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Bee Vac - will this work?

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Angry_Mob 

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After some browsing last night decided I "needed" a bee vac so on the way home I picked up a vacuum from Argos.

I've knocked up with the following this evening, it's not finished yet so its a little rough. The first version was set aside as upon testing the Maisie nuc box as it became apparent that its longer than a standard national.

I haven't used a bee vac before but will this work? My design is sort of based on what I've seen but I've tried to simplify it into one piece of kit capable of taking a nuc or national brood.

IMG_20200624_213212.jpg

Plan is to get some smooth hose and attach to the bees inlet at the front. When the bees are sucked in they roll up the sloped mesh floor. In hindsight I should have put the inlet lower but I may raise the mesh floor to meet it.

Will use some soft tape around the outside perimeter and down the nuc divider wall to give the boxes a seal.

Will also seal all the gaps/joints with something like silicone.

Slider to go on the side or rear to adjust the airflow.

IMG_20200624_213156.jpg

Any thoughts or am I missing something glaringly obvious?
 

jenkinsbrynmair 

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The first ever bee 'vac' I saw was in a talk at the WBKA convention many years before the commercial one came on the market - that one is all well and good if you have a convenient powe point or long extension . I can't remember the man's name but it was all about DIY kit, he was a bit of an engineer so he basically has a box which fitted on the bottom of a nuc with an OMF , inside the box was the windscreen demister system from (IIRC) a scrapped ford Cortina, fitted with a rheostat (so you could control the power of the fan) and this was then attached to a standard car battery so could work anywhere, he had actually vacced (is that a word?) a swarm which was twenty feet up in a tree by connecting some PVC waste pipe to the end of his flexible hose and revving the motor right up.
 

Swarm 

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My friend was telling me this evening about collecting a swarm with something similar. He described a box and two cylinders, inlet and outlet. A mesh cover on the outlet saves the bees.
The swarm was six foot up in a conifer, loads of little branches and his device worked a treat. Admitted, it needs a power supply but this was in a garden and sounds like it would be one of those horrible ones, so he was really grateful. He said the suction is reduced and the bees are removed fairly gently.
Now in a hive they are going for broke.
 

Angry_Mob 

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... a box which fitted on the bottom of a nuc with an OMF , inside the box was the windscreen demister system from (IIRC) a scrapped ford Cortina, fitted with a rheostat (so you could control the power of the fan) and this was then attached to a standard car battery so could work anywhere.
I seen a similar version in which this guy uses a motorbike fan powered by a 12v battery so it's portable.
https://youtu.be/-gl89ZzkYgc
Sort of has me thinking could I add a fan in the other compartment and have a dual purpose design.
 

ericbeaumont 

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There are videos here of this one in use, AM, but yours looks like it'll do the job.

I have one of as above; it's paid for itself on a few ceiling jobs and Steve makes a beautiful job of construction. A brood-box size version would be useful; a generator would be fine for field work.
 

dn170221 

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Would the mesh on the floor be an issue? EWither with the bees hitting it or loss od vacuum?
 

Angry_Mob 

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Ive a piece of ply underneath, and siliconed around it to make a sealed box. I think the key is to adjust the suction so it's very gentle that when the bees arrive in the box they roll up the slope, gather themselves up and go up into the frames.

The slope is gentler than hitting a vertical wall as well.

I may have a colony in a chimney to test next week, just waiting on word on what they want to do. Just need to finish it off but it was a relatively cheap and easy project.
 
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youngyoungs 

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There are videos here of this one in use, AM, but yours looks like it'll do the job.

I have one of as above; it's paid for itself on a few ceiling jobs and Steve makes a beautiful job of construction. A brood-box size version would be useful; a generator would be fine for field work.
I treated myself to one of these this year, its great and I think yours will work fine.

Issues in use are all about the vacuum. I have a Karcher Henry style and with 2 x 45m extension leads I can reach lots of swarms. It keeps going whereas a Dyson I borrowed cut out after 15 mins. I've just bought a refurbished cordless but am unsure whether the vacuum will be sufficient. If you are carting round the box, a vacuum and a generator suddenly you need a bigger car!!
On the other hand, wet despondent swarms get very fluffy and dry afterwards!!
 

BeeGees 

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i use a Triton dust collector hooked up to a battery vac, adjust the suction down low and its a doddle.
 

Angry_Mob 

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Got a try today unfortunately, have to be very slow otherwise it clogs quite quickly.

Forgot to take a better photo of the vac as I added legs to keep it off the ground and to coil the hose around and painted it.

IMG_20200718_215805.jpg

IMG_20200718_145037.jpg

Not all of the bees, this was after a while collecting.
IMG_20200718_145030.jpg
 

Michael ECB's 

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Looks great - great Job,,, If I may offer some advise, I would add a valve of sorts on the box to adjust vacuum strength down really low as this is what will harm the bees(I added a 3/4 " ball valve... Make all efforts not to suck up any honey when doing removals, besides a HUGE mess, bees get covered in it and drown.. Lastly, be careful about the temperature inside the box when turning the vacuum off... These worked up bees build up some serious heat fast.... Great design to keep all the debris away from there new box/home... Will work great...
 

Angry_Mob 

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I have a flap on the front that I can spin around and adjust the suction. Can just about see it on the second picture.

I think a wider hose than a standard house vacuum hose would be good.
 

Michael ECB's 

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I have a flap on the front that I can spin around and adjust the suction. Can just about see it on the second picture.

I think a wider hose than a standard house vacuum hose would be good.
I use a 40mm Kreepy Krauly pipe (swimming pool cleaner)can add or remove pieces as needed... Works for me,,, was worried about the ridges but bees seem to be fine,,,, a bit angry - but fine...
 

understanding_bees 

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There have been some interesting points mentioned in this forum discussion, and I would like to add a few comments based on my own experience.

I was impressed by a bee-vacuum used by Jeff Horchoff who lives in Louisiana, USA. He posts Youtube videos regularly, and catching bees with a bee-vacuum seems to be a specialty with him. Perhaps it is because of the climate in his part of the world, but he regularly is called upon to remove colonies of bees from houses.

I built my bee-vacuum to enable me to help a friend remove a colony of bees from the wall of a timber framed building. I was very mindful of the various warnings I had seen about using only gentle vacuum, to protect the bees while they were being sucked through the vacuum hose.

Perhaps the greatest risk of injury to the bees is being buffeted about as they are being whisked through the hose. This risk can be minimised by having the velocity of air through the hose as slow as possible. But it is also important to have the suction strong enough to pick up the bees as easily as possible from the location they are to be removed from. This can be achieved by having a nozzle at the end of the suction hose, which causes an increase in velocity of the air at this very localized point. The effect is that the bees can be sucked in more easily at the nozzle, but the bees will then be in a slower stream of air as they move towards the swarm capture box.

In regard to the type of hose being used – either smooth walled, or ribbed – there might be various debates about the merits (or perhaps the disadvantages) of each type. When I first did some testing of the bee-vacuum which I built, I used ribbed hose (of the type used for swimming pool cleaning systems) which has in internal diameter of about 38mm. I made a nozzle from the cylinder of an empty silicone sealant cartridge tube, which has an internal diameter of 46mm, and which fitted snugly over the end of the ribbed hose which had an outside diameter of 46mm. I used my hot-air-blower to heat and soften one end of this cartridge tube, and squeezed it between two pieces of wood so that a nozzle was formed which measures about 60mm by 12mm. I used a 4 metre long piece of hose, and used the bee-vacuum to collect some bees as they were leaving my beehive. At the end of my test, to collect a few dozen bees, there was no indication that any of them had been injured after their 4 metre long journey through the ribbed tube.

In any debate concerning smooth or ribbed hose, I would opt for the ribbed hose. It is very flexible, very much less expensive than smooth hose, and lighter in weight than a comparable smooth walled hose, and the bees seem to have been unaffected by its use.

Of course, the actual “strength” of the vacuum produced by the vacuum cleaner motor (or whatever kind of suction device is being used) is critically important if we are to protect the bees from injury. I “inherited” a vacuum cleaner which has a speed control knob, and was able to reduce the motor speed until there was just enough suction to draw the bees into the nozzle. My impression is that such a speed-control is very desirable, because it not only reduces the suction produced by the motor, but it also means that the machine is MUCH quieter in operation.

It is very important that the whole device – boxes, hoses, motor, etc, all connect together in a way that does not have air leakages which would cause the bee-vacuum to be less effective. I used acrylic gap filler to seal the joints in the base board, and closed-cell polyurethane sealing strip material where boxes are clamped together.

I wonder if anyone who is following this discussion has experience concerning the “heat build-up” of bees which are collected in this way. How much ventilation do they need? Do they really need more ventilation than they would normally have in a hive box?

One of the comments in this discussion (#4) made reference to a Youtube video:
In that particular case, the suction fan unit was located at the BOTTOM of the capture box. I wonder what opinions other readers may have about this idea, rather than having it at the TOP? My reason for saying this is that it is inevitable that debris will sometimes be drawn into the capture box, and this may cause obstruction or damage to the suction unit.

The writer of comment #11 said, “Great design to keep all the debris away from their new box/home”. I do not agree with this comment. Any debris which is sucked into a capture box will remain on the floor, and will not be sucked upwards through the bees if the suction unit is at the top of the capture box, because the air movement inside the capture box is MUCH less than it is inside the suction hose.

There is one final point that captures my imagination. I have been very pleased with my “variable speed” vacuum cleaner motor, but now find myself wondering about fans which can be powered by a car battery. I am thinking about the kind of electric fan which is used in many cars these days to increase air movement through a car radiator when the car is travelling slowly, or stopped at traffic lights. This kind of fan can produce quite a strong flow of air, and I am thinking of doing a bit of experimentation of my own with one of these fans. It seems to me that a truly portable system could be made in which the 12 volt battery, bee-vacuum and capture box could be mounted on a hand trolley which could be taken almost anywhere.

(This postcript is being added, in the light of my subsequent experience when I experimented with a 12v electric fan. Please see my comment dated Aug 19, in this discussion thread.)
 
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Michael ECB's 

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Let me start by saying in My Opinion based on my own experience using bee vacs in hotter climates....

1.) Heat build up.
As soon as you turn the vacuum off you need to seal your vacuum entrance on bee vac... (so bees cant escape) This effectively shuts off ALL ventilation.
I suppose you could add ventilation holes on the side with some sort shut off or closing "gate"... BUT the first design as does mine allows a bee box/hive to be placed on top to allow bees to escape or move up into their new home. Once done, simply remove upper section of bee vac and allow ventilation.
In my experience, once you have captured a "Swarm" of bees - not a couple of dozen, im talking about a few thousand bees, a colony,,, heat builds up in here FAST... If you ever have the privilege of catching and containing a large swarm, you will know exactly what I mean - the heat can be felt as soon as you open the lid...

2.) Keeping debris from new box.
The design shown I believe allows the bees to climb up from the bee vac and enter the new clean and set up brood box or hive placed on top... All the vacuumed waste stays behind in the lower section of the bee vac. This can be tipped out later, this also helps control parasites like small hive beetles vacuumed up,,, they tend to stay down below - well in my design they do anyway... Please note, the catch box is not the box or hive that will become there new home, its only used as a holding chamber.

3.) Variable speed vacuums
I suppose if I had one I would have used it. However, once the perfect speed has been identified, thats the only speed you would need.
I have fitted a 3/4 inch ball valve on top to regulate vacuum strength, I find with it full open and my cheap little wet and dry hoover, I have found that "sweet spot" that works great for me.. Perhaps if you are keeping them for extended periods a slow speed just to keep air moving would be great..

12v Radiator fan - my opinion would be to rather try and get your hands on a vehicle ventilation fan, the fan that blows the air out your car vents... perhaps a unit from one of the larger Caravelle/camper units - also 12V Dc... I believe it would be powerful enough, small enough and use less current allowing longer use..

I hope the above has been of assistance.
bee vac complete.jpgbee vac escape.jpgbee vac base.jpg
 

xray7 

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I built a bee vac using only a 30 lb honey bucket a cordless car vac and a length of hose and it worked a treat. A swarm could be sucked up in only a few minutes , it would take every single bee before they knew what was happening and it was completely portable. Once captured they could be tipped into an empty hive with no issues.
 

Newbeeneil 

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There have been some interesting points mentioned in this forum discussion, and I would like to add a few comments based on my own experience.

I was impressed by a bee-vacuum used by Jeff Horchoff who lives in Louisiana, USA. He posts Youtube videos regularly, and catching bees with a bee-vacuum seems to be a specialty with him. Perhaps it is because of the climate in his part of the world, but he regularly is called upon to remove colonies of bees from houses.

I built my bee-vacuum to enable me to help a friend remove a colony of bees from the wall of a timber framed building. I was very mindful of the various warnings I had seen about using only gentle vacuum, to protect the bees while they were being sucked through the vacuum hose.

Perhaps the greatest risk of injury to the bees is being buffeted about as they are being whisked through the hose. This risk can be minimised by having the velocity of air through the hose as slow as possible. But it is also important to have the suction strong enough to pick up the bees as easily as possible from the location they are to be removed from. This can be achieved by having a nozzle at the end of the suction hose, which causes an increase in velocity of the air at this very localized point. The effect is that the bees can be sucked in more easily at the nozzle, but the bees will then be in a slower stream of air as they move towards the swarm capture box.

In regard to the type of hose being used – either smooth walled, or ribbed – there might be various debates about the merits (or perhaps the disadvantages) of each type. When I first did some testing of the bee-vacuum which I built, I used ribbed hose (of the type used for swimming pool cleaning systems) which has in internal diameter of about 38mm. I made a nozzle from the cylinder of an empty silicone sealant cartridge tube, which has an internal diameter of 46mm, and which fitted snugly over the end of the ribbed hose which had an outside diameter of 46mm. I used my hot-air-blower to heat and soften one end of this cartridge tube, and squeezed it between two pieces of wood so that a nozzle was formed which measures about 60mm by 12mm. I used a 4 metre long piece of hose, and used the bee-vacuum to collect some bees as they were leaving my beehive. At the end of my test, to collect a few dozen bees, there was no indication that any of them had been injured after their 4 metre long journey through the ribbed tube.

In any debate concerning smooth or ribbed hose, I would opt for the ribbed hose. It is very flexible, very much less expensive than smooth hose, and lighter in weight than a comparable smooth walled hose, and the bees seem to have been unaffected by its use.

Of course, the actual “strength” of the vacuum produced by the vacuum cleaner motor (or whatever kind of suction device is being used) is critically important if we are to protect the bees from injury. I “inherited” a vacuum cleaner which has a speed control knob, and was able to reduce the motor speed until there was just enough suction to draw the bees into the nozzle. My impression is that such a speed-control is very desirable, because it not only reduces the suction produced by the motor, but it also means that the machine is MUCH quieter in operation.

It is very important that the whole device – boxes, hoses, motor, etc, all connect together in a way that does not have air leakages which would cause the bee-vacuum to be less effective. I used acrylic gap filler to seal the joints in the base board, and closed-cell polyurethane sealing strip material where boxes are clamped together.

I wonder if anyone who is following this discussion has experience concerning the “heat build-up” of bees which are collected in this way. How much ventilation do they need? Do they really need more ventilation than they would normally have in a hive box?

One of the comments in this discussion (#4) made reference to a Youtube video:
In that particular case, the suction fan unit was located at the BOTTOM of the capture box. I wonder what opinions other readers may have about this idea, rather than having it at the TOP? My reason for saying this is that it is inevitable that debris will sometimes be drawn into the capture box, and this may cause obstruction or damage to the suction unit.

The writer of comment #11 said, “Great design to keep all the debris away from their new box/home”. I do not agree with this comment. Any debris which is sucked into a capture box will remain on the floor, and will not be sucked upwards through the bees if the suction unit is at the top of the capture box, because the air movement inside the capture box is MUCH less than it is inside the suction hose.

There is one final point that captures my imagination. I have been very pleased with my “variable speed” vacuum cleaner motor, but now find myself wondering about fans which can be powered by a car battery. I am thinking about the kind of electric fan which is used in many cars these days to increase air movement through a car radiator when the car is travelling slowly, or stopped at traffic lights. This kind of fan can produce quite a strong flow of air, and I am thinking of doing a bit of experimentation of my own with one of these fans. It seems to me that a truly portable system could be made in which the 12 volt battery, bee-vacuum and capture box could be mounted on a hand trolley which could be taken almost anywhere.
I copied Jeff Hoschoff's design using a Henry vacuum. It works very well.
 

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understanding_bees 

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Let me start by saying in My Opinion based on my own experience using bee vacs in hotter climates....

1.) Heat build up.
As soon as you turn the vacuum off you need to seal your vacuum entrance on bee vac... (so bees cant escape) This effectively shuts off ALL ventilation.
I suppose you could add ventilation holes on the side with some sort shut off or closing "gate"... BUT the first design as does mine allows a bee box/hive to be placed on top to allow bees to escape or move up into their new home. Once done, simply remove upper section of bee vac and allow ventilation.
In my experience, once you have captured a "Swarm" of bees - not a couple of dozen, im talking about a few thousand bees, a colony,,, heat builds up in here FAST... If you ever have the privilege of catching and containing a large swarm, you will know exactly what I mean - the heat can be felt as soon as you open the lid...

2.) Keeping debris from new box.
The design shown I believe allows the bees to climb up from the bee vac and enter the new clean and set up brood box or hive placed on top... All the vacuumed waste stays behind in the lower section of the bee vac. This can be tipped out later, this also helps control parasites like small hive beetles vacuumed up,,, they tend to stay down below - well in my design they do anyway... Please note, the catch box is not the box or hive that will become there new home, its only used as a holding chamber.

3.) Variable speed vacuums
I suppose if I had one I would have used it. However, once the perfect speed has been identified, thats the only speed you would need.
I have fitted a 3/4 inch ball valve on top to regulate vacuum strength, I find with it full open and my cheap little wet and dry hoover, I have found that "sweet spot" that works great for me.. Perhaps if you are keeping them for extended periods a slow speed just to keep air moving would be great..

12v Radiator fan - my opinion would be to rather try and get your hands on a vehicle ventilation fan, the fan that blows the air out your car vents... perhaps a unit from one of the larger Caravelle/camper units - also 12V Dc... I believe it would be powerful enough, small enough and use less current allowing longer use..

I hope the above has been of assistance.
View attachment 21577View attachment 21578View attachment 21579
Michael, in his letter #15, commented about Heat build up, “As soon as you turn the vacuum off you need to seal your vacuum entrance on bee vac... (so bees cant escape) This effectively shuts off ALL ventilation.”

I agree completely that if the vacuum entrance is completely blocked off, then problems would soon be experienced because the bees need ventilation.

When I built my bee-vac, I made two openings alongside of each other – one for the hose, and the other for ventilation. I fastened mesh on the inside of the bee-vac base, over the ventilation hole, and on the outside of the base I constructed a sliding “gate”. When this gate is moved to the left it exposes the hole for the hose to be plugged in, and it seals over the ventilation hole. When the vacuum process is completed, and the hose is disconnected, the gate is moved to the right to close off the hole for the hose, and in that same movement of the gate the ventilation hole is opened.

I think that with this method there should not be a problem for the bees to have adequate ventilation. Perhaps the only question I have in my mind about this is, “How big should that ventilation hole be?” I wonder what thoughts other beekeepers might have about HOW MUCH ventilation is needed?
 

gmonag 

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I built a vac after the design by Trevor Gillbanks in NZ. It uses a Triton Dust Collector, modified to suit.

I removed the dust filter from inside the lid and replaced with #8 mesh and also fitted a piece over one of the inlet gates, which acts as the vacuum control. It can be connected to any vacuum cleaner. I have a 12v car vac (shown) and also a cheap 240v unit.

The hoses come with the Dust Collector and are semi-ribbed inside. They work well. The cardboard gives the bees something to cluster on.

After all the bees are inside I give the bucket a firm knock to get the bees to the bottom and then replace the lid with the screen. I made that by sandwiching a circle of mesh between two rings of plywood which fit snugly in the bucket. A bungee keeps it on firmly. Water can be sprayed through the screen to help keep the bees cool.

Bee Vac (1).jpgBee Vac (2).jpgBee Vac (3).jpgBee Vac (4).jpgBee Vac (5).jpgBee Vac (6).jpg
 

understanding_bees 

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This subject, of bee vacs, is apparently of interest to a number of people, judging by the number of letters in this discussion thread, and the variety of opinions expressed by various writers.

I myself wrote a detailed letter a few days ago, telling of the success which I have had with a bee vacuum which I built, and which is powered by the motor from a wet-or-dry vacuum cleaner, and which has an electronic speed control incorporated in its design. I have actually only used it once, so far, to catch bees from a hive in the wall of a timber framed building. The electronic speed control made it easy to achieve the necessary suction to force (encourage?) the bees to let go of the comb in the hive. I can speak with authority on the amount of suction force which was necessary to achieve success in capturing those bees.

When it comes to catching swarms, I can imagine that a bee vacuum could make the job much easier, especially if the swarm was high in a tree. Rather than having to use a ladder, I can imagine that a bee vac with a long piece of PVC pipe as an extension to the flexible hose could / would make the job quick and easy. I can imagine too that the bees in the cluster of a swarm may let go more readily than bees which are walking on comb in a hive. By this I mean to say that less suction force may be required to collect bees from a swarm than from a cutout. However I do not know this for sure, because I have not collected a swarm with a bee vac.

I noted with interest a comment made by Angry_Mob, in letter #10, “Got a try today unfortunately, have to be very slow otherwise it clogs quite quickly.” The fact that he had to be very slow, to prevent clogging, is an indication that his bee vac did not have enough suction force.

I wrote in my previous post, “I am thinking about the kind of electric fan which is used in many cars these days to increase air movement through a car radiator when the car is travelling slowly, or stopped at traffic lights. This kind of fan can produce quite a strong flow of air, and I am thinking of doing a bit of experimentation of my own with one of these fans.”

I have had one of these fans sitting on a shelf in my workshop for quite a long time, and have just finished today building it into a box so that I could try it out as the power unit for my bee vac. This fan is a model DC6 Thermatic fan, made by Davies Craig, for fitting as an after-market cooling fan for a motor vehicle. It uses 12-volt power, and draws a current of 8 amps, and in an unrestricted setting (such as adjacent to a car radiator) it produces quite a blast of air. The air flow from this fan is considerably more than from any car ventilation fan.

But there is a very big “BUT” that I need to mention. BUT that fan was built to provide high air flow, and not high vacuum. The same comment would apply to every fan ever made to provide air movement inside a car. Ventilation fans were not designed to produce vacuum, and are ineffective if you attempt to use them for this purpose.

I said that I have just finished my experiment today, building my DC6 fan into a box. It is with regret that I inform that this experiment was NOT a success. Yes, it does produce some suction, but VERY LITTLE, compared to the suction needed for a bee vac to be considered successful.

The way to go seems obvious to me, and that is to use a fan which was designed to create a vacuum – in other words a vacuum cleaner. I think that the idea of having a completely portable bee vac, powered by a car battery, has a lot of potential. I think the trick will be to find a suitable 12-volt vacuum cleaner. I say this because I know that many hand held portable vacuum cleaners these days are powered by lithium batteries, and operate at higher voltage than a car battery.

Oh Yes, there is still a question I have. When we consider that bees which have been caught in a bee vac can overheat if they are not given sufficient ventilation, my question is, “HOW MUCH ventilation is needed?”
 

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