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Home-made Bee Vac - Your gateway to Crazy!

I'm already there - Won't you join me?
By: Charlie Agar - Owner Charlie Bee Company and FrontRow Multimedia
Texas Beekeepers Association Director and Volunteer Mentor for Hives For Heroes

It will all start out innocently enough. You watch a cool YouTube video of someone “saving bees” or maybe a flamboyant speaker at your local bee club regales you with adventures of live honeybee removal. Your curiosity is piqued, and you do some Googling.

“Wow, bee removal looks kind of cool!” you say.

Take my experience as a warning: this way may lead to insanity. If you read on, I’m not sure I can help you.

Still reading? Oh, you’re doomed.

Next will come that fateful phone call from a neighbor or a friend with a nuisance beehive in a wall, shed, tree, or water valve box. Maybe it’s a simple “cut out” procedure. Easy enough. Now what?

As with all things beekeeping, opinions vary. You could cut the hive out and rebuild the colony in a box nearby and wait for the bees to move in. That works, but I prefer to get the bees out in one fell swoop, particularly if the hive is any distance away. And the most useful tool in doing so is a good bee vacuum.

A bee vac is a low-pressure vacuum that pulls bees safely into some kind of container. The goal is to capture as many bees as possible and be able to whisk them away to your bee yard where they can make a new home in a bee box, safe and away from people.

There are a few commercially made bee vacuums on the market. Lots of bee removers swear by the “hive-style” vacuum that pulls the bees into a hive box with frames, but I prefer the “canister-style” vac which captures bees in a wire mesh container. Both work just fine.

What I like about my canister vac is that after a successful removal I come away with a portable “package” of bees, much like the three pounds of bees you purchase with a queen from an apiary supply.

I modeled my vac after a homemade number built by Russel Farr, a longtime beekeeper out of Martindale who took the time to teach me about bee removal. My design mirrors the Owens Bee Vac which used to sell commercially, but while the Owens-style vac was an all-in-one piece, this “Cheap Charlie” version has a separate source vacuum and standalone containment chamber.

You can get all that you need to build this homemade vac at a hardware store, and you don’t need to be a master craftsman

Simply follow the suggestions and modify as needed. And please email me about any ideas you come up with!

Supplies Needed

Shop Vac (any will do) Supplies and Tools itemized on printer Format

Tools Needed

#1 Drill 2" holes - one on opposing sides

#2 Cut 2- 9" disks from 1/8' plywood

#3 Cut an inner circle from a 9" disk cut from 3/4" plywood

#4 3 disk - 2 out of 1/8" plywood and 1 from 3/4" w/center removed

#5 Cut 4 - 12" 1 X 1 boards

#6 Secure 1 - 1/8" disk and the 3/4" ring to make your container

#7 Staple #8 hardware cloth to basket

#8 Basket that will hold the bees inside the bucket

#9 Cut a 1 3/4" hole in the solid end of the basket

#10 Cut a 5" length of 1 1/4" PVC

#11 Wrap the end with Gorilla Tape

#12 Insert in the hold and secure with Gorilla glue

#13 Cut 2 - 3" pieces from 1 1/4" PVC

#14 Wrap with Gorilla Tape

#15 Insert in the holes previously drilled (only 1/8" inside bucket)

#16 Glue in a 1 1/4" PVC coupler to the pipe (both sides)

#17 On one side - glue a 1 1/4" PVC ball valve

#18 Tape/secure the "extra" 9" disk on top of the open end of the basket

#19 Cut a 1 3/4" hole in the bucket lid

#20  Nearly there!

#21 Insert the the basket into the bucket

#22 Position the lid over the pipe and snap it on the bucket

#23 Wrap end of vacuum hose with Gorilla tape

#24 Insert hose end to pipe in the lid securely

#25 Insert hose end to shop vac

#26 Use the ball valve to adjust volume of suction

#27 Turn on the vacuum and you are in business!

Armed with your new vac, you’re ready to start capturing bees. If you do, I want to welcome you to the wonderful world of yellow-poop-flecked windshields, odd hours, hysterical homeowners, hot attics, painful stings, and the fun and excitement of working wild bees.

My Wife and Helper Kaye

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