The Colorado Bee Vac is a product made and sold by someone name Guy Shingleton. What it is is a vacuum customized to get bees out of one place without killing them and take them someplace else.
Many beekeepers who do live removals of bees have found over the years that there are certain circumstances where for the sake of expediency or accessibility, there needs to be a rapid way to collect up large numbers of bees. Most often this has to do with weather related concerns or time frames imposed by customers or work schedules. We have to get those bees out of where they are pronto!
Perhaps the most important thing we look for in a bee vacuum is suction. We need enough to get the bees off of combs. That can be challenging at times because bees can hook themselves onto a surface and really withstand more force than we might think. Of course, too much suction force and all you end up with is bee jelly in the catch box.
The next, if not equal, most important consideration is ventilation. Once we have the bees safely captured in the catch box, the biggest dangers are now lack of air and over heating. We have the bees from where we captured them from. Now we need to make sure to get them to the next place alive and well.
The next consideration is ease of transference. How difficult is it to get the bees from the capture box into the next hive we have for them? We want to make the transfer as stress free as possible. That’s why we worry about things such as ventilation and proper suction. To finish off the transfer process, we need to be able to get the bees out of the transfer box and into the new hive as easily as possible.
There are a great many designs to build and buy bee vacuums on the internet. The Colorado Bee Vac is but one of them. However, it is gaining in popularity and is being used and favored by some well known and very experienced beekeepers who specialize in this kind of bee work. Today, we take a look at the Colorado Bee Vac.
I am also the president of the Omaha Bee Club in Omaha, NE and we ordered this vacuum for our members to take on loan as needed. The members who have used the Colorado Bee Vac have been polled on their experiences using it as well.
Appearance: Does It Look Like It Should Or As We Expect It To?
Upon arrival, the Colorado Bee Vac is one or more tan or beige colored deep hive boxes. Each box however also is fitted with a screen covering one side of the box and a sheet of metal fitted into a slide on the other side of the box.
At one end is a fitting for a hose to attach to and a plastic slide to open and close the opening behind the hose fitting.
Above is a photo from the seller’s website. This is pretty much what you get when it arrives. In addition, there is a blue hose with a plastic tube extension as well.
The vacuum itself is built in to the cover. The cover is much like a standard hive top but with a vacuum built into the middle of it. On the underside of the cover is pegboard cut to fit exactly inside of it. There is also a black gasket that creates a seal when the unit is operating.
Once again, from the seller’s website, we see the vac top and that is what we get. It’s nice to open the box when it arrives and see that it looks as it was presented by the seller.
Everything arrived looking as it was presented and it was clean, in good shape and well made. The only thing to bring it down was that the seal underneath the vac lid was loose and not glued or fastened properly. Easily fixed with some super glue but still… On a machine like this, a vacuum seal is important and it doesn’t do to have something like that arrive not correctly installed.
I don’t think this is “normal” for it to be delivered in such a way so I will not take a full grade away.
I will grade the appearance of the Colorado Bee Vac at an A-.
Usability: How Easy Is It To Use? Are Things Easy To Figure Out Or Is There A Training/Learning Curve To Figure Out How To Use It?
There is an instruction sheet (1 page) that accompanies the Colorado Bee Vac upon arrival. It is short and to the point. It’s also easy to overlook as a number of my Omaha Bee Club members who have used the vac let me know. Some suggested it would be nice if the page itself was a bright color to draw attention to it.
As the instruction sheet tells us, we need to adjust the suction so that it doesn’t take the bees in too hard and just squish them against the other side of the box. Starting with the valve half open is a good thing to do. The more you close the valve opening, the higher the suction and the more the valve hole is open, the lesser the suction. This can take a little experimenting with and keep in mind, there are other factors to suction control such as hose length. The longer the hose, the more suction is required. The suction adjustments are fine adjustments and you must be careful not to over-adjust.
Placing the vacuum cover with the seal inside on the box properly can be a little vexing at first. Quite a few people had some trouble getting the cover to fit exactly right on the box and make a complete seal. If even a small part of the lid is not fully seated against the box, it will affect suction.
The handle that is on the metal sheet on the bottom of the box locks into place and has a handle made onto it that works very well in transporting the boxes. All the hose and attachments can fit inside one box for further ease of transport.
As ordered the hose is not altogether too long, six foot I believe, and so the box is best kept near the work area as much as possible. This can be tricky when working on a ladder as the box is wider than the inside widths of most ladders and makes for precarious perching. However, the boxes are low and wide and stand well balanced on most surfaces, even those sitting on a pitched roof.
Once suction is correctly set, the top is properly placed and the unit is in position for work, the unit works like a champ. You can vacuum a LOT of bees into one of these deep boxes and swapping over to another box once one is full is easy as pie. You’ll find that once you have your desired suction level set, it pretty much stays set and you’ll only usually make minor adjustments from job to job, if any at all. That will depend on how much it gets man-handled in between.
I will grade the usability of the Colorado Bee Vac at a B. It’s really not all that hard hard to figure out. It comes with plain instructions and once “configured” it’s pretty easy to maintain it.
Effectiveness: How Well Does It Meet The Need? Does It Do What It’s Supposed To Do And Does It Do It Well?
We have used the Colorado Bee Vac at the Omaha Bee Club for about 4 months now. The people using it range from absolute first year beginners to Master beekeepers. It has been used in a variety of locations. On scaffolding working on apartment building rooftops to being on the ground taking bees out of the walls of houses and everywhere in between.
Once the item has been “figured out” for the first time by the users, everyone without a single detractor, has spoken very well of using this bee vac. People have used their own, longer hoses as they felt the need or even added a simple extra tube extension without trouble or negative effect.
The vac has been used to collect both honey bees as well as bumble bees successfully.
I will grade the effectiveness at an A. It does what it is supposed to do and it makes it seemingly more fun to do it.
Cost/Value: Does The Price Match Up To Its Value?
Now down to the nitty gritty. We bought an extra, deep box to go with this vacuum because we weren’t sure how much we might really need since we do such a variety in sizes of bee removals.
The advertised price as they are sold on Ebay (the primary sales site Guy uses aside from direct contact sales) is $285.00. This gets one customised catch box, hose and extension tube, and vacuum top. Can someone build this unit for themselves? Of course, people do it all the time. Is it worth it to build one as opposed to buying it.
I would say that Guy builds them in high quality and because he builds them so often, his familiarity with this vacuum allows him to build it reliably and quickly. For a bee club such as ours, we felt it would be best to get the vacuum as done by Guy and we do not regret it. For someone who only does the occasional removal, this might not be the cost for the best value. Though, I would suggest that we think it is a well made and easy to use tool that anyone would appreciate having if they could have any such tool they wanted.
I will grade the cost/value at an A. Not only did we buy more boxes for the one vac, we have already considered getting another whole system because of how well it has been received and used since we got it.
All in all, our summary grade for the Colorado Bee Vac is a B+. The only real “less than ideal” aspects we found were the seal not being fully attached upon delivery and the bump in the road of getting familiar with it and getting it adjusted properly at the beginning.
The overall craftsmanship, presentation and durability of the Colorado Bee Vac have shown to be above average. It can “take a licking and keep on ticking” as the old Timex commercials used to say. We have used this vac pretty hard and it has been in the hands of a variety of people over this one season. The worst that has happened was a small hole torn in the screen and one corner being bashed on one of the boxes and that was due to being carelessly transported by someone. We pretty much expected that to happen eventually with the hard use a shared tool will often see. Although, it is easily repaired (the screen) and so no major long term problem.