bee stories

Bees in an icebox

This story from a brand new beekeeper is filled with the excitement of acquiring that very first colony. Her passion—and the odd place she found her bees—makes for a fun read. Thanks, Lisa, for sharing your story.

I am very new to this even though I have family members up in Ohio that are beekeepers; I wish they were here in Texas to help me.

I noticed that there were not as many honeybees in my yard or anywhere else like there use to be, so I thought I could help by becoming a beekeeper. I even called the Texas Apiary Inspection Service (TAIS) about where I could purchase honeybees. I was told I would not be able to find any because most beekeepers were out, but to catch a hive if I could, and was told what to do. I began to slowly buy my equipment.

I drive a school bus out in the hill country and for the longest time we didn’t have a office but an icebox that we used to store our keys and papers. Yes, it is redneck, but we finally got a trailer for an office—but no toilets!

Our old office still sits under a massive oak tree and the maintenance men still cut the grass around the old icebox. One day, a bus tech was watching it and started to complain to the drivers that it was invested with bees and needed to be destroyed!!! The drivers came to me and told me of the situation.

I went to the old icebox with four other drivers, and we watched a small hole in the back were the plastic had come off. Not once did we get attacked! I got my phone out and recorded as I slowly opened it. The drivers and I saw the most beautiful creation ever!!! In the corner, top, six golden honey combs are hanging with yellow honeybees!!! We knew it would be destroyed by the school once they found out; school was ending in three days, which meant that I could not get back in once the gates were locked up for the summer!!!

I sent the video to my Uncle in Ohio and called him a few minutes later. He told me what to do but I had to do it at night so none of the bees would be left behind, and he thinks they are Italian. Saturday night, my husband and I had a date with the honeybees. We went back, watching the little entrance were they go in and out, nothing, all is still. With my gloves on, twisted newspaper in one hand, and strips of duct tape in the other, I began to plug it up!!! The honeybees were furious but never got out.

The icebox has a metal stand attached to it, which made it so much bigger to carry so we had to have our faces up against it!!! You could hear and feel them moving inside and they were mad!!! We loaded it up into the truck gently and strapped it down so that it would not slide around as we drive home; a 15-minute drive seemed like forever because we drove so slow. We unloaded the truck and waited for an hour to remove the plug. Once we removed the plug, some of the honeybees came out but went back in.

The next morning I had to work at my second job but when I got home, my husband ever so gently put a chain under and around the steel base of the icebox and put a lock on it so no one could open it nor steal our hive. He said that the bees never stung him, just flew around him to see what he was doing and left him alone when they saw he was not going to harm their hive.

Once I get my tbh, how do I transfer their combs into the tbh? I thought of unscrewing the lid off but the screws are so rusting I don’t think it will be possible. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

Spring Branch, TX.


The old office. © Lisa Barrientes.


Combs hanging from the lid of the icebox. © Lisa Barrientes.


  • Lots of videos online to see how to do cut-outs, but basically carefully slice comb and rubber band into new empty foundationless frames and place into deeps or mediums. Place new hive on same spot remove old box… good to go. :^)

  • What a great story! What a beautiful wild hive! and whether the bus tech meant it ironically or not, “Invested with bees” is a beautiful phrase.

    Congratulations, Lisa! You are now “invested” with honey bees. Please keep Rusty posted about your progress, and send more pictures!
    Corinth, Kentucky

  • I’m so happy the Lord seen fit to put a hive in your path. Beautiful! Enjoy the wonders! I’m a first year/second season beek. I believe you said top-bar hive? I’m not familiar with those so won’t offer any advice. But regardless, I would cut all the comb off (after smoking them) and place gently somehow in a frame, maybe wrap a couple wraps of very fine wire to hold on a frame or two. Bees will do the rest. I would hold over the hive in case queen falls off. You will be excited so keep your mouth closed and breath through your nose sloooowly. Hahaha! Lol I hate stings, I’m a church mouse and a sting will make very colorful words come forth from my lips.:-)

  • Try to locate one or two local beekeepers and see if they will help—I am sure they will. You might check in with, join and post your questions—you will get lots of ideas from very experienced beekeepers.

  • I’ve considered using old plastic ice chests to catch swarms. The size is about right and it’s easily movable if successful. People throw them out all the time.

  • My story is similar to yours! Not wanting to harm them I am trying to become a beekeeper! The bees I have are still in my garage wall!, the person that is going to help me move them is the “bee lady” she is booked, believe or not, so I will be getting them out until the 1 of July.
    I did get stung last Sunday right on the tip of my nose!

    Where are you getting your table bar hive?. I research all the types and really like that type, but it was a bit expensive. So, I purchased the one from brushy mountain bee farm; and let me tell you it was a huge mistake!
    I ended up paying $361.00! And hummmmm the quality was not all that!

    But, hey if you have somebody to help you move the hive and can give me a hand I will greatly appreciate it. The bees are getting a bit aggressive and starting to come out of the wall into the garage.

    When I first found them, I could hear them buzzing a bit, but now
    Ohhhhh Myyyy there is a lot of buzzing! I am thinking maybe these 2 medium beehive is not going to be enough!

    Your situation is much better than mine, I have to pay some one to get them out, and then repair the wall of well, all for the love of the environment and helping the bees.

    Drop me a line maybe we can get together and find some ideas.
    I am building a vacuum to try to get them out, haven’t start it yet ( I have to pick it up from Home Depot.

    So, over all good luck!

  • Do the same for the top bar hive. Keep the combs in the same sequence as they hang now or if you get mixed up a little, keep the smaller combs to either side of the larger middle ones.

    Do suit up for this, the bees are not going to take the tear down well. They’ll should calm down pretty quickly after the change though.

    Congrats and thanks for a great story! 🙂

    Kent WA

  • I would first find the queen and use a queen catcher to keep her safe during the comb cutting. Release her once it’s all set in the new hive.

    What a great read! Thanks for sharing this.

  • I haven’t used a top bar but I have studied their construction and read a lot about them. I am supposed to build one for my brother-in-law. He wants to use a half-barrel but the idea will still be the same. Do like the link to Cookeville beekeepers shows. If you need more support, I would use either large wide rubber bands or large cotton string. When the bees get the comb attached to the top bar, they will chew the rubber band or string into pieces they can carry out of their hive. They will start attaching the comb and you will be amazed at how good they can do it. Likes like they were meant for the job. I would caution you to keep the comb oriented since I READ that there is a top and bottom to honey comb. Keep the top up or the honey will spill according to what I have read. In a top bar, there should be a division board. Give them about 6 bars or so and they should set up their house keeping there. As they fill it you can move the divider back about 3 bars and so on. I think it helps to get them started drawing comb on the bars if you can take some old comb and rub it on the area they should attach to. I don’t know what your bars look like but most people use a small thin piece of wood on the lower edge of the bar. Cut it with a saw if you need to then insert craft sticks and glue to give them a place to start building. Glue is not a miracle so the joint must fit snugly. The queen is supposed to stay near the entrance in the place you started her. She is supposed to stay in the bottom box of a Langstroth system too but they don’t always read the book. Good luck with the endeavor. Great discovery!!

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