Honey Bees

If you clicked over to this page fearing that Z Pest Control LLC is in the business of exterminating honey bees, fear not! It's actually the opposite - I keep them! 

(Unless they're in a space from which they can't be recovered, which may necessitate an extermination, but I try to avoid that as much as it is reasonable to.)

Do you have a swarm in your yard right now? Call me now at 509-540-7946 and I will remove them free of charge as soon as I am able to, or if I am unavailable I will try to find an area beekeeper to help you. 

If this isn't an emergency, then please, read on!

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In the course of my pest control work, I am sometimes called in to assist with honey bees that may or may not be causing a problem for someone. Sometimes this is a swarm that suddenly appears in a person's yard or a public space, or a bee hive established in an inconvenient spot.

In the fall of 2014, it occurred to me that since my work at times has me crossing paths with bee colonies, maybe I should try to collect them and give them a home! Inspired, in the winter of 2015 I began studying beekeeping and acquiring the basic equipment I would need to set up my first hive.

My first attempt at establishing a colony failed when the package of bees that I ordered from an apiary was incorrectly routed by the U.S. Postal Service. What should have been a maximum journey of three days was turned into nine, at the end of which most of the bees I purchased had died in transit. Those that survived, including the queen, were weakened to the point that they died soon after, too.

Then about one month later in May of 2015 I got my second chance: I was contacted by someone about a swarm of honey bees that gathered in a tree in their back yard.

Here they are on the branch where they had settled temporarily. This is normal reproductive behavior for honey bees: when a colony reaches sufficient size, the old queen will leave with approximately half of the workers, and the bees that stay behind in the old hive will raise a new queen.

The swarm will follow the queen that is guiding them to a resting place, and from there scouts will go out to look for a new home. When enough scouts select a particular spot, the swarm will move to it and set up a new hive. Usually, a swarm in your yard will leave on its own within 24 to 48 hours.

A honey bee swarm can be relatively loud and intimidating, but you really have very little to worry about. Honey bees are generally not aggressive, and when they do not even have a hive to defend, they'll typically be even less so. You should exercise common sense caution around a swarm of course, particularly if you are allergic to bee stings, but if you stand at least a few feet away from the mass and do not disturb them, they will pretty much just ignore your presence. 

With some assistance from Travis Ulrich, the owner of Hayden Pest Control of Lewiston, Idaho, we clipped a few branches and got nearly the entire swarm into the bucket we brought along to collect the bees in. This is only temporary, of course, a way to safely transport the swarm to its new home.

Once the main part of the swarm is in the receiving vessel, it is generally set on the ground for a little while so that returning foragers can locate the new position of the swarm. This is also a way to get some idea as to whether the queen has been collected, too, as she is the focal point for the swarm and will prompt returning bees to join the others in the container.

Once everyone was in the bucket that was getting in, I put the lid on and brought the bees to their new home. After I set up the hive box, I literally poured the swarm into it. The bees began to spread out among the frames in the box, foragers began to take to the air and fly in circles to orient themselves, and the organization of the new hive began in earnest. Just like that, I had my first established honey bee hive!

Within a week or so of installing this swarm in my hive box, I managed to spot the queen bee, so I knew that they had a good chance of making it. Through the summer of 2015 the hive grew, and by the end of the summer they had grown enough that I stacked a second hive box on top of the first.

This is them on an unusually warm December 2015 day in the Walla Walla valley when the daytime temperatures reached the mid-60's, giving the bees an opportunity to get in some "cleansing flight" time before cold weather chased them back into the hive for the winter. Healthy honey bees avoid defecating in their own hive, so when a break in the weather gives them a chance to head outside (generally when temperatures exceed 55º F), they will take flight like this.


This is a side project to my main business that I am hoping to grow into something substantial, more than just a hobby. Eventually I am hoping to have honey and perhaps some other bee-related products to sell, so please keep checking back! Thanks for reading!

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