“The Bee Man” is now doing business as Cascadia Venom Collection. Please read their updated article here.
Any talk about bees and I start to get fidgety. I admit to being the annoying picnic diner who swats bees away. I don’t run in fear screaming, but I would prefer to not share my dinner with an angry hornet.
Mike Juhl, on the other hand, runs towards the stinging insects. His business, Bee Man Exterminators LLC, is built on taking unwanted, pesky bees, hornets and yellow jackets away from homes.
Bee Man Exterminators removes nests, free of charge. He collects the bees or hornets live, without using any harmful pesticides. Not only are the bees safely removed from your property but your phone call helps protect people allergic to bee stings.
Once the nest is removed, Juhl freezes the hornets and yellow jackets then ships them overnight to a lab. Using tweezers in a scientific environment, the stinger is removed and the venom is extracted. A diluted vial of bee venom is then used to desensitize people allergic to bee stings.
Juhl started collecting hornets and yellow jackets for pharmaceutical labs in the mid-1970’s. A self-proclaimed “closet entomologist,” Juhl had begun raising honey bees a few years earlier. But his start in raising bees wasn’t too sunny.
“I purchased two hives and that night my brother and I were carrying them down a hill. One of us tripped, causing us to roll down the hill. The hives broke apart and we were stung a lot. It wasn’t a very good start, frankly,” he says with a laugh.
After a few years raising honey bees, Juhl noticed an advertisement in an industry magazine for bee collectors. He rigged up a modified juice jug, attached to the front of a vacuum, to collect live hornets or yellow jackets that he could sell to a pharmaceutical lab to develop immunizations.
Juhl’s knowledge of bee species, patterns and behaviors is crucial to his success in the business. Based on a verbal description of the nest, Juhl draws upon his vast experience to know which type of bee he will be retrieving, before he even enters the property.
For example, Bumble bees like to nest in bird houses, hornets make the globe like paper nests found on eaves and in trees. Yellow jackets often nest in the ground.
Not all of his bees head to a lab. Some species, such as bumble bees, are helpful pollinators to farmers. Juhl sells some of the removed nests to farmers but also raises his own colonies. You may see Bee Man boxes around town in early March. “It’s a hard time of year for bees to find dry nesting material. Queens will find about half of my boxes and create a colony,” he explains. He also captures the queens from his heather and uses them to grow a hive which may in turn be sold to a cranberry farmer in Grays Harbor County to pollinate a crop.
“Bumble bees are the earliest of all species to come out of hibernation, usually in February,” he explains. In order to bring them to his yard, he must couple their arrival with a blooming plant. Juhl grows heather in his yard to attract queen bumble bees.
“Bees are also looking for material to nest in, gravitating towards old mouse, mole or bird nests,” he continues.
Juhl adds that most underground bumble bee’s nests are undetected. “With only one bee flying out of the nest every minute or so, you have to be paying very close attention to see the patterns,” he says.
Of course, I ask Juhl his opinion on whether you should run if you are stung by a bee. He educates me that bees, hornets and yellow jackets only sting if they are defending their life or nest. So the random bee buzzing around your head during dinner should not be cause for sudden movement. Instead, he cautions that if you are stung while out in the woods, then you should “run like mad to get away from the nest. You may have disturbed a nest and the bees are going to come out aggressively.”
For those, like me, who would prefer to eat outside without the annoyance of a buzzing bee in your face, Juhl suggests understanding the bee’s habits. “In late summer yellow jackets can be a real nuisance trying to steal your food or drink. The adult hornet and yellow jacket lives on sugar. In late summer, flowers are harder to come by and there is less nectar, so the opportunist will try to share your drink to get the sugar. They feed their developing young meat so they try to take your hamburger or fish”
Even with an average of 30 stings a year, Juhl is undeterred. “It’s fun to take care of problem nests, free of charge and not use sprays. Someone gets immunized as an outcome,” says Juhl. “I feel very fortunate to be in this business, employing two employees each year.”
Bee Man Exterminators removes unsprayed nests of bumble bees, hornets and yellow jackets in Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Thurston and South Pierce counties.
For free nest removal, call 360.866.1834 or schedule an appointment online by clicking here.