Killeen: Bee Removal Is 'All The Buzz' In Central Texas

By: Kristin Gordon Email
By: Kristin Gordon Email

KILLEEN (June 30, 2013) -- Michael Zambrano says his business, Z's Bees Removal, has been getting an up-tick in calls from worried residents and pest control businesses.

This happened after a man in Moody was killed June 1, from African killer bees.

"My grandpa started getting bees and he seemed to really like it cause they were pollinating his garden," said Zambrano.

"I wanted a garden and figured if I got some bees that me and my grandfather could get closer together. Well, I got bees and then he quit the bees."

Zambrano then started calling pest control agencies and because he was interested in expanding his bees. Now he gets calls on a daily basis.

Zambrano and his friend, Bradley Ware, zip up their bee keeper suits and prepare for an afternoon of bee catching.

The first home had a swarm of bees that had taken up temporary residence in a tree. According to Zambrano, the queen bee will be protected by the drones while the worker bees scout the area in search of a new home to make a hive.

Once a location is found, all the bees will leave. Zambrano and Ware attempted to brush the bees into a box, laced with honey, but they put up a fight.

A smoker tool was used throughout the process to keep the bees a little confused and disoriented. They then tried their 'bee vac' which sucked up several from the tree.

Carpet scraps are placed against the walls of the vacuum canister to pad the impact of the bees when they are sucked through the hose.

The second location was a hive that had set up house in between the walls of a vacant home. Power needed to be shut off since the honeycomb was built behind a water meter and some wires.

A power saw was used to cut out a piece of the outside wall. The process of pulling out all of the honeycomb was next.

Nectar and honey dripped from Ware's thick gloves as he handed over large pieces of honeycomb to Zambrano.

The honeycomb was then sliced to fit the inserts of a makeshift bee hive used to house bees for farming.

In both locations, Ware commented that he "hoped they were able to get the queen." If the queen dies or is separated from the hive, the honey bees will either die off or make a new queen.

The only way to tell the difference between honey bees and Africanized bees is to have Texas A&M entomology department test them under a microscope, according to Zambrano.

"They look the same, they just have different characteristics in their mood," said Zambrano. "Africanized bees are very angry and will come swarm on you or come around you within about 30 yards.

Honey bees will start swarming around you or attacking you, if they are aggressive, within a few feet or ten feet at the most."

Zambrano says that bees get irritated by loud, combustible engines like lawn mowers and weed eaters.

They also don't like heavy winds or extreme heat. "There is really no way of knowing when bees will attack," said Zambrano.

But if they do and the stinger gets in the skin, Zambrano says to use a credit card and scrape from the bottom up.

"If you pinch the stinger, it will release the full amount of venom in your skin," said Zambrano. "if you aren't deathly allergic, then you might have a local reaction."

Honey bees pollinate 80 percent of our food, according to Zambrano. Beeswax is used for lotions, candles, needle and thread, shoelaces and more.

A glue substance made by bees called propolis is used by dentists to to put crowns in the mouth. "Without pollen, then everyone would suffer a lot more allergies," said Zambrano.

The bee removal process doesn't come cheap. All the tools, fuel and hives for the bees can add up.

"We try to save the bees," said Zambrano. "There is also the time and effort, the suit and having to drive around all day. If we chased bees all day for free, then we wouldn't be able to feed our families."

Farming bees can earn a profit, but It can take up to two years to actually harvest any honey from the bees that are collected and saved, according to Zambrano.

If bees attack you, try one of two things, according to Zambrano. Jump in a vehicle and drive at least two miles at 40 miles per hour with the windows rolled down.

The bees will fly out the windows. Another option is to run away, try not to swat at the bees and dive into some bushes.

"If you stand in the bushes, the bees will lose track of where you were and who they were after because of the leaves," said Zambrano.

They honey made by Zambrano's bees can be found weekly at the Killeen Farmer's Market.

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