Welcome to BeeLining.org. I've started this website to build interest in the sport/hobby of hunting wild bees (for observation purposes only) and to allow the exchange of ideas, techniques and equipment used for this activity.
"What is bee lining?", you ask. "Bee lining" is synonymous with "bee hunting". It is also known as "bee tracking", "coursing bees" and "lining bees". It is a way of tracking foraging honey bees back to their nest.
After a foraging bee fills it stomach with nectar, it returns to its colony to unload the nectar. When it heads off to its nest that bee will fly in a roughly straight line back to its nest. (This is how the term "bee line" came into being.) So, bee lining is a series of techniques used to exploit this behavior and track down feral bee colonies. This activity doesn't require a rifle or binoculars. Rather it requires an understanding of bee behavior and bit of tenacity.
In days of old, honey was the only available sweetener and bees wax was a prized commodity. So, bee hunting was a commercial endeavor that usually ended with the removal of all honey and wax comb and the destruction of a feral bee colony. Nowadays, it's difficult to find food that isn't sweetened! And, modern beekeeping techniques have made it possible to harvest both wax and honey without harming the bee colony or their nest. So, bee hunting is largely a lost art.
We've used the traditional methods of bee lining which involve the use of "bee boxes" and basic tracking skills. These techniques are documented on this website. But, I'd like to see bee hunting techniques updated to include modern world capabilities. To this end, we are interested in using a GPS unit, a compass and Google Earth (or other mapping system) to create and document multiple bee line vectors for triangulation. I ask that anyone wanting to help build a body of knowledge related to bee lining contact me. Anyone wishing to add content (pictures, advice, articles) related to bee lining should contact me as well. I will gladly include personal stories and photos from other enthusiasts.
Why would anyone want to go bee hunting nowadays? Here are the two reasons I've taken up this unusual outdoor activity:
In February 2008, my six year old daughter expressed an interest in bees and beekeeping. I strongly believe in hands on learning experiences, so we jumped in whole heartedly. The picture on the left shows her in her newly purchased beekeeper suit making her first tentative steps towards some hives. This picture was taken just minutes after completing a beekeeping class together. Later, I somehow managed to get placed at the top of the "swarm list" for our local beekeeper's association. We received quite a few calls from frantic people wanting swarms and/or colonies to be removed. So, within the first four months of our beekeeping experience, my daughter and I had:
- captured two swarms
- removed two "open comb" feral hives
- cut open a wall to remove a feral hive
- set up two box hives for our own use
- did two classroom presentations with an observation hive
- cut down a tree in order to remove & relocate a nuisance hive
- manned the booth for the beekeeper's association at our local county fair
- removed paper wasp nests for a handful of our neighbors (We have the bee suits, so why not?!)
When the weather first got warm enough, we also tried "bee lining" in order to locate other feral hives. This was the most fun of all! We enjoy hiking a lot. So, this was another excuse for us to get outside together. We plan to make bee hunting a regular part of the time we spend outdoors together.
I have a 3 year old daughter who likes bees as well. Or, at least she isn't afraid of them. We cannot find a beekeeper suit small enough for her 32 pound frame. So, for now, she is happy with her "bee suit". She will sit several feet from our hives happily watching the bees come and go. So, I'm confident that she'll be wearing her sister's beekeeper suit once she grows into it.
Bee Hunting - The High Tech Way
Bee hunting is a great way to introduce children to a number of topics such as mapping, geographic information systems, vectors & coordinate systems, biology, pollination and reproduction.
The picture above shows an image from a Google Earth map. On this map, I have indicated the locations of three bait stations we set up and the bee lines observed from each. The crossover points of the colored vectors indicate the approximate locations of feral bee hives. With this data, the next step is to set up bait stations near the approximate locations of the feral bee hives. Being within a couple hundred yards of the hive makes it quick and easy to find the exact location.
This is typical of the data that can be collected and shared.
Be sure to click on the "Get Started" link on the top left. This will give additional info on how to track & document bee lines. Once you've obtained the GPS coordinates and other descriptive info, be sure to document it using the online database at www.savethehives.com.
Should you already know the location of a feral hive, but you don't know the GPS coordinates, you can "reverse engineer" the coordinates. Open the Google Earth application (this will NOT work with Google Maps), find the location of the feral hive (this is relatively easy to do so long as the location isn't in a large wooded tract) than document the GPS coordinates displayed at the bottom left of your Google Earth window. Again, be sure to document the coordinates using the online database at www.savethehives.com.
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