Something abuzz in a barn: Removing a beehive in Napavine with the Bee Wrangler


Though overcast and rainy skies put a damper on outdoor plans for some, the cooler weather made the morning of Saturday, June 1, the perfect day for Rob Jenkins of Bee Wrangler Honey to perform a beehive removal.

He does the removals free of charge to safely rehome the bees.

Jenkins allowed The Chronicle to join at the barn where the beehive was located near Napavine to see firsthand the step-by-step process on how to safely remove the hive and rehome it with a fellow local beekeeper, Debbie Cornell, who helped with the removal.

Residing and operating out of Ethel, Jenkins runs Bee Wrangler Honey and Bee Rescue, which sells honey and beeswax products while also offering free beehive and swarm removal in parts of Lewis County. A former welder, he got into beekeeping professionally after being taught how to do it by other local beekeepers who were forced to quit after one developed an allergy to bees.

Also joining Saturday’s hive removal was Sam Boyer, a former beekeeper looking to get back into it, along with her twin children, Ashlynn and Dane Boyer-Burns.

With protective suits and hoods, those on hand began by first removing the plywood covering the barn’s frame where the bees had built their hive in the space between the plywood and barn’s outside wall. The bees had access to the space through a small hole on the outside wall of the barn about an inch in diameter.

The plywood was nailed to the frame, so a hammer and pry bar were needed to remove it, meaning a lot of loud noise and physical vibrations were being applied to all sides of the beehive. 

“I’m a beekeeper, so if you see me start to run, you better run, too,” Jenkins said.

After about three or four minutes of hammering and popping nails out, Jenkins was finally able to pull the plywood off the frame, revealing the hive.

Despite all the racket being made with the hammer, thanks to the ambient temperature being around 60 degrees and bees being cold-blooded, they weren’t attempting to attack or even signaling they might be responding to a threat.

“Don’t the pheromones they release smell like bananas? … I can’t tell if they’re mad or OK,” Dane asked. 

“No, they’re pretty calm right now,” Jenkins said. 

Several small chunks of the hive remained stuck to the plywood, along with a cluster of about 50 or so bees swarming on one of the chunks. Jenkins set the plywood aside to remove the bees after the main hive.

“We can just leave them there, they’ll just stay there this whole time,” he added.

With the hive exposed, Jenkins noticed another reason for the bee’s incredibly non-hostile response to having their home broken into. The hive had a wax moth infestation.

Wax moths are considered a pest by beekeepers. They can do a lot of damage to a hive.

Though sometimes beehives can successfully defend themselves against wax moths, they can only do so if healthy and fully populated.

Hives where the queen has died, disease or pesticide poisoning has taken root among the bees, or the colony’s food has run out and it is facing starvation, are all susceptible to becoming infested with wax moths.

The moths target unattended portions of the hive, leaving eggs to hatch larvae. The larvae can destroy the honeycomb structure of the hive, along with filling portions of it with tough, silky web. This web can cover honeycomb where bee larvae are developing and prevent them from being able to hatch, effectively making the bee’s cradle be its grave.

Wax moth larvae will also occasionally eat the part of the comb covering the bee larvae’s development cell, causing deformities to occur during the bee’s development. They can also spread pathogens through a hive. If the infestation gets bad enough, it can kill the entire bee colony.

Before removing the hive, Jenkins made sure to scrape off any wax moth eggs near the hive, which stretched nearly the entire hive’s height on one side and appeared to be progressing along the top of the hive lengthwise as well in the space between the barn’s frame and the plywood.

Moth larvae removed, he began preparing to remove the hive and place it in a beekeeper’s hive box to rehome the colony.

“I’ll start at the top measuring with the (beekeeper’s hive) frame,” Jenkins said. “I’ll measure it for the size of the frame, and I’ll start cutting at the bottom. But you start measuring at the top because this is the prime stuff you want to keep.”

The prime parts of the hive are where the bees have their larvae cells, “bee bread” cells that have a mixture of pollen and bee saliva the bees use as a source of protein, and of course, the honey cells. 

He began using a knife to gently cut out sections of the hive and hand them off to Cornell and Boyer, who were arranging and securing the hive sections in the beekeeper hive box’s frames with string. Once a frame was full, it was placed in the box.

The priority was saving the top part of the hive, which contained the newest and healthiest wax.

Toward the last few remaining chunks of the hive, the bees began “bearding up,” forming a small swarm covering the part of the hive that was connected to the barn’s frame.

“They’re clustering up, trying to get everyone together and get a plan of action,” Cornell said.

To remove them, Jenkins and Cornell simply used a hand brush and dustpan along with a sugar water spray to remove the bees. Once the bees were in the dustpan, they were dumped into the hive box.

“The sugar water does two things: makes it so they can’t really fly and also gives them something to do as it’s food,” Jenkins said.

Once all the salvageable sections of the beehive had been removed and placed in the box, Jenkins brought out his custom bee vacuum to collect any remaining bees still in the hive’s old area.

He uses a cordless Ryobi pool vacuum and pool vacuum hose connected to a pair of 5-gallon buckets and screens that Jenkins fashioned into a bee-safe container.

With the vacuum being low-powered and the pool hose being smooth-bored, it’s much gentler on the bees. Jenkins also waits until the hive is completely removed, which some other beekeepers don’t do, he said.

“If you can get them to admit it, they’re using four-to-five horse-powered Shop-Vacs and they’re killing 50 to 75% of the bees. Why would you even want to do that? And the first thing they would’ve done too, first thing when they pull the plywood off, was start vacuuming bees,” Jenkins said.

Using the custom vacuum setup, Jenkins said he has about a 90% bee survival rate. Though the process may take longer with the low-powered vacuum, it’s worth it in Jenkin’s opinion.

With the hive successfully transplanted into the hive box and any remaining bees vacuumed up, Jenkins and his crew packed up and began preparing to leave, with the bees heading to a new, wax moth-free home with Cornell.

While the bees had remained docile throughout the entire process and not attempted to attack or swarm any of the people moving their hive, Jenkins said every hive and swarm removal is unique.

“Every one of them is a different challenge,” Jenkins said. “The disposition of the bees is different, the way they built the comb in the structure, the construction of the building that you’re working in. It’s all different.”

Swarms of bees occur when a queen bee leaves a hive in search of a new hive location. The queen will lay eggs that will hatch a new queen while sending out drone bees to look for a new location.

The queen will set out in an attempt to fly to a location a drone may have found, but due to her larger size, can only fly so far before tiring out and needing to rest.

“Sometimes she can only go about 100 yards or so, and wherever she lands, that’s where they’ll swarm,” Jenkins said.

Swarming bees are usually quite docile as well.

“They’re just looking for a new home,” he added.

When he’s not rescuing beehives and wayward bee swarms, Jenkins tends the hives at his home and produces honey for Bee Wrangler Honey, which he sells at local farmers markets, festivals and other events throughout Lewis County.

To find out where he’ll be next to purchase honey from Jenkins or to set up a time to purchase honey, follow Bee Wrangler Honey and Bee Rescue on Facebook at

If you have a beehive or swarm on your property in the county and would like it removed, contact Jenkins to schedule by calling 360-219-3092 or emailing