Managing The Hive: Honey Bee Avocation

Jul 9, 2019

David Naugher began keeping honey bees 19 years ago. A year later he started working with homeowners and others to help them get rid of unwanted hives under house eaves, in attics, crawl spaces or even in sprinkler boxes.

 

Removing hives isn’t Naugher’s vocation – he’s an engineer with Texas Tech System’s Facilities Planning & Construction team - but he enjoys sharing his knowledge about his honey-bee avocation.

"The greater satisfaction I get aside from keeping my own bees and removing other peoples bees is educating people about honey bees. I love it, that I’ll be removing bees. I’ve had some people park up lawn chair within twenty, thirty feet of me and watch the entire removal and the bees don’t bother them and they’re asking questions the entire time. So I love giving them all the answers. It never fails that one answer seems to spawn three or four more questions and you just move on down the road."

He used to have numerous hives in his backyard but as his family grew, his wife suggested it might not be so wise.

"But now that I have grandchildren that are toddlering around in the backyard, my wife asked if I would refrain from beekeeping for awhile. And that’s been two summers ago and I am still trying to recoup from that."

But he still removes bees from around people’s homes. He uses a bee smoker to calm those in and around the hive. Then he uses a vacuum on a low setting to remove the bees as gently as possible. He puts them into a container to transport them.

When he’s working to removing hives, he doesn’t take chances.

"I always wear a suit. So many people showing off their grandkids holding, and they’re bare-chested and they’re holding frames bare-handed and showing stuff off. And people are excited about handling their bees bare-handed and sometimes even with a vail. But I just don’t do that. I never did when I was managing bees. I've never done that removing bees."

Naugher says he believes that early media coverage of the decline in honey bee populations because of Colony Collapse Disorder was misinformed. Still, he says, there was a sense of urgency to help.

"Probably did early on because I think as a lot of us recognized there started to be an appearance of the lack of a lot of honey bees in Texas and in the world, I guess due to this Colony Collapse Disorder. And I was more active toward removing and rescuing as many honey bees as I could. And we still are today. I would say that all of us that do removals, beekeepers that capture swarms, we’re all about rescuing as many honey bees as we can cause that’s what we enjoy doing."

Naugher says he believes the disorder is about bees packing up and leaving hives, though some, including the Queens, remained behind. There weren’t dead bees in the hive or laying around nearby. The Environmental Protection Agency says the reported cases of Colony Collapse Disorder have declined substantial over recent years.

"All the bees don’t leave the box. Queen stays behind. She’s laying thousands to fifteen hundred eggs a day. And so there’s just all kinds of things happening within the hive. What would make them all decide to pack up and leave? And it’s the conditions of the hive."

Naugher says he believes four pests that include a bacteria, two mite varieties and a spore that mess with honey bees physically, prompting them to go elsewhere.

"So I’m thinking that’s what Colony Collapse Disorder was all about. A combination of those four things might have caused them to want to leave that hive, which really would relate back and I can get in trouble for saying this maybe but - poor management. We tell new beekeepers, your purpose is to now manage this hive."

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