My grandfather's farm in SE Kansas has a cedar tree in it with a hive of bees in the trunk. I would like to extract the bees and have read about the funnel method. However, I was thinking of removing them by chopping the tree down and splitting it, then removing the comb and the bees and putting them in a beehive. I know I would have to make sure I get the queen if I do this, but what I was wondering was if it was okay to do that in the winter.
I live in S.C. Oklahoma, and if I removed them I would bring them back down here. If I use the other method, I would have to do a split of my other hive, and so I would need to start a nuc. I asked on another post when a good time to do this was, but the post died before I could get back and let you know where I live. So when would be a good time to start a nuc hive in S.C. Oklahoma? Things usually start blooming in March around here.
It really helps for others to reply to your questions if you would fill in your profile page with your city and state. EVERYONE...
To answer your question, April through July would be ok, you need at least three, four would be better, brood cycles to insure that the new colony will be strong enough to survive the first winter.
I have tried the funnel method with no success. I have done a modified funnel method where I put on the funnel and sweep or vacumn the bees off and move them a couple of miles away every day until the hive is weak, and I would recommend this even if you want to cut the tree down and try to remove everything, because you will greatly lessen the number of bees you have to fight off. You can either add the bees to an existing hive with the normal combine methods (newspaper etc.) After a couple of days of this the two groups of bees can't tell each other apart very well and the bees from the tree are pretty disoriented so they aren't defending and you can probably just dump them in. If you don't have an existing hive, you can order a queen ahead of time and put it in a box and keep adding the bees from the tree.
Personally, I wouldn't cut the tree if it's alive. I'd just steal most of the bees. It is a much bigger mess than you can imagine to remove a hive from a tree. First, there is cutting down the tree without serious dmage to the hive and the bees. If it hits the ground at all hard it will break a lot of combs loose and drown a lot of bees in honey. If it hits the ground lightly it will still break some comb and make a mess. If you plan it right and catch the hollow at the bottom so you can reach in and get the bees out you will make a mess, but less of one than if you have to cut the tree open after it's down. It is more difficult than you think to get access to the bees without making a torough mess. No matter how you go about it I would try to remove the majority of the bees to another location (using the modified cone method) before starting because less of them will drown, less of them will be killed and less of them will sting you.
Getting bees out of a tree is a great adventure that involves a lot of stress and at least a few stings. Perhaps more. And that is with a good bee suit with a zip on veil. Also it is a big mess with a lot of dead bees. Your goal is to minimize all of that. The first time is the hardest. After that you have an idea what to expect.
As to the timing, Spring would be best. (April or May?) Winter is not acceptable. Of course with the climate what it is, maybe this IS spring.
Thanks for the replies guys. So is it better to start a nuc in April through July also?
Yes. The bees have to have time to get established and that means several generations of brood before the fall dearth stops brood rearing.
I have used the funnel method, with some success. I made the funnel, and instead of sweeping the bees, I placed a weak nuc with a queen in it, and when the bees figured out that they were not getting back into the original hive, usually at night ,they "adopted" the nuc as home. You just need to empty it once in a while, because they will continue to try to get back into the original hive. It works, but don't expect the tree to empty out overnight. It took about 3 weeks to extract the bees from the house I did this at.
The other "secret" to the funnel methods (regular and modified) is you have to keep watching what the bees are doing. They probably will find another smaller entrance somewhere and you have to make sure they don't find another way in.