COMMUNITY PROFILE: Bee wrangler at work

Jennifer Scott vacuuming up bees.
Jennifer Scott vacuuming up bees.

By Bob Bartel

Smoke filled the air as the colony rushed home to save their family and treasure. The queen was rushed off to a safe location, and the soldiers stood guard over her, each willing to give their life to protect her. As the intruder breached the outer defenses, there was a swarm of activity inside their fortress. It seemed like their world would soon come to an end, but in reality, it was just Jennifer Scott, the Bee Wrangler, going about her work removing an unwanted hive from the wall of a home. They would soon be relocated to a farm on the outskirts of town to live happily ever after.

“Spring is the busiest time to remove colonies,” Scott commented, as she carefully removed the siding covering the bee’s elaborate home. “I’m booked up three weeks in advance right now.”

For her, bee removal was not just a job, it was a calling. Saving wild colonies and moving them to remote areas where they can thrive is saving what may become an endangered species.

As she worked, Scott explained the process. She used a little bit of paper and some bark from a nearby tree to create the smoke in her pot that she placed close to the hive entrance.

“The bees smell the smoke, and rush back to the hive, where they gorge themselves with the honey they have made in case they need to move the hive away from a fire.”

As the siding is removed, exposing the hive, they cluster around the queen and the combs of honey and those containing the baby bees. The lighter colored combs contained the honey, and the darker ones are the nursery.

Some bee removal people only vacuum up the bees and the queen, and save the honeycomb, but not the part of the nest with the larvae, but according to Scott, “It’s all about the babies.” If you don’t take the brood, the bees have no reason to stay in the special boxes you set up for them in an aviary. She carefully removes all of the brooding combs and puts them in frames to keep the bees busy and stable in their new home.

When asked about the dangers of colony collapse disorders that are often sited in the news, Scott said, “It’s a problem, but one that man has created through the use of pesticides, often right in the hive to kill a beetle that can get in the honeycombs.”

These beetles can damage the honeycomb, but according to Scott, the bees can normally deal with the beetles on their own, and don”t need the use of pesticides to help them. Use of pesticides is so prevalent in beekeeping, Scott said, that most of the honey you buy commercially in the store has some in it. When she sells honey at local farmer’s markets, it is all natural with no pesticide.

To be sure that any beetles are killed in a honeycomb, Scott recommends freezing the honeycomb for 24 hours. After that, you can keep it in the refrigerator if you like it crunchy, or keep it at room temperature if you like it soft. Honey is a natural preservative and will not spoil.

Scott also maintains that the problem of Africanized ‘Killer Bees’ that we hear about in the news is overstated. These aggressive honeybees can live in large colonies and are very protective of their nest, but Africanized bees have been in the USA for about 30 years, so most colonies are a hybrid with the European honeybee, and not super aggressive.

Once Scott removes the hive, she suggests to the property owner that they coat the infested area with shellac that you can buy in a spray can at Home Depot to cover any scent that might entice the bees to return. You can then cover the area with siding to repair the area where the nest was removed. For a “normal” hive removal at a single story house, she charges $300. Second story removal can double the cost.