Bee mine

A neighbor contacted me recently about some bees she had in her yard. They had taken up in a bird box right outside of her back door. When she took her dog out in the mornings, the dog, a delightfully adorable pup named Scarlet, would try and catch the bees. The bees would also harass my neighbor, as if she was invading their home. My neighbor has lived here longer than I have, which is pushing eight years. And Google tells me bees live about a month, so safe to say she was there first.

My son and I came over to check out the situation and see how we could help. She had already determined they were not honeybees, so there was not a lot of interest from beekeepers in relocating, which is understandable. My dad took up beekeeping a few years ago, and I can fairly safely assure you that if I showed up with a hive of bumble bees and said, “You want these?” he would say, “You know I have honey bees, right?”

 The bees were coming and going from the hole of a wooden bird box mounted on a post. We assessed the situation, and decided this was an easy solution.

  1. I would plug a funnel we have at the house, and jam it in the hole.
  2. Parker would lift the bird house off of the post. 
  3. We would walk the bees to some nearby woods and set the box on the ground. 
  4. I would remove the funnel. 
  5. We would run. Fast.

Step one went off perfect. I jammed the funnel in the hole. The bees inside got loud and angry, which was to be suspected. On to step 2. As my son approached the bird bos, he said, “DAD! There’s a hole on the back, too!”

The very angry bees began streaming out of the birdhouse. My neighbor wisely retreated inside her screened-in porch. Parker and I fast forwarded to step five. We ran. Fast. In retrospect, we probably should have followed her lead and gone into the porch. But we were trying to stick to the plan.

We decided we needed to come back at night after the bees had chilled out a bit. Slight problem: My wingman had plans to go out into the woods with some friends and look for critters. No problem, I told him. “Just leave me your snorkel mask.” 

My son had just returned from a snorkeling trip, and had a new mask and snorkel. I figured I could cobble together a secure outfit, and cover my face as well. Ideally, I would have gotten one of my dad’s beekeeping suits, but that was 2.5 hours away, so not really a huge help.

I geared up. In the middle of a South Carolina summer setting record heat indices, I donned blue jeans, thick socks, boots, a sweatshirt, a floppy hat, and, as the cherry on top, a mask. The snorkel was also still attached, because I could not get it out of the plastic connector. I opted not to use the snorkel, as the last thing I needed was an angry bee taking a direct tube into my mouth.

I decided the best bet would be to get a big trash bag, sneak up on them, and throw the bag over the bird box. I could then lift the bird box off the post and relocate them to the woods. Then I could fast forward to step 5, and run. Fast.

It all went to plan. I covered the box and lifted it off the post, clasping it tightly to keep the bees contained. As I walked down the street to the nearby woods, a big black trash bag buzzing with anger, I thought to myself, I really hope no neighbors see me. And I REALLY hope no potential neighbors are making an evening drive through the neighborhood to see what it looks like at night. Because I can assure you it is not usually a guy dressed in jeans, a sweatshirt and snorkel gear while also carrying a bag of buzzing, angry bees.

I was able to set the bird box down and get it free of the bag (and run, of course). I came back the next day, and they had abandoned the box, hopefully to find a new home, albeit one away from folks’ homes.

I’m glad I was able to get them out of her yard so that she and Scarlet can enjoy it again. And I am hopeful these bees go off and do their bee things elsewhere and live long and prosperous bee lives. Even if it is only for a month.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.


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