Oh, just vacuuming my bees, you know...
July 17, 2017 8:13 AM   Subscribe

Sheila and Jerry have a problem with swarms. But, there may be a solution: "... the vac doesn't need to be opened right away, but the bees can stay there for a few days until they are no longer furious at being sucked up in a vacuum." In which people describe how to build or operate a vacuum for the collection of bees. Can be built using Staples clear boxes by a foundation activist. Can be used by someone in shorts on a ladder, a sensibly suited individual, a stereotypical tea party supporter or someone crouching next to a "missile detector". Sheila and Jerry give it a go.
posted by Wordshore (17 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I made mine out of a clear one-gallon water jug and a house vacuum cleaner.

Follow-up: all the wasps survived, and nobody got stung! Something ate the relocated nest, though.
posted by amtho at 8:47 AM on July 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Sheila and Jerry give it a go.

Wait, is there more? Is Jerry okay? This feels like the trailer for a found footage horror movie about bees.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:48 AM on July 17, 2017 [7 favorites]

The various suits or lack thereof is how you can tell if they are dealing with Africanized bees. In the Southwest, where nearly all bees are at least partially Africanized, one wears less than full gear at one's own risk when sucking up a swarm. I do not touch my hives (named Ida Bee Wells and Susan Bee Anthony, BTW) without fully suiting up.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:00 AM on July 17, 2017 [11 favorites]

Here's a pretty good map of where AHB is in the U.S. as of 2009.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:05 AM on July 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Every time one of these videos pops up, I always watch it, even though I know it's gonna trigger my stupid phobia.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:19 AM on July 17, 2017

Last month I was at the store picking up a bottle of champagne* to celebrate my husband's return from a long work trip when he texted me to say "the house is full of bees."

The house is full of bees. This is not a phrase I ever wanted to hear. I nearly dropped the bottle of champagne as I went into full-on panic attack mode in the wine aisle of the store.

All my life I have had a recurring dream that I would come home to find bees pouring through the walls of whereever I was living. The house I grew up in was old and had many hives that bees made underneath the shingles of the porch. I developed a severe phobia of bees even though I'm not allergic and have only been stung once.

And here my worst nightmare had come true. A swarm of honeybees had made their way into our house via a furnace vent that hadn't been properly sealed. THOUSANDS OF BEES IN MY HOUSE.

After hysterically panicking for a solid half hour I banged on the door of my neighbor who is a beekeeper. I thought maybe this swarm had come from one of his hives and he might want them back. Or at the least he'd know how to deal with it. He was out of town. Other neighbors showed up and asked if everything was all right, why were my husband and I freaking the fuck out in front of our home, etc. After talking with them for a bit we found out that three other neighbors had a few bee visitors that day too. But not thousands. No, we were the lucky ones who got to host the bee party.

Anyway, eventually I remembered seeing a post on the Seattle subreddit for a guy called Jerry the Bee Guy, whose name is actually Marvin. I called him up in tears asking if he could please please please come take the bees away. Marvin was a patient and quirky guy, as perhaps all bee collectors are. He talked to me for 30 minutes about bee swarms and the bee populations in my neighborhood which he somehow knew very well. He had just sat down to dinner but said no problem, he'd be there in about an hour.

My husband hightailed it to a hotel while I hung outside, still terrified to go anywhere near my house. Marvin showed up around 7pm with a big water bottle (the kind used as water coolers in offices) attached to a vacuum. By that point most of the bees were exhausted as they had been stuck in the house all day. Marvin vacuumed them up and promised he would rehome the survivors to a new happy little hive in the area. He also patched up the vent opening to prevent future swarms from ending in the same fate. We talked for a good hour or so, and I found out he used to be a graphic designer and we knew some of the same people in the Seattle UX design field. $150 later and I had my house back, along with a better appreciation for honeybees and their summertime swarms.

I'm still finding dead bees scattered in my laundry room whenever I move something. I'm guessing there is a mass grave of them behind the washer and dryer, which I will never EVER investigate.

tldr: sometimes your dreams really do come true. Thank god for bee guys/gals to come to the rescue.

* It was a bottle of Gruet. Come to think of it, that was the exact same champagne I bought on election night to presumably celebrate Clinton's win. Perhaps I should stop buying Gruet.
posted by joan_holloway at 10:25 AM on July 17, 2017 [38 favorites]

Great story, joan_holloway! Hopefully the Bee Guy also explained that swarming bees are among the least likely to sting. They have gorged on honey prior to swarming (in order to have food for the new hive, when built), and will ONLY sting if provoked in the extreme. My husband has captured swarms with only a veil (no gloves or suit), with no stings. Obv this doesn't hold true for Africanized bees, but here in the NW, we're blessed not to have any.
So glad the bees got a new home.
posted by dbmcd at 11:07 AM on July 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh! Yeah! One of the most surreal experiences of my life involved bees and a vacuum!

I was on my way to Guatemala for the first time to do fieldwork, and I was spending the weekend before I left at a huge gathering of morris dancers in the mountains in Colorado. Morris dancers actually party pretty hard, and in addition to the dancing this shindig usually involves drinking a shitload of beer starting about ten AM and then staying up all night every night dancing and singing and carrying on.

So: it was the ass-crack of dawn on Monday morning. About a week previously I'd been shot full of vaccines for all sorts of tropical diseases. Two days previously I'd ascended to about seven thousand feet, promptly gotten a sunburn and a hangover, and spent the weekend overexerting myself. My system was overwhelmed, I had wicked altitude sickness, I was pretty disoriented, and in eight hours I had to get on a plane to a country I'd never been to with nobody at the airport to meet me. I desperately needed a few hours of sleep someplace dark and quiet.

Luckily, my friend Spider had a musician friend who lived pretty close by. She made some phone calls and arranged for me to go and sleep it off in his basement.

So up to this poor unsuspecting guy's house rolls a van full of smelly, sweaty, sleep-deprived morris dancers, singing loudly and raucously. One immediately leaps out of the van and vomits on his lawn. (She wasn't even drinking! Mountain roads just make her carsick! Oops!) While she's puking I blearily walk up and shake his hand and he directs me to the couch in the basement. Which, in this dude's basement there are several large snakes in terrariums. And I think some cats or something, and a shitload of banjos, and also he and his partner keep a hive of bees.

Fine. Whatever. I fall asleep. I wake up a few hours later, in the sort of post-nap state where you wouldn't know what year it was or what time zone you were in even if you weren't in a different time zone than your usual. And I stagger upstairs, and there was....

And okay, normally when I tell this story the punchline hasn't been spoiled by an FPP on the topic, but there was THIS GUY CALMLY VACUUMING UP BEES IN THE LIVING ROOM. Apparently while I was napping they started to swarm, and some got into the house, and this is what you do in that situation.

Anyway the other thing that normally happens when I tell this story is that people get very concerned about the welfare of the poor bees. Which I was too, at the time, except that there were SO MANY OTHER REASONS FOR CONFUSION competing for prominence in my brain that I never got around to asking whether it hurt them or what.

So I will now read up on the topic, and the next time I tell this story I will be prepared for the ensuing questions. Thanks, Metafilter!
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:34 AM on July 17, 2017 [9 favorites]

Not beephobic at all and certainly have a real societal concern over the general health of hives but waking up disoriented in an unknown home with someone vacuuming bees, worry about a local hive survival is the last issue I'd have.
posted by sammyo at 11:55 AM on July 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

TBH I feel kind of vindicated seeing this post. Like, I knew I hadn't actually imagined or hallucinated it, but it also didn't entirely feel like the sort of thing a sane and reliable person would remember...
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:00 PM on July 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just read this (alas, NY Post) article about a house with 35,000 bees (spoiler alert: after vacuuming, there is now a lot of honey in the residents' refrigerator) and said to my boyfriend, this sounds like Wordshore and the chocolate. And now I see this post!
posted by ferret branca at 7:07 PM on July 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Bees, very interesting and all, but I believe we have bee posts here on the Blue prior.

...a huge gathering of morris dancers in the mountains in Colorado.

Morris dancers? Infesting the Colorado Mountains? Where do they come from? Why are they dancing? Where do they go to afterwards?

Now this,THIS is a post that demands an airing on the Blue!
posted by BlueHorse at 8:33 PM on July 17, 2017

Why are they dancing?

If you study their dance carefully, you can determine the distance and direction of a local pub.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:36 AM on July 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

If you study their dance carefully, you can determine the distance and direction of a local pub.

Usually when I see them the pub is really easy to find, being less than 10 meters away. I think they spawn from the pub itself in an odd form of spontaneous generation.
posted by koolkat at 2:37 AM on July 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

I was on my way to Guatemala for the first time to do fieldwork, and I was spending the weekend before I left at a huge gathering of morris dancers in the mountains in Colorado.


posted by Wordshore at 4:42 AM on July 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Honey absolutely does not belong in a refrigerator! Blasphemy! It is fine in Egyptian tombs for thousands of years, it definitely does not require refrigeration! Bah!
posted by Sophie1 at 4:43 PM on July 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

Honestly there is no backstory, that was just what I did for fun while I was in grad school.

This morris dancing campout weekend thing happens in a different state in the Midwest (or mountain West or sometimes like Kentucky or whatever, but like not the Northeast and not California) every summer, and I've been going since I was 17 and ended up with a morris dancer as a college roommate and decided it looked like fun. So when I was getting a linguistics Ph.D. and going to Guatemala every summer to get data, I organized all my trips so I could go and dance on my way out of the country.

There's actually a ritual dance tradition in Guatemala and southern Mexico that miiiiight have something in common with morris dancing — both are, as far as anyone can tell, what you get when you take a vaguely remembered, long-suppressed local ritual dance tradition and fill in all the gaps with the kind of social dance and Romantic "folk culture" that was trendy in Europe in the 18th and 19th century, so the roots are different but the stuff grafted on is similar. But none of my research contacts in Guatemala had anything to do with it, and most of them thought it was embarrassingly old-fashioned and associated it with drunken old men from small towns. (Actually a lot like how the English see morris dance...) So I always had it in the back of my head as a "study this eventually" thing and never actually got to study it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:28 AM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

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