Busy Bees at Ameren Illinois Substation
May 2016

​Electric power companies are investing significant financial resources and time into modernizing and protecting the North American energy grid. As an industry, electric power companies work closely with each other and with the federal government to prepare for and respond to threats to critical electric power infrastructure. This includes large threats, such as hurricanes, and small threats, such as honey bees.

Late last summer during a routine inspection of a substation, an Ameren Illinois employee discovered a hive of nearly 1,000 honey bees attached to the outside of the structure that houses the switches, fuses, and circuit breakers used to regulate the power that flows through the substation. While the industry employs a highly-skilled workforce that goes through rigorous training, beehive removal is not part of the job description. Fortunately, the Ameren Illinois substation supervisor knew of a substation journeyman electrician well known for bringing honey from his personal beehives into work to share with colleagues.

Four years ago, John Freimuth and his wife decided to become beekeepers, and they now own five hives. After receiving the call from the supervisor, Freimuth donned his beekeeping suit and went about safely removing the hive while keeping it intact. After 30 minutes, the honey bees had been safely collected and the honey comb carefully packaged for transport. The destination? The backyard of another Ameren employee.

“There is another beekeeper here. It’s his first year as a beekeeper and he lost his queen,” Freimuth said. “If you lose the queen, there’s no way to re-populate the hive. It was perfect timing. I ended up giving him the bees. He combined them with the hive that lost the queen and he was able to keep his two hives going.”

Freimuth also found an old hive underneath the structure, which had drawn the bees to the equipment in the first place. After removing that hive, too, Freimuth covered up the holes to prevent any future bees from taking up residency in the substation equipment structure.