Why do swarms choose the most inaccessible places? They are either just out of reach or buried in a dense tree or bush. What I needed was some means of rapid gathering that didn’t involve holding a skep in one hand while hanging on for dear life with the other.
I had heard and read about beevacs but not actually seen one. An internet search found a wealth of information on American sites with blogs, comments and feedback galore. It seemed that a normal beevac sucked the bees into a mesh cage supported inside a sealed vacuumed box that could then be taken back to the apiary and shaken into a hive. General opinion was that the bees got really knocked about, were far from happy after this experience and that you could end up with a queenless colony.
The completed giant poodle - a bee vacuum cleaner
I decided to take the basic design from Robo’s World and tweak it to suit my own hives (Modified National 14 x 12), and the material I had available. The idea was that this would suck the bees straight into a brood box of frames thus avoiding the disturbing transfer.
I needed it to be light enough to carry up a ladder so at the BBKA Spring Convention I bought a polystyrene hive from Modern Beekeeping. Unfortunately, they only had a conventional National brood box, but it was at least top space – unlike another I found which, though 14 x 12, was also bottom space. I considered it more likely that Modern Beekeeping would eventually make an eke than the other company would manufacture a top space option. The lack of depth of the polystyrene brood box was easily compensated for by deepening the bottom box of the pootle.
Completed pootle with vacuum cleaner attached
Both top and bottom box were assembled using dowels and glue with the inner support frame screwed and glued. Adhesive foam rubber draught-excluder gave me the seal between the boxes and the wood was finished with two coats of Sikkens.
Getting the correct pipe-work was a bit of a challenge. Unfortunately, Ridgeon’s plumbing department couldn’t supply a sufficiently large diameter flexible hose, so I turned to SwellUK who do aquatic pipes and fittings, and where Chris was more than helpful in working out all the bits and pieces I’d need: 6m of Swell 50mm flexible, 1.5m of 1½” rigid pipe and an assortment of fittings. This would give me the option of several ‘reaches’, namely 3.5m, 5.5m, and 7.5m with the pootle standing on the ground.
Suction is provided by a trusty old Electrolux retired from domestic duties about twenty years ago but still, after numerous repairs, giving excellent workshop service
The idea is that the bees are sucked straight into a brood box already fitted with comb or foundation, which then be taken straight back to the apiary – the bees already in their new home. I’ve tested it in the workshop and it works brilliantly. All that remains is to actually put it to use in the field.