Home Bee stuff Austin


Working with wild animals and bees can be hazardous and the author can not be held responsible for any consequences arising from the following advice which is given in good faith. 

Running A Live Bee Show



Selecting and Modifying a Gazebo


Preparing the Bees


Setting up




The Tricky Bit - Getting the Bees Back In


Check List


More Photos



Selecting and modifying a Gazebo:

A netted gazebo is cheap and portable and with care contains flying bees very effectively.  They are available in plastic or canvas with the canvas being the better option although more expensive.  

Try to ensure that the zips are of good quality and the horizontal and vertical zips meet with the minimum of a gap.  If a gap remains a small additional flap can be added. 

Black netting is much easier to see through as it reflects less light - who owns a bee veil that is not black?

A Modified Gazebo with Hive 

Click on image for an enlarged view.


Gazebo.jpg (38333 bytes)

White netting can be stained by painting on highly diluted black emulsion paint taking care not to let it run onto the rest of the fabric.  Painting whilst the gazebo is erected is easiest.  Leave the rear entrance unstained.

It is usually necessary to add extra peg holes as the structure requires pegging down very firmly.  Extra metal eyelets can be bought from camping stores and added easily by using a vice and a hammer.  Fit eyelets every 300mm and purchase additional pegs to suit.

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Preparing the Bees:

Temperament is everything, do not take any chances, good tempered bees are very important.  No novice should be introduced to bad tempered bees.

There is no point in having your strongest colony, a weaker but healthy hive is just as impressive to the general public and there will be fewer bees to get back into the hive at the end of the day.

Ideally select a hive with:

bulletHealthy good tempered bees
bulletA marked queen
bulletPlenty of drones
bulletExamples of old queen cells or good play cell
bulletClean comb
bulletGood brood pattern
bulletColorful pollen and sealed honey in the classic arched pattern. 

It is great to have at least one full super to demonstrate to participating volunteers just how heavy honey can be.  A couple of lads struggling to lift one super sure brings it home to the viewing public.  It will also make it easier to get the bees back into the hive at the end of the day.  See later.


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Setting up:

Select a site which allows public viewing around three sides with plenty of space as crowds can build up to be 5-6 deep. 

It does not have to be in the open air, it will also work within a marquee but do use sociable smoker fuel if so enclosed.

Erect the gazebo to allow you access from the rear and ensure that the front is well zipped up.

Place the hive on a low stand facing the right front corner with at least 1mtr (3 feet) between the hive entrance and the net.  It is easier if the hive is 'Cold Way' (contentious point) as two 'assistants' can then work from either side with you in the middle.

A trestle table placed on the left side is useful to put tools and bits and pieces on.


Peg down securely then bank up a fillet of grass clippings about 150mm (6 inches) deep along the inside where the gazebo touches the ground.  As the grass obscures the light from any small gaps, this will stop tired bees on the ground from crawling under the edge. 

Hang one large or several smaller sheets across the rear of the gazebo forming a back drop to the ground.  This is not for cosmetic reason but to ensure that the rear is always darker which will discourage the bee from flying towards the entrance wall.  To enter the gazebo you squeeze between the back of the gazebo and the sheets.

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This is the fun bit.  Don't worry about gathering a crowd before you start you will find that lighting a smoker works like a magnet and people will stop to watch.  Having a sign up announcing the time of each demo can help to let people know when to return for the show.

bulletIf you are comfortable you stand and preach, remember to project your voice to the furthest member of your audience.  Do not be in to much of a hurry, take your time.  Even if you have repeated the same thing twenty times that day remember, for your audience it is fresh.  
bulletA more natural and satisfying method is to enlist one or two volunteers, however do not take anyone into work with bees unless:
  1. You have assessed the temperament of the bees on the day.
  2. There is no known allergy to bee stings in the family.
  3. The 'volunteer' is willing and not under undue pressure.
  4. You have received permission from the parents or guardians. Clearly explain that bees do sting, and although every reasonable precaution has been taken there is an outside chance of a sting.

Gazebo6.jpg (35418 bytes)


Click on image for an enlarged view.

With careful supervision anyone can take a beehive apart but as emphasized previously good natured bees are required as knocks and bumps are inevitable.

 Kids make the best subjects and their on looking parents get just as big a kick out of it.  Another beekeeper in the gazebo with you can take good photographs without the netting in the way.  Perhaps the parents will lend you their camera for this special occasion

Gazebo Kids3.jpg (29019 bytes)

Click on image for an enlarged view.

As you are talking to the kids involve the audience by suggesting that your 'assistant' demonstrates by holding combs full of bees up to the netting for the onlookers to see (usually mum or little brother).  Best to use a comb towards the edge of the brood or a super frame to minimize the chances of the queen being accidentally dropped.

Relaxed bees will lap up honey straight from a wet hive tool, kids enjoy 'feeding the bees' in this way.

Brush yourself thoroughly before you exit the gazebo. 

A fun 'Beekeepers Assistant Certificate' always goes down well with the younger kids (and some adults ;-).  

Try to give the bees a rest of at least 20 minutes in every hour, don't worry about the clustering bees on the netting they will be fine until the end of the day.

Gazebo8.jpg (31539 bytes)

Click on image for an enlarged view

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The Tricky Bit - Getting the Bees Back In !:

The real trick is to persuade the bees to return to the hive at the end of the day.  To do this you will need to construct a simple bee vacuum made from a 12volt car vacuum and a plastic drinks bottle with a screw top.  This will gently suck the bees into the bottle without harm.  If mains power is available a 12v / 6amp battery charger can be used to power the vacuum which is easier than carrying car batteries about.  A household vacuum is generally to powerful and unwieldy. 

A Bee Vacuum 

Click on image for an enlarged view.

Bee Vacumm.jpg (24205 bytes)

It is not necessary to vacuum the bees routinely, unless the hive population has significantly dropped or bees on the netting are obstructing the view.  Normally, leave it to the end of the day and do it all at once.  The flying bees will tend to cling onto the net in front of the colony and on the brightest side of the gazebo, they will come to no harm for the few hours of a live show.  

At the end of the day follow the following steps:

  1. Remove two adjacent super frames and shake the bees into the super.

  2. Leaving the super in place, fit a travel screen or crown board.

  3. Block the entrance ready to transport the hive.

  4. Gently vacuum the bees from the netting and the outside of the hive.

  5. When the vacuum well occupied, screw on the top and switch off.

  6. Hold the vacuum vertical with the screw top towards the bottom and gently shake the vacuum. 99% of the bees will fall to into the bottom of the bottle.

  7. Now here's the tricky bit, disconnect the bottle and keep the bees into the bottom by gently shushing them around as is they were a liquid whirl pool.  This stops them from flying out.

  8. Remove the crown board and quickly pour the spinning bees into the gap previously left be the removed frames.

  9. Apply a puff of smoke and briskly replace the crown board.  The bees will settle while you repeat steps 4 to 9.

  10. The last few bees can remain in the vacuum and united later when the hive is back in your apiary, also replace the removed super combs at that stage.

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Check List:

bulletGazebo with extra pegs and mallet.
bulletGrass clippings.
bulletBee vacuum + charged car battery or a 12v /6amp charger.
bulletHive with one super and bees (of course).
bulletHive stand and working table.
bulletNormal beekeeping kit with plenty of ( sociable) smoker fuel- ie not tarred sacking :-)
bulletA bee brush to brush yourselves down before exiting. 
bulletSmall blackboard and chalk to advertise the time of the next demonstration.
bulletA badminton racket: useful for 'stunning' the odd escapee.
bulletIf you are allowing public participation the following additional equipment is also recommended:
bulletBest quality kids or adult bee suit and gloves.
bulletElastic bungee straps to hold any oversized bee suits tighter.
bulletA selection of different sized of Wellington boots
bulletExtra hive tools.
bulletFun 'Beekeepers Assistant Certificates'
bulletAnti-histamine cream just in case.

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More Photos:

Click on each image for an enlarged view.

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Gazebo3.jpg (40328 bytes)Gazebo2.jpg (45691 bytes)Gazebo4.jpg (44866 bytes)Gazebo12.jpg (38491 bytes)Gazebo14.jpg (32525 bytes)

Gazebo Kids4.jpg (39661 bytes) Gazebo Kids7.jpg (40031 bytes)Gazebo kids1.jpg (34658 bytes)Gazebo Kids6.jpg (33949 bytes)

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