A simple Bee Vac
A fellow beekeeper who works at UNC-CH contacted me about a feral beehive in a building on campus that is scheduled to be demolished this year. As part of a plan to remove the bees, we decided that a bee vac would be a valuable tool to have. There are lots of plans out there on the web for bee vac’s, but I needed something I could make easily, quickly, and cheaply. I came up with a simple design and built one over a weekend. I forgot to take pictures during the process, but have taken some now after the fact (actually after its first use too).
First of all, I decided to make the bee vac the size of a Langstroth hive body with a removable panel. This way we could simply place the filled bee vac on top of a hive body and pull out this panel. The bees would then be able to drop down into the hive. At least that’s the idea. I made the bee vac out of a 1×10 pine board and some scrap panel board. I also found some 1″ inner diameter smooth hose and a couple of PVC attachments at Lowe’s. I didn’t have the vacuum that we would use to measure, but figured that the hose would probably be 1 1/4″ in diameter.
I cut the 1×10 into 4 pieces. Two were 19 1/8″ long and the other two were 17 3/4″ long. Along both long sides of each piece I ran a saw kerf (slot) 1/4″ from the edge about 1/4-3/8″ deep (using the table saw) . This will be used to receive the panel board pieces. I had to widen the slot to a little over the width of my blade (1/8″) so it would receive the panel board easily. On one side of one of the 17 3/4″ boards, I raised the saw blade and cut all the way through (instead of a slot). This is so the bottom will be removable. For reference, I will call this one the top. The other 17 3/4″ board will be the bottom. The two 19 1/8″ boars will be the sides. Then, in both the top and the bottom I used the table saw to cut a 3/4″ wide dado about 3/8″ deep. This will receive the ends of the sides to form a box. Here is a photo of a side and the bottom.
I took one of the 19 1/8″ side boards and the top board and I cut and recessed the holes to attach PVC connector using a rotary saw (I showed a picture of it in this post). The PVC connector couldn’t span a 3/4″ board, so I had to recess one side. In the top board, I put the hole toward one end, in the side board I put it in the middle.
The hole in the side piece will be where the vacuum is attached. I need a screened here to keep the bees from bing sucked in to the vacuum (I want them to stay in my box). So that the screen won’t get clogged with bees stuck to it, I raised it away from the hole (more area for the air to get through the screen). To do this, I attached two scraps of wood on either side of the hole (~ 1 1/2″ square by 9″ long). I then stapled 1/8″ hardware cloth over this.
In the top board, I cut a square hole and stapled 1/8″ hardware cloth over the inside. On the outside I attached a small piece of panel board with one screw so that it can rotate. This will act as a vent to control the amount of suction the bee vac has. With it all the way open, there is no suction through the bee sucking tube. With it closed, you get the full force of the attached vacuum. You want to use as little suction as possible to suck up the bees so that they don’t get injured when the enter the bee vac box.
I then cut two pieces of panel board to be the sides of the bee vac. One (the non-removable one) is about 15 3/16″ by 18 7/8″. The other (the removable one) is 15 3/16″ by 19 3/4″. These fit into the saw kerf cut along each long edge of the boards. The side boards fit into the dado in the top and bottom boards and were attached with screws (hole were pre-drilled). I didn’t use and glue so that the box could be dismantled for storage. I also added a handle to the top. Here is what it looks like assembled.
The 1″ internal diameter hose attaches to the top, and this is what you use to suck up the bees. The hose the the vacuum goes into the hole in the side. We used duct tape to help hold the hoses in place. When the bee vac box is placed on its side (with the removable panel down), it fits nicely on a Langstroth hive body. You can then remove the panel to allow the bees into the hive without opening anything to let them start flying.
Overall, it worked quite well. There were some casualties among the bee that we sucked up, but not too many. I think that was partly because we were not careful enough with the strength of suction (we used it to strong some times). It may have also been due to leaving the bees in it too long. It was a long extraction process, and was also a pretty hot day. When I use it again, I think I can do better.