I've been asked to remove a colony of honey bees from a cavity created by exterior wooden planks and the house. The owner of the house feels very strongly about the survival of the colony (so do I). Does anyone have any experience on recovering the colony from such a location? I'm going to be working together with a contractor who will do the wood work. My experience so far is limited to swarm removal on mail boxes and the like.
Depending on the actual location of the colony, you will have to decide if it easier to remove them from the outside or the inside of the house. Either way you have to cut into the structure. The bees generally go up from where ever the entrance is. They usually do not go to far left or right from the entrance. What I do is listen to the interior wall to isolate their location. (a cheap $15-20 stethescope purchased at the local pharmacy works great for this...it also helps you listen to your hives over the winter to see how they are doing). Once isolated, I usually start cutting cutting the siding about 2 feet below where I think they are. If you can expose the entire colony before extraction, that is best. Then you can break off the comb from where they have attached it and place it in a container, bees and all. My preference is a super I have converted for swarms. (single super w/ sealed bottm and a hole for an entrance that I can seal). If you think you need to, you can break off pieces of the comb as you go. It is just more trips to the container (and maybe down the ladder). Once you have all the comb and bees in the super, you should see the bees start flying in and out of the entrance. Then you know you have the queen. One thing that you should know is that you will only get a portion of the bees at first. Remember that most will be out foraging during the day. The next step that I do is leave the super alone for the rest of the day. I come back at at dusk. The foragers will have returned home by then. They will either all be going in the super, or they will have congregated up in the wall space where the colony used to be.(I figure they still smell the pheromones of the queen). If they are in the wall space, just brush them into a container and close it. Then take all of you new ladies home. If you do this from the interior of the house it is a little more challenging. It is best to have a bee vacuum, but if not...the theory is the same. The problem is that you will not be able to get all the bees. And you will not be able to let them fly in and out of the super for the day (unless there is a window real close). So you will need to put the bees in a closed container to get them out of the house. The home owner will also need to get rid of the bees that escape into the room.....I know this is long and drawn out. Hope it helps. If need be, you can contact me directly at email@example.com michael duncan
First off its great you have a contractor there to assist you, he can instruct you as to how you should remove what and where, but there are some things he may not be aware of so you will need to be clear with him as to what the scope of your project is.
Originally Posted by Timpeti
If this is a house that is occupied, you will obviously need to consider the consequences of going in through the interior. I prefer to go in from the exterior but the contractor may prefer to repair sheetrock then put back clapboard, etc...
If the house is occupied and you go in from the inside, you will probably need a bee vac to keep bees at a minimum inside but you will have bees enter, perhaps more than you would like, unless the house is vacant, which makes that part moot.
This may sound obvious, but the first thing you need to do is find out EXACTLY where the colony is, ceiling, soffit, wall?
Let's say its in the wall, as mentioned they will usually, say 99% of the time go to the highest point ie, top plate and build downward. So, you will want to begin there. Apply some smoke first and carefully remove planks on the vertical studs so the contractor can nail them back, he may, depending on where the seams are, if any, want you to make cuts and add seams or remove entire sections of planking.
Once the colony is exposed you will need to remove each comb section individually as this is how they are made, you don't need a bee vac, but on a large numbered colony it is a blessing, as you can reduce numbers and better see what you're doing, just don't suck up honey into the vac.
I could go on and on with this but to give you the basics, secure the brood comb sections first and foremost, some honey for feed would be nice, but try not to place combs that are oozing honey everywhere in your set up as this creates a sticky mess that could stress the bees and attract ants.
Of course try and find the queen, start removing comb sections from outside in, leaving some in the middle, this may up your chances of getting the queen to run to the center where you can find her.
You don't have to get every last thing in your box or boxes, you want bees covering comb just like in your managed colonies, too much space and you can get wax moth and shb, which are particularly bad this yr, btw.
I perform a ton of removals each season, you can pm me if you like for more specifics or Iddee as mentioned.