somewhat warm but you can actually feel the breeze while working and it's quite comfortable.  Even with the venting it's highly effective in preventing stings.

One of the other guys returned in the evening to wash the nest area with sudsy water and finished the job.   We all agreed that these bees were an africanized colony.  I can't imagine being attacked by these bees without a full suit.  I can see why they call them killer bees.

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