Beekeeper Takes Sting Out of a Sticky Situation

Posted: August 1, 2023 at 8:54 am

3 images: Bee Lady holding honeycomb, PRECO lineworker suiting up to help, beekeeper looking inside wire spoolPeace River Electric Cooperative’s bee problem apparently developed this spring when a colony of honeybees built a hive inside a nearly empty wooden wire reel at the co-op’s Indian Lake Estates district facility.

Several times in recent months, Logan Hill, apprentice line technician, was stung while retrieving wire reels. He told managers about the problem and showed them where the bees lived.

“The hole they were going into was the hub of a wire reel,” said Dave Osburn, eastern division operations supervisor. “We didn’t want to aggravate the bees by disturbing the reel, so we called in a professional.”

Kristin Miners, known as The Bee Lady, and an assistant soon arrived at PRECO’s materials yard with her gear. Realizing that removing the hive would be different from her typical encounters, she recruited a PRECO volunteer.

Hill’s previous history with the bees prompted his fellow employees to encourage him to take on the job. Trading his normal personal protective gear for a bee suit, he stepped up to help Miners reach the hive.

Hill used a forklift to expose the bee-filled reel, which cleared the way for the beekeepers to work. Using smoke to control the bees, the top of the real was removed exposing the hive and fresh honey without sending the bees into a defensive frenzy.

“I was pretty comfortable in the bee suit, and this time, I didn’t get stung at all,” said Hill.

“They were all right there in the center area of the barrel,” said Miners, who estimates that the hive contained as many as 60,000 bees. The amount of honey and the color of the wax indicated that it was probably established sometime in February.

Hill went home with a cache of fresh honey, about half the total amount Miners recovered.

“I strained it out and put it in jars and brought back some to the office so people could sample it,” said Hill, adding that he also kept a piece of honeycomb as a souvenir.

Miners left a transport hive, baited with collected honey and some of the combs, to attract bees that were out foraging when the removal occurred. It was retrieved the next day, and the colony now operates from a safer, less intrusive location.

Story adapted from National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Electric Co-op News senior editor-writer Derrill E. Holley.