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Bee Vac - will this work?

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understanding_bees 

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I wrote yesterday about my experiment to use a 12 volt fan to power a bee vac. I also expressed my regret over having to consider that it was unsuccessful. I do not think that anyone enjoys being unsuccessful – I certainly don’t. And so various other thoughts went through my mind. I mentioned in my post that many hand held vacuum cleaners these days have lithium batteries, and work at higher voltages than 12 volts.

Recycling and reuse have become part of my approach to life, for a variety of reasons. I am a bit of an inventor at heart, and have designed and built many things which have worked very well, and on very many occasions I was able to use salvaged material of many kinds. (I am a bit of a “squirrel”, and have salvaged many things over the years – and many of those things have been re-purposed very effectively).

And so, guess what, one of the recently salvaged things was a hand held vacuum cleaner which had been discarded by its previous owner during our recent council-sponsored clean-up of “hard rubbish”. I suspect that it was discarded because of a failure in some of the complex electronics associated with the lithium-ion battery charging system. I hope that you are enjoying this story, and someone may be saying, “Get to the point!”. I decided to dismantle this device, to extract the motor, to see whether the motor might still be functional. Well, yes, the motor was still functional! It was designed to run at 21.6 volts, and is rated at 125 watts. When it was connected to a 12 volt car battery, it still ran at a fairly high speed. I checked what current it was taking from the car battery, and measured it at about 4 amps, which equates to about 50 watts.

It created what seemed to be a reasonable amount of suction, but I think we all know by now that we must not use too much suction when trying to collect bees with a bee vac. Well, the best part of this story is that this little experiment has been fairly successful. I was able to fit this little motor to my bee vac, and decided to try it out on my bees. The suction was not very great, but was able to collect bees as they were returning to the hive. I collected bees as they were in the act of touching down on the landing board, and also some bees which landed on the side of the hive box. It was not so easy to collect bees as they were preparing to leave on a foraging trip, because they seemed to cling to the landing board when they detected the suction from the bee vac hose.

There are some other observations I have made during this experiment. I think that it would be better if the suction was stronger, but it seems that the bees do not just get sucked all the way through the collecting hose in a gust of moving air. At least some of the bees gained a foothold inside the hose, and walked into the bee vac catch box. When I checked the bees which had been caught, most of them flew immediately from the catch box. Some of them were a bit sluggish to leave immediately, but they all flew of within a few minutes.

So what is my opinion of this test? The suction is not as strong as I believe is desirable for use in a cut-out. But I think that most people who want a truly portable bee vac for catching swarms may well be pleased with the result. I was thinking about the different sizes of the two vacuum motors. The mains powered wet-or-dry vacuum cleaner motor is large (about the size of a 10 litre bucket). But the motor from the hand-held vacuum cleaner is tiny, almost small enough to fit into a big coffee mug! The most interesting observation for me was the discovery that this little motor, running at 4 amps, produced much more suction than a 12 inch diameter radiator cooling fan running at 8 amps.
 

Newbeeneil 

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If it was me I'd be tempted to try the small motor at 18v to see if it improved suction. You could get 3 x 6 volt small motorcycle batteries in series which would be very portable.
 

Michael ECB's 

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Not Enough yet.
My answer to the "How Much" question would have to be I have no Idea. None at all....
Based on that answer, (while using a bee vac) I supply as much as possible and carefully control depending on current weather conditions... If cold, put a towel over a section, if hot, put in shade.
Great question BUT How would one even to begin to calculate this?
So many variable here, ambient temperature, quantity of bees, bee spacing, agitation level of bees etc etc...
If the queen is not present in or on the box this would then further change things as bee behaviour would change... another formula/calculation needed...
Time of year.. Time of day,,,, the list could go on and on here..
I suppose some clever chap out there would know how much air an individual bee requires,,,, but different aged bees may require more or less - Im guessing...???
But once again, behavior on the day and bee spacing would/could change this... It would seem that some colonies have to put more effort into keeping the same volume of space warm? Some have to put more effort into keeping the same volume cool - even with identical hives next to each other..
AGAIN- Another guess on my part...
My opinion - the more the merrier (within reason and with healthy bit of common sense)
 

understanding_bees 

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My answer to the "How Much" question would have to be I have no Idea. None at all....
Based on that answer, (while using a bee vac) I supply as much as possible and carefully control depending on current weather conditions... If cold, put a towel over a section, if hot, put in shade.
Great question BUT How would one even to begin to calculate this?
So many variable here, ambient temperature, quantity of bees, bee spacing, agitation level of bees etc etc...
If the queen is not present in or on the box this would then further change things as bee behaviour would change... another formula/calculation needed...
Time of year.. Time of day,,,, the list could go on and on here..
I suppose some clever chap out there would know how much air an individual bee requires,,,, but different aged bees may require more or less - Im guessing...???
But once again, behavior on the day and bee spacing would/could change this... It would seem that some colonies have to put more effort into keeping the same volume of space warm? Some have to put more effort into keeping the same volume cool - even with identical hives next to each other..
AGAIN- Another guess on my part...
My opinion - the more the merrier (within reason and with healthy bit of common sense)
Thank you Michael ECB’s for your response.

I suppose that the thing which has been of most interest to me (in considering this question of ventilation in a bee vac) is the claim that the bees heat up very much. I am sure that there is no likelihood of the bees overheating while the vacuum motor is operating, because of the continuous airflow which the motor provides.

The suggestions seem to have been that when the vacuum hose is disconnected, and the opening is closed that there will then be NO ventilation. That is the reason why in my bee vac I have a separate ventilation hole which is closed while the bee vac motor is operating. The sliding gate which is moved to cover the hose opening also uncovers the ventilation hole when it is slid across.

When we consider the ventilation requirements of a hive, we know the size of opening that the bees can work with. I have the distinct impression that many hives, with their full width entrances, provide much more ventilation than the bees actually require. If we consider how much the entrance can be reduced in size in winter, we realise that ventilation has two aspects – firstly how much air do the bees need for respiration?, and secondly how much do they need so that they can keep cool?

From what I understand, bees are more likely to swarm during the months of the Spring season, rather than in the heat of summer. So if a bee vac is being used to collect a swarm on a warm day, I wonder whether they need more ventilation in the bee vac catch box than they would have had in the hive they have just moved away from. I am not suggesting for a moment that the catch box should be left in an exposed position where the sun could get them quite hot.

Of course, the circumstances are different when a cut-out is done, which could be at any time during the spring and summer months, and even perhaps in autumn. But the question of how much ventilation they require is essentially the same.

Another question, which is perhaps more important, is whether the bees overheat themselves because of the stress they may experience by being sucked through a hose by a vacuum cleaner. Much has been written about the precision with which bees can control their environment in a hive. They can maintain a steady temperature inside the hive box, throughout the year – cold winters and hot summers. Is it not reasonable to assume that the bees will regulate their temperature in a catch box, if they have adequate ventilation similar to a hive box?

I am inclined to think that a ventilation hole at the bottom of the catch box, and good ventilation at the top of the catch box is all that should be required. Does anyone have good information to suggest otherwise?
 

BeeJam 

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A very interesting article. My own vac consists of 3 elements; the base containing a car fan (I believe it came from a Toyota Yaris) and battery connected to an electronic speed control. ( I sourced this from Ebay as the current blew anything I tried rigging up myself using components from broken household devices). There is a removable door in the back to allow access to charge the battery.
On top of this goes the collection box which is fundamentally a 5 frame nuc with open mesh floor - in use this is toggle-clamped onto the base; once the swarm has been collected it can be removed from the base and provided it is elevated slightly (eg by standing it on a couple of joists) it allows for ventilation on the journey home.
The third element is the "roof" which again toggle-clamps onto the nuc - this is a sheet of ply with a slot into which can be fitted either a piece of OSB to seal the swarm in the nuc or a piece of uPVC sheeting connected to a tumble-dryer hose which in turn is connected to a piece of drainpipe at the end to form a nozzle. (This can also be slotted into one or more longer pieces of drainpipe to allow swarms to be collected from elevated positions)

In practice, while it does work and I've collected several swarms with it, suction isn't as great as I'd like despite having sealed pretty much every wooden joint with silicon and/or draftproofing tape. I'm in the (very slow and easily distracted) process of making an alternative base unit to use in conjunction with a henry style cylinder vac but the comments above about narrower hoses/nozzles are interesting so I may experiment down that route as well.
 

understanding_bees 

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BeejJam, your comment: "suction isn't as great as I'd like" indicates to me that you have experienced exactly what I have been writing about - namely that fans designed for "blowing" are really not effective at "sucking".

There is another thing though that I would like to stress, based on my experience. The whole purpose of using a suction device is to get the bees to enter the hose and then into the catch box. If our purpose was to catch a colony of wasps, to destroy them, we would want the strongest vacuum possible, which the wasps could not resist. We would not mind in the least if they were injured as they were being sucked through the hose. However, when our purpose is to collect a colony of honey bees, we need to be as gentle as possible to avoid injuring the bees.
The difficulty we must recognise and overcome is that the bees will not willingly enter the hose, but once they are in the hose they seem to willingly “go with the flow”. The way to achieve this is to use sufficient force to get them into the hose by having a higher velocity of air at the nozzle of the hose, and then a gentler flow of air inside the remainder of the hose. To achieve this result we definitely DO NOT want a narrow hose! If the nozzle has half the cross-sectional area of the hose, then the velocity of the air through the nozzle will be twice that of the air flowing through the hose. We need to find the “sweet spot” where the air velocity at the nozzle is sufficient to pick up the bees, but the velocity of the air inside the hose is much less, making it a “breeze” for the bees to continue into the catch box.
 

BeeJam 

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. However, when our purpose is to collect a colony of honey bees, we need to be as gentle as possible to avoid injuring the bees.
The difficulty we must recognise and overcome is that the bees will not willingly enter the hose, but once they are in the hose they seem to willingly “go with the flow”. The way to achieve this is to use sufficient force to get them into the hose by having a higher velocity of air at the nozzle of the hose, and then a gentler flow of air inside the remainder of the hose. To achieve this result we definitely DO NOT want a narrow hose! If the nozzle has half the cross-sectional area of the hose, then the velocity of the air through the nozzle will be twice that of the air flowing through the hose. We need to find the “sweet spot” where the air velocity at the nozzle is sufficient to pick up the bees, but the velocity of the air inside the hose is much less, making it a “breeze” for the bees to continue into the catch box.
I got the idea for mine from another beekeeper who did a talk at one of our association meetings a fair few years ago and his seemed to work better than mine does so I'm not altogether sure I've not made a "mistake" somewhere along the way. Like you say it's better not to go too hard otherwise we could harm the bees which is why I like my tumble dryer hose pipe as its cheap, lightweight and large enough to take loads of bees at once without crushing them - I think I'll experiment with a narrower nozzle though.

A tip for anyone thinking of making one- be careful where you site the on/off switch - one time when returning from collecting a swarm I had to brake hard and everything in the back of my car slid forward and I could hear a loud humming sound. I spent the rest of the drive home (only 10 minutes or so) expecting to be covered with bees at some point only to find that the fan unit had slid forward and switched itself on - panic over.
 

hemo 

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I had ago recently and made up a beevac in a similar way to the Triton dust collector which Greg showed.
The Triton's it appears are no longer available, every where has no stock and a couple on ebay went for silly money. So I had a think about it and rummaging about in the wife's late grandad's Bungalow, we found a fermenting bin of 25ltrs so used that as the collector.

Said bin with two 1 1/4" tank connectors (for push fit.) drilled and fitted to the snap on lid. The 12v Sonru car vac (in the middle) was £16.99 on ebay and a used item, rated at 150w and 7000pa suction. Suction inlet hose is 1" and came with the vac and a taper connector ideal for the tank connector.
The Blue hose is 32mm pool hose and has shallow ribs inside, for some reason the hose on it's own gives out a high pitched whistle when attached so I add a meter of 34mm ribbed Black hose to the end and the whistle stops.
DSCF1125.JPG

The small 3s 12v (18cells) Li battery sits aside the Blue suction hose inlet and is 187wh made up with Samsung 5a rated cells, I have 2 or 3 sitting about so power isn't an issue.. Batteries also used for my pan vaporisers,
DSCF1126.JPG

Underside of the snap on lid and I added a small mesh cage to stop bees being sucked in to the vac.
DSCF1127.JPG

Similar to Greg I trapped some mesh between two rings for top vetilation.
DSCF1131.JPG

In use it worked well, I have a dwindling QL colony of about 2k and decided to use it for the test. All bees successfully vac'd up and then returned to the BB, no dead or injured bees. I saw Greg had added a stiff card insert and thought it a good idea so the bees can cluster on to it. The suction power lifts 30mm plasterboard nails one at a time in to the hose but not enough to go more then 2 -3 " up the hose but plenty to waft bees along the hose.

For maximizing the current & power draw, I removed all bar 24" of the 12v vac lead. 3m of lead was too long. Like wise with the 12v vac I removed part of the mini cylone filtering to improve the suction, as does having a 1" vac to bin hose. The vac's collector bin has the inlet tube built in and at the end of the inlet is right angle plastic air deflector, simply by removing this and releasing the restriction of air helped to improve suction.
Every thing bar the top vent lid sits inside the bin with lid snapped on.

There is one little mod needed, during it's use I could hear the bees as they landed on to the hard plastic base inside. So will add a ring of soft white crepe packing foam to the bottom.

So it cost £36.49 to make my bee vac.
Free bin 25ltr.
Batteries already paid for a few years ago.
Wood sheet for top vent rings come from a discarded free kitchen unit.
Car vac 12v is a Sonru 7000pa model cost £16.99 used.
2 x 1 & 1/4" push fit tank connectors £6.
I x 32mm x 5m pool hose £9.89
1 x 12v wire tail cigarette lighter female connector £3.70.
 
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