Daring duo removes hive from Summit garage

Chris Duncan, left, and Don Geddie prepare a vacuum for capturing wild bees.

A pair of robbers struck a Summit residence in broad daylight the other day, entering the garage and hauling out handfuls of gold.

Actually, the “robbers” were a perfectly respectable pair of beekeepers who were there by invitation, not to remove jewelry and other valuables but a hive of wild bees in the garage ceiling.

And the “loot” was gold, all right — not the precious metal kind but raw local honey.

The chain of events started about a month ago when Alfred and Cherrie Felder spotted a bunch of bees circulating around the outside wall of their Robb Street garage.

“We were out picking blueberries from the blueberry tree and we happened to look over and see them,” Mrs. Felder said. “We didn’t even know they were there.”

They called a beekeeper friend, Chris Duncan of Highway 570 East, Summit, who enlisted his mentor, Don Geddie of Magnolia.

The two drove up and checked out the garage ceiling. Using a stepladder, they cautiously removed a ceiling panel and some insulation to reveal a large hive swarming with bees.

Then they retreated to Duncan’s pickup truck to start assembling their equipment.

“People would be surprised at how many bees in the McComb area and around here there are within a one-mile radius,” Geddie said.

These bees, like most others around here, are European.

“They come from Italian stock, the yellow Italian bee,” Geddie said, adding he also see Russian bees occasionally.

“Italian is a big old yellow bee. Typically they’re very docile. Bees are very docile — until you go to tearing their house apart.”

He and Duncan pulled out beekeeper head coverings and gloves just in case, but didn’t put them on. And as it turned out, they didn’t need to.

Geddie attached the top part of a shop-vac to a wooden super, or box full of frames.  

“The vacuum makes it a lot easier because I just get up there and start vacuuming bees,” he said.

But first he lighted a fire in his tin-can smoker.

“Pine straw,” he said. “There’s a lot of different fuel. That’s what my mama taught me to use — pine straw.”

Hardwood pellets sprinkled on the straw extend the duration of the smoke by 45 minutes, he said.

Geddie also pulled out a “queen catcher,” a large plastic fork-like clamp with tines wide enough apart to let other bees through but hold the queen safely. Where the queen goes, the other bees go. But if she gets injured and can’t lay eggs, the other bees with “do away with her,” Geddie said.

Duncan climbed the ladder and went to work, quietly vacuuming bees, who didn’t put up any resistance.

Soon he was handing down chunks of comb to Geddie. The combs were covered in bees and chockful of golden honey. Geddie gently brushed the bees off and handed the combs to Mrs. Felder and a visiting reporter.

“This honey probably comes from privet,” Geddie said. “There’s very little good that can be said about privet, but it makes good honey — kind of like Karo (syrup).”

He strapped other pieces of comb in the wooden frame with rubber bands. Once the bees settle in, they’ll go to work filling them in.

Bees will travel two or three miles to find pollen sources.

“If you’ve got a hole, they will go into it,” Geddie said. “God made them where if they’re three miles away they will orient to the sun and come back to that spot.”

The biggest problem raising bees nowadays is the varroa mites that prey on them. If hives aren’t treated for the mites, the bees will die.

Geddie has four or five hives that produce 35 gallons of honey a year.

In this case he was interested not in the honey — he has plenty — but the bees.

“The easy part is getting the bees out,” he said. “The hard part is keeping them from coming back. This (spot) smells like home.”

As it turned out, what looked to be a quick and easy job got more complicated when Duncan discovered the hive extended well beyond the ceiling panel. He and Geddie had to remove another panel and come back the next day to get the rest of the bees.

Other than sticky hands, they made a clean getaway.

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