Beekeeping is a hobby that comes with a lot of specialized equipment, even if you’re keeping your setup pretty basic.
All that equipment can get expensive, so you might be looking for ways to save money without sacrificing certain tasks. A bee vacuum is one of those things that really comes in handy when you need it.
Rather than buying a new bee vacuum that only serves one purpose, you may already have a lot of the supplies to make your own.
Keep reading to learn how to make a useful bee vacuum right at home.
When Do You Use a Bee Vacuum?
A bee vacuum is a piece of equipment many beekeepers will need at some point.
It’s a great way to catch swarms or remove bees attempting to live somewhere they shouldn’t, like in someone’s house. It can help you move a colony to a new location as well.
These specialized vacuums safely suck up the bees so they can be released or put into a hive later on. They allow you to quickly gather a lot of honey bees with very little intervention. This saves the bees from being too stressed and also helps prevent you from being stung.
Do You Need a Bee Vacuum?
Beginning beekeepers likely don’t need a bee vacuum to start keeping bees. However, it’s easy and affordable enough to make your own if you want to give it a go.
Beekeepers who catch wild swarms will find bee vacuums useful when they locate swarms of honey bees out and about. Hopefully, your own bees won’t swarm, but a bee vacuum can also help you get your bees safely back home if they do.
Once people around you know that you’re a beekeeper, you may become the person they call if they find a nest of bees around their home. Using a bee vacuum is the easiest way to remove unwanted colonies of honey bees so no one gets stung. If you have spare hive equipment lying around, you just got a new (and free!) colony to add to your apiary.
As a bonus, a bee vacuum can also be used if you find wasp or hornet nests. Removing these nests can be challenging and even scary, so a bee vacuum is a great way to make the process safe and easy. You can adjust this model if you want your bee vacuum to eliminate aggressive wasps or hornets as you gather them instead of keeping them safely inside.
The Best Bee Vacuum Is One You Make Yourself!
It’s very important that your vacuum be able to safely but effectively gather honey bees.
Building a bee vacuum yourself means you can adjust it to your needs so it’s as convenient as possible for your use. You’ll always have one on hand for when you need it, since you don’t typically get much time to plan when the need arises.
One of the things that makes this DIY vacuum so great is that it uses an existing vacuum and makes it safe and ventilated for honey bees. It also makes it super easy for you to get the honey bees right into a hive where they’ll be comfortable and happy.
What You’ll Need
To get started on your vacuum, first get your hands on the supplies below:
- A lower-power shop vac or bucket vacuum
- Langstroth medium hive body with frames inside
- Ratchet strap
- Silicone caulking and caulk gun
- Wood glue
- Weatherstripping tape
- Window screen
- 12 foot one by eight-inch pine board
- Circular saw
How to Build the Best Bee Vacuum
Once you have everything you need, you’re ready to start putting it together. Follow these instructions to end up with a great bee vacuum you can put to good use right away.
Cut Your Plywood and Pine Board
Carefully measure and cut all your wood pieces to get started on your bee vacuum.
First, cut four pieces of pine board that are 20 inches long and another 4 pieces of pine board that are 18 inches long.
From the plywood, cut one sheet that’s 20 inches by 40 ¼ inches, another that’s 18 inches by 24 ⅓ inches, and a third that’s 11 by 14 ¾ inches.
Drill Screw Holes
On the edge of the longer first four pine boards, measure a line ⅜ inch from the board’s edge, then mark 4 to 5 spots where the screws will go in. Make sure to pre-drill the holes to keep the wood from splitting when you put everything together with screws.
Assemble the Boxes
For this bee vacuum, you’ll be assembling two boxes using the 8-inch wide pine boards. There will be one box for the top and one box for the bottom.
For both boxes, start by laying out two of the 20-inch boards and two of the 18-inch boards to make a box with the longer pine boards on the outside. Add wood glue and clamp the pieces together and let them dry completely.
Once the glue has dried, screw into the pre-drilled holes to attach all the pieces. Repeat this process with the second box, and be sure to label each box so you know which is for the top and which is for the bottom.
Put the Top Together
Now you’re ready to assemble the top.
To start, take your 11-inch piece of plywood and put it on the “top” box. Pre-drill screw holes on the corners and the centers of the board edges, then take the plywood off and put wood glue all along the edge of the box. Line the plywood back up with the pre-drilled holes and screw it on to attach it.
Next, draw a rectangle five inches in from each side of the plywood in the center of the board. Drill a hole in each corner of your drawn-on box and use the jigsaw to cut the rectangle out.
Put strips of weather-stripping tape along the edges of the rectangle you just cut out so there won’t be any gaps when you’re finished. Flip the box over and seal any cracks on the inside with caulk to close up air holes.
Create a thick line of caulk on the bottom edge of the box and lay a piece of the screen down to cover the rectangle hole. Make sure to press the screen into the wet caulk so it adheres completely. This is the window that will provide enough ventilation and airflow for the bees to remain comfortable inside the bee vacuum.
Once the caulk is dry, finish attaching everything with screws or staples and apply pieces of weather-stripping tape to finish sealing it all up.
Attach the Vacuum
Now you’re ready to add the vacuum itself to your DIY bee vacuum.
Drill a hole the size of your vacuum hose in the center of the top box. Put one end of the hose into this hole and the other into the vacuum.
Assemble the Bottom of the Bee Vacuum
Wedge your medium-sized piece of cut plywood into your bottom box so it creates a diagonal plane.
Predrill holes then and screw it into place to secure it and apply pieces of weather stripping tape along the top edge of the box.
Just like with the top box, caulk around any gaps inside the box and drill a hole for the vacuum hose, then attach the hose.
Complete the Bee Vacuum
Your bee vacuum is almost finished!
Position your hive body with frames inside in between the two boxes you assembled, then ratchet all the boxes together to keep them secure with the ratchet strap.
You are now ready to test your new DIY bee vacuum.
Test Your Bee Vacuum
Before you try it out with live honey bees, make sure you test your bee vacuum first so you know if you need to fix anything.
To test it out, turn the vacuum on and check for any gaps where air might be escaping and making the suction too weak. Patch up any holes or gaps you find with caulk as needed, and continue to test your vacuum until you can’t find any more spaces.
Put Your Bee Vacuum to Good Use
Having a bee vacuum can be very convenient when you need it, whether you’re a seasoned beekeeper or relatively new to the hobby.
Beekeeping isn’t exactly known for being an affordable activity, but you don’t need to spend a lot of money when you can make your own bee vacuum. As a bonus, you might find yourself rescuing free feral swarms from neighbors or even right near your own home for even more savings.
Don’t stop there! Learn even more about keeping honey bees on our honey bee page to get you excited about this amazing hobby.