Bees: Security Guard or Grocery Store?- Part 2, by J.P.

Uses for Bees: Security

On the topic of prepping functionality, let’s discuss a topic outside of the traditional bee box; le’s talk about a human home’s security. Yes, it is usually a good idea to protect your hive to keep it safe, but what about the bee’s owners? Are they protected? I have noticed very quickly, since raising bees, the level of fear they invoke in humans. (I’d also like to make a suggestion that human-bee relations can be best improved with a 40-60-inch tall solid fence approximately four feet in front and also to the side of hive entrances; this forces the bees to fly upward rather than outward.) Since bees are like any other animal that will be grouchy if provoked, they can be counted on to do just that in certain scenarios.

A beehive can become a very valuable force multiplier in an engagement or hostile situation on a property. The most air traffic will occur 20-45 feet in front of the entrance and 45-60 degrees to each side of it. This pattern varies between hives but is a general guide regardless of orientation.

This can be used to one’s advantage when trying to keep people away from areas of your property and to make you products at the same time. A beehive can be rigged or physically pushed to fall over and “spill” its occupants, causing agitated bees to spill out and attack anything within range (25-100 feet). This can be done with a metal lever that can be hit, at close or far ranges. Sometimes just a really big thud (like a rock or bat) on the box gets them jazzed up enough to send out protection squads.

A new method I have been testing with great success is a hive body with a “blow-out” panel that is built into the entrance side of the box. (You’ll see the end of the frames). I cut a rectangular hole in the hive box, leaving two inches minimum on each side of the hole to keep rigidity. I then made a wood piece that fit just inside that hole and secured it by screwing it to a board, which then was attached across the hive side. Think of a drawer, but the drawer only goes as deep as your hive box is thick. Then I attached a piece of thick metal that sticks out past the side of the hive to the insert piece. Keep the panel attached to the hive box for a week or so at first to let them glue it in place, and then the supports can be removed. Just be sure to really secure your lever to the panel, as the bees will glue that sucker in and it does take effort to dislodge it. A run by smack with a bat or similar impact as mentioned above dislodges the panel, opening up a hole in the hive. A hole that size, instantly opened loudly, makes for angry bees and does not require the whole hive to be tipped over. Not as many bees come out, but then you don’t have to tip the whole hive over. I also use it as an inspection window occasionally during the summer.

The boxes or panel can be gathered up and put back together once hit without total losses, as long as an animal or weather doesn’t kill them. I can assure you that any bees bothered at night are not happy bees. Do not bother them at night, especially if you have a light on, like a headlamp. They will fly right to the light if provoked at night; in the case of a headlamp, their target would be your head! This could work great for intruders though. If you work a hive in the day and they are all of a sudden really grouchy, you can bet something has been messing with them at night. (By the way, dark colored things get attacked quickest, as their predators are usually dark colored.)

If there are bears in your area, I highly recommend putting up two strands of heavy duty solar supplied electric fence around your hives or property. At least one wire at 5” for small critters and one at 36” for big critters. It’s not prohibitively expensive. Stake chicken wire around the fence on the ground in order to ground it. If you don’t have bears but have a skunk problem, take a couple of soda cans and cut a skinny, non-tapered Christmas tree shape in the rolled out metal. Then, take the “branches” of the tree shape and fold them all up in the same direction. You now have a spike strip which you can screw down on the front of your hive so animals won’t lean their paws on it. The bees go right around them.

This security use of hives would be best in temperate to moderate climate regions, but they will work in very cold areas also. The only issue is that bees cannot fly or live very long in temperatures below 40. However, during the winter, nasty vegetation, like thorny black berries (which the bees love in summer) can assist with your protection scheme. Pruning blackberries in spring yields lots of “deterrent fence” as I call it. Cut it, and toss it in a place you want nobody to cross. Before you know it, you will have a small hedge that people will avoid and that small animals/birds will live in. This works wonders for perimeters of properties, and it can be just as nasty as barbwire. It is always best to approach protection philosophies in redundancy. Isn’t everything better with “two is one”? In this situation, you get three– protection, bee food, and human food!

What if a threat is out of range from hives? I was discussing the hive security principle with a friend of mine when he made the joke “Why don’t you just make mini hives to launch at bad guys?” Not long after that comment, I inadvertently tested that principle. I had a small nucleus box knocked into the air by my own clumsiness, and the bees poured out the second they hit dirt. It was a cloud of bees, so I quietly apologized and stepped away for 20 minutes with full bee gear on to let them chill out. I pity the poor soul without gear on who gets a bee bomb broken at his feet! Africanized southern bees really shine for this, due to their persistence in attacking.

Get creative if making a “fling box”. Any strip of wood with an edge down its length will allow bees to make comb; they just have to be around 1” wide and spaced 1.25” center to center to make proper comb. An item 6-8 inch cubed works perfect for a fling box. (I just had to try it with comb and no bees.) The box will be a one-time use, so take that into account when building. The best way to make these is to make the bottoms removable and set them next to each other on top of an active brood area (preferably from your launch position). Lift the box off the hive, lock on the bottom, fling, and pity the target. They can get heavy, so trial with some bungees so you know which works for you. I had success with four strands of heavy surgical tubing each side with a leather pouch.

Just be sure that when you launch the box, you do so slowly and gradually; think a sling and not a cannon. Otherwise, the bees are on you. I’m glad I tried this with no bees, as the first box helicoptered out of my DIY dog ball launcher and broke 10 feet in front of me! If a person could raise or harvest hornets/yellow jackets, this would be a dynamite application for SHTF. I haven’t been brave enough to try that, yet. Stinging insects = natures biological weapons

Finding Bees: Before and After SHTF

During normal societal operation, bees can be purchased in “nucleus” colonies or “packages” of bees. Either one ranges from $75-$150, and both will get you started easily. I happen to prefer nuc colonies, since they have everything they need already and are less likely to leave to find a new home if they don’t like your hive.

Bees can be purchased or traded from a beekeeper, but you can also find wild sources in addition. The easiest way to find wild hives is to “bee-line” field bees back to their home. To do this, you simply need some honey, a container of some sort, and some powdered sugar. I put out a chair and sit in a bright colored shirt (they will use you as a landmark), with the honey out in front of me on a flat surface. The forager bees can smell honey from a long way off and come quickly. I have attracted them best in the fall, but I have had this work all year.

Once a bee is eating the honey, carefully place the container, preferably a clear container, over the honey. (I like a container with a big hole in the bottom covered by a window screen.) Let the bee(s) in it eat their fill, and then try to cover them with powdered sugar. This does not hurt them, and is actually how I treat them for mites in my hives come fall (as it encourages grooming). It stands out just enough to identify them upon return. After they are full, they will want to fly off in a bee-line back to their hive, where they will likely tell others and come back. Take the container off and let them leave.

Once a bee leaves, start a timer and stay put, noting the exact direction it went. (It helps to draw on paper with a compass.) Wait for powdered bees to return. Once you see your first bee come back, note the time on your timer, and repeat as necessary. After a few minutes, you will see more and more bees returning to you. When the marked bees leave and return in three minutes or less, its hive is within a quarter mile. When your marked bees leave and return in 5-10 minutes, their hive is likely a half mile or more away. At 10-20 minutes leave-return, their hive is likely more than a mile away. You can do this multiple times on farther travel lines, moving a quarter mile at a time on the line the bees take. This will get you close to the hive, so use your eyes and ears and you will see them zipping through the fields and trees when close to the hive. The timing thing was documented a long time ago by others, but I can confirm that it is fairly accurate from the hives I have tracked. Just remember, the hive you find could be a beekeeper’s, so be polite.

It is very important to remember that, although this can be done in times of normalcy or of turmoil, it is important not to destroy any wild hives. Honeybees have enough trouble living in this contaminated world we have created. I do have a recommendation though for everyone– take pieces or use traps.