Master beekeeper relocates bees from Slater home

Story and photos by Barb McBreen
Master beekeeper relocates bees from Slater home

If you ask Jeff Becvar Sr. anything about bees, you may want to take a seat. He’s cared for bees for more than 25 years and he’s passionate about what he does.

Last week he was on Doris Blair’s rooftop in Slater, surrounded by bees without wearing protection. He said the bees weren’t in attack mode, so it was safe.

“These honeybees were too busy working and gathering nectar and pollen, so they weren’t in a defensive posture,” Becvar said. “I knew that because they weren’t aggressive when I approached them. Bees emit a warning scent that smells like bananas, so if you smell bananas, you need to run.”

Removing bees from buildings, trees or anywhere they aren’t supposed to be is part of what he does. He is a master beekeeper and he removes, rescues, relocates and raises bees. He also sells honey on his farm near Waukee at Becvar’s Honey Farm.

To remove the bees from Blair’s home, Becvar first closed off the entrance to the hive in the roof. He then placed a box over the entrance with a screen cone that lets the bees out, but stops them from returning to the hive.

Becvar then placed a honeybee trap box next to the entrance for the bees to relocate. The process to empty the hive depends on how long the bees have been in the roof.

“It could take three days or five to seven weeks,” Becvar said.

After luring the bees into the honeybee trap box, Becvar relocates the bees to his farm.

“I take them home first for about a week and feed them sugar water and pollen substitute and help the queen get ready to lay eggs,” Becvar said. “After the queen starts laying eggs and the bees are healthier, I take them out to the field or the woods.”

Becvar said he does about 50 relocation jobs a summer, but this year he’s already done 53 and he expects to do 70 by the end of the summer.

He advises anyone interested in beekeeping to find an experienced beekeeper that can become a mentor. He suggests following that beekeeper for one year before investing in equipment. Then he says to buy hives to build over the winter, and only start with two hives in the spring.

“Also, if you are a new beekeeper, don’t look at honey as your goal,” Becvar said. If you get some honey the first year, consider it a blessing.”

He also suggests contacting the Iowa Honey Producers Association for more information and clubs that may be available in your area.