The Curry Coastal Pilot

A swarm of honeybees was rescued and relocated after an exterminator called members of the Oregon South Coast Beekeepers Association (OSCBA) for assistance.

While attending the Azalea Festival late Saturday afternoon, a call came from Bug-e-Boyz saying that a swarm of bees had moved into a cabinet on the outside of a home up Hunter Creek. The owners were allergic to bee stings and wanted the bees removed as soon as possible. They were identified as honeybees, not wasps or yellow jackets. A swarm rescue was in order.

Being late in the day, I didn't think I could get the equipment needed to get the swarm into a hive box. I called Jim Sorber, vice president of OSCBA, knowing that he is usually ready to respond quickly and, in this case, was much closer.

I arrived on scene shortly after Jim removed the first part of the cluster into his swarm-catcher hive box, which happens to be one of the many Kenya Top Bar Hives he has built. This type of hive box is built in such a shape that bees use naturally for hanging their comb.

Jim found that the bees had taken up residence inside a cabinet that was a perfect size, and the entrance was good, through a crack in the doors. Just what the bees were looking for in a home.

Bug-e-Boyz offered to return after the swarm was gone and take preventative measures to avoid attracting another swarm.

After Jim had the first handful of bees into his catch box, other bees began to land there and gather into clusters on the outside of the box. Jim was confident that he had gotten the queen. After that, it was just a matter of "persuading" all the other bees to go into the box. Jim used a bit of smoke, quite a lot of misting and considerable brushing to succeed.

To fend off other swarms, Jim scraped off as much as he could of the newly-built, pure white comb from inside the cabinet. The goal was to remove much of the bee pheromone that would attract other honeybees. Then he sprayed it with repellant and then hung several pieces of Bounce dryer tissues, which beekeepers often place on their bee suits to ward off bees.

Bees in swarms are not inclined to sting since they are homeless and have almost nothing to defend. They lack the brood and food they would be tending and defending in a hive.

In this case, though, the hood design on bee suit jacket, resembling fencing headgear, tends to touch the chin when the head bends down. A bee got caught and made a desperate choice: She shoved her barb deep. When Jim lifted his head, she was released to fly free to face her impending death because separating from the barb tears out a vital portion of her insides.

Knowing not to grab the stinger to pull it out, because that would squeeze more venom into the skin, Jim's pocket knife was used in a "shaving" sort of maneuver to raise the stinger out of the skin.

The couple in the house were glad to learn about stinger removal and asked about the sting from other insects. As far as those working there knew, the honeybee is the only one with a barb.

It could be that because the honeybee is the only insect to store a vast food supply to sustain a colony for a year and, therefore, would be targeted by predators that other insects don't have, such as the heavily coated bear, a barb might be the best means of getting the message across to the offender.

Honeybees don't lose their stingers when they sting insects and other things that do not have skin or soft textured surfaces.

Jim had already taken an antihistamine before putting on his bee jacket, so he knew that the sting would not amount to much.

He finished with the cabinet, spraying it inside one last time and then using duct tape to seal the doors closed.

With most of the bees already inside and only a few hanging on the outside and fewer still buzzing around, Jim left. He returned during the night to fetch the colony, when all the bees would have retired from flying and gathered inside for the many chores of feeding and grooming the queen and preparing honeycomb so that she could begin laying right away.