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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2008
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    Montgomery, Alabama
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    11

    Default How to Capture Established, Open Colony

    A house built on 8-foot pilings (it's on a flood plain) has a 4-comb colony between adjacent joists under the floor. The owner told me a person can stand on a step ladder and reach the comb. I'd like to capture the colony and envision smoking it, carefully extracting the comb and sandwiching it between empty frames, and placing them in a hive body. I've not attempted this before and welcome suggestions. Thank you. Charles

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Orlando, FL
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    1,313

    Default

    I have done this, and I have a different view on how to do it quickly.

    The two main ways I do it differently than many others is that 1) I use a bee vac, and 2) I don't make any heroic efforts to save their wild comb.

    If the combs are big and full of brood, I will cut one or two to save it, otherwise I just give them a frame of brood from another hive when I arrive at the new yard to hive them.

    Here is how I'd do it.

    1. Get everything set up right near the hive. A couple buckets (with lids) for comb. Running water to clean up. Knives and scrapers of different sizes. A flashlight so you can see real good up in those joists. A garden hose with sprayer nozzle is helpful for clean up at the end.

    2. Start the vac and gently suck up as many bees as possible before touching any comb. I have found that by getting as many off the outside as possible, they lose their will to fight and the whole process gets easier.

    3. Cut off the combs from each side working from the outsides in to the center. One at a time, cut them and vac up the bees and place the comb either in a frame or in a bucket.

    4. If you go slow and deliberate you may find the queen. I have found her (but I usually don't get her in a cutout) Have a queen cage, and a cup (with lid) ready. I use one of my kids sippy cups with a lid to catch her and then transfer her to a cage once I'm in the truck and can't lose her. Don't leave her in there for more than a few seconds (maybe 1 minute would be OK) as she'll be in a panic and overheat in a closed cup.

    5. Once done take all the gear and put in truck. COLLECT BIG CHECK, and go. In an exposed situation like this you should be done in an hour or less. Schedule the job for 2 hrs before sunset just to be sure. Finishing at dusk is perfect as you'll get every bee as they come home.

    6. Don't forget to charge a lot of money. This is a skill few possess and you should be paid well for this.

    Once back at the apiary (next morning usually) take the bees and dump them in front of a new hive. Put queen inside if you got lucky and found her. Put pheromone lure in there if you're not sure. The reason not to just dump them in is that the rough handling of the vac usually kills some of them. With practice I've gotten this down to about 25-50, but my earlier attempts had several hundred dead bees and you don't want to dump the dead inside. Let the healthy bees walk in and everyone else that is dead or dying stays out.

    Make sure they have some young brood either cut out from their home or a frame from another hive and close them up. Give them a few days to mellow out. Food is nice if a flow is not going on, but be careful not to create robbing - these guys are weak and not able to defend themselves yet.

    Check back in like 5 days. If you have queen cells, you didn't get the queen, if the queen is there, you should have eggs somewhere in there, because in 5 days any eggs you initially put in there would have hatched by now.

    If you have eggs, you are good to go, you have a hive; if not then add a queen or let them finish the queen cells they already have underway - your choice.

    PROS and CONS of my approach.

    PROS: Done quickly and by doing it late in the day I get all the bees leaving few stragglers and the homeowner is happy.

    It is quick and less painful than other methods.

    I get to keep the maximum amount of honey (for me - I would never sell floor joist honey) and wax for my candlemaking.

    CONS: I have no way to keep the brood warm overnight, so it is no good any more. (though I'm thinking about an incubator)

    I lose a frame or two of brood from other colonies to donate to this one.

    i almost never get the queen from a vac job - I think it is just too rough for her to make it.
    Troy

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Montgomery, Alabama
    Posts
    11

    Default

    Thanks for the good advice, Troy.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Peckham, London, England
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    Default

    Hi Charles,
    if you have no beevac you could do as you suggest. I successfully collected a wild colony earlier in the year.

    You need:
    Nuc box or hive with empty frames (no foundation in them)
    String and scissors
    Knife with long blade
    Cardboard box
    Queen cage if you have one
    Tape, hive strap and means of closing up the hive for transport
    Smoker
    Ladder
    Beesuit and gloves
    plastic bag for rubbish

    It is an easier job to do with 2 people. Best to start a couple of hours before dusk.

    Gently smoke the bees. Leave 3 minutes, then start to cut down the wild combs one by one- this is where you need a buddy because it is virtually impossible to cut above your head with one hand and to support the comb with the other- it breaks. Also combs often connected to each other. (Sometimes if you are lucky you can cut it in one go and let it be supported in the cardboard box as you cut.)

    Carefully place combs in cardboard box, being careful not to squash bees, as there is no easy way of keeping beespace between the pieces of comb. Remember that you will need to know which end is the top of the comb.

    If you see the queen capture her and leave her in the box in the cage while you collect the other bits of comb.

    Now take the best, biggest pieces of comb, remembering to keep them oriented so that the top of the comb will still be the top of the comb after you cut the wild comb, and cut out big rectangular pieces to fit inside your frames. Tie in the comb with string like a parcel. Place the frames with tied comb and bees inside your nuc/hive. Work through until you have tied comb into all the frames.

    Shake the bees of the bits of comb you have left over into the hive and tie the bits of waste comb inside the plastic bag and secure the bag, to keep the bees away from it. (If you are unlucky at this point all the bees in the neighbourhood will start robbing!) A bit messy as you will have cut through stores and the bees will be excited.

    Close up your hive, and place it on top of the ladder, or at least as close a possible to the site of the original nest, facing in the direction of their old flight path, so that the foragers will return to your nuc/hive.

    When most of the bees are in the hive, you must take them at least 3 miles away to yours. You have a new colony.

    Much more difficult than the beevac though! I would also be tempted to replace the wild comb after a week or so, as soon as they have settled. Probably does kill fewer bees.....

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Montgomery, Alabama
    Posts
    11

    Default

    Very helpful, for I do not have a bee vac, but it is good to know both techniques. Thank you.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Orlando, FL
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    Default

    Wax Moths method is also very good if you don't have a vac.

    In the event you don't have a vac I'll offer a few more tidbits of advice.

    When you cut the combs down, try hard to get as many bees off as possible, as when you go to put them in the frames you will inevitably squish quite a few. The lesser amount on the comb in the first place, the better you'll do.

    Also, if you have time, but no bee vac, I'd recommend you make or buy some swarm capture frames. These make holding that wild comb much much easier. Less likely to squish bees too. Lacking the swarm catch frames, rubber bands are a good alternative to tying the frames in. I have had good luck with rubber bands.

    If you can get most of the bees off the combs and into frames, then do about half of them and switch from sweeping off comb and back onto the old hive to sweeping them into the box and frames you made up.

    By the time you are done you'll have all the (usable) comb in frames in your box and all of the bees in there too.

    If I do it this way, I usually end up with a lot of very confused bees, so I start much earlier in the day so they have time to figure it out and get in the box, and then I leave it for a few days so they get used to the new box and entrance etc.

    Wax moth said it best:
    Close up your hive, and place it on top of the ladder, or at least as close a possible to the site of the original nest, facing in the direction of their old flight path, so that the foragers will return to your nuc/hive.
    Leave it for a few days if you can. At least overnight and come and pick it up after dark the next evening, and pretty much all the bees will be inside.

    The down side of working without a vac is you'll get a lot more confused bees in the air and if working around neighbors etc they might get alarmed or worse stung. The other downside is that you'll have to make at least two trips. One to do the job and the second to pick up the hive and ladder etc. If it is far away, this can make the whole job not worthwhile.
    Last edited by Troy; 08-14-2008 at 01:27 PM.
    Troy

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Greensboro, N.C.
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    5,080

    Default

    >>>>has a 4-comb colony<<<<

    If it were not for this little tidbit, I would not even reply. They have told you well for the average removal. With the 4-comb hive, which is a new colony with very fragile comb, I would do this one differently.

    I would attach a medium super to a bottom board, without any frames in it. After smoking them very lightly, I would hold it up close and under the colony, then use a 10 or 12 inch drywall tool and cut all 4 combs at once.

    Set the box down, prop the 4 combs on the inside walls of the super, and begin wiring them into frames. Add 6 more frames to the super, and install the lid. Set the medium hive as near where the bees were going in as possible. Watch the bees. they will either take up in the box or gather overhead. If gathering overhead, remove lid and scoop or brush them into the box. Leave the box until nightfall and take to a yard 2 mile of more away.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    mt. airy, surry county, nc
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    217

    Default

    hey. how well does spraying with syrup work? does this make them more manageable? what are some good ways (without a bee vac) to hold and transport the bees. thanks, i needed this thread. idee i am going to make the "awsome beevac", since i have readily available source of component. i like the way the inner tubes can be changed
    "Any fool can learn, the trick is to understand - Einstein"

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Montgomery, Alabama
    Posts
    11

    Default

    The job appears more complicated than initially described (surprise!). I was emailed a photo (can't attach the picture, though); it shows 8 parallel sheets of comb between adjacent joists. The combs run in the direction of the joists, might be 2 feet long, extend the depth of the joists and pass between the underside of the floor and two cross beams attached to the bottom of the joists. So the cross beams would be an obstacle to the separation of the combs from where they're attached to the floor. It appears to be a large colony. I'll attach the photo if someone can tell me how. Appreciate all the good comments, everyone.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Greensboro, N.C.
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    5,080

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    Ignore my post above and go with the others. Bad input makes bad output.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Montgomery, Alabama
    Posts
    11

    Default Have Now Seen the Colony!

    I have now seen the wild colony. It is so huge I am considering not attempting the job. Nine sheets of comb fit between adjacent joists, and the comb is probably 6 feet long (!) and 6 to 12 inches deep. I've never seen so many bees in one place. I could probably fill 3 deep supers with comb from the colony. Of course I would not need to frame up all the comb. Besides smoking the bees, might BeeGone and/or misting them with sugar water aid in calming or displacing them from combs as I cut the comb free? The home owner might be able to put up scaffolding with a walk area to get better and safer access to the overhead colony; the stilts are 10 feet or higher. If I attempt this, the hive is so big I might advise the family to stay away the whole day, since the stairwell to the living area is pretty close to the colony. The family is admirably reluctant to call an exterminator, and I'm the only beekeeper they've found to look at the bees.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Cameron, MO
    Posts
    595

    Default

    What kind of timeframe do you have? Do you have any spare hives(4 or 5)? Can you invest in a $25 shopvac and make a beevac easily per the plans in this site(Idee's are real easy and very practical)?
    In my opinion I'd use a bee-vac. Time saving alone will help out a bunch.
    Get as many bees out first. messing w/ comb is "messy", so have some buckets ready to put it in. Also,(I learned the hard way), put your comb in the same way it came out of the hive. Top on top bottom on bottom side to side etc.,even your north south east west is supposedly a good idea.
    Use 3-4 hive bodies to put your bees in, then put some brood and food in all of the hives. Keep a hive up near the entrance to catch the straglers at dusk.
    The next evening you might go back and vac the other ones that got away.
    You could have alot of bees if you played this right. The bummer is the time of season. I imagine in the lower states like yours you could get your hives going fine but up north is getting late to get started(I think?). BUT all that comb and brood could really work to your advantage. Otherwise you could include it in your existing hives and make some of your weaker hives stronger for that late blooming season?
    *I recomended the beevac due to all the stings that you will probably endure sitting there cutting walls and comb for hours!!! I'll build a beevac before I try another cutout. It's not complicated at all and I believe it will get most the bees out of the area "first" before you start cutting comb and moving around.
    Best of luck

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Orlando, FL
    Posts
    1,313

    Default

    Don't let them intimidate you.

    I did one removal that was huge like this. I walked away with 5 5 gal buckets filled and ran out of buckets. I put another 10 lbs of comb and honey in a plastic garbage bag.

    When I got home I had 22 lbs of nice clean honey, another 26 lbs of comb and brood etc that I melted down for the wax, and a nice big colony of bees.

    Unfortunately I did not get the queen in my case and I had to go buy one, but that is usually the case when I use the vac.

    It was still fun. Go for it.
    Troy

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    mt. airy, surry county, nc
    Posts
    217

    Default

    zane is right, a bee vac makes a world of difference. i made mine by blammer's example; see "awesome beevac" in search. took less than a day. i do recommend rubber gloves. my leather ones got soaked with honey. and the bees got through them. just cover up good and you shouldn't get stung. check out pics
    http://s38.photobucket.com/albums/e1...pbw?nocache=71
    "Any fool can learn, the trick is to understand - Einstein"

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Toledo, Washington, USA
    Posts
    64

    Default

    Here is a strange and wild way you might win:
    Cut a piece of 1/8" masonary board the width between the Joist,. Cut it at an angle so the top edge is good and sharp... Take a brood box with a few frames of foundation and temporarily nail a bottom on it(the small entrance might be a good thing, dunno). Go up under the comb and convice the bees your just trying to help. Hold the brood box under the colony and go up between the joist with the masonry board. Make one fast slice with the board, cutting all the comb off with bees attached and quickly put the lid on them. There you have it. This will allow you to work with them later. Remember Bees don't live that long in captivity, so remember to give them a reason to live each day, like a new frame of foundation, slowly remove the comb as the brood box fills. If the swarm is real big, use a new large plastic garbage can. Can you tell I have never done this before????.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Montgomery, Alabama
    Posts
    11

    Default Completed the removal, but...

    Iddee was very helpful in giving me advice about how to go about my first removal. Several of you recommended getting a bee vacuum. I built one according to the design posted by Iddee. (Finding 1/8 hardwire cloth is difficult.) I spent 6 hours Sunday doing the removal. As those of you who have done this know, it is a slow process. But eventually all of the comb was removed, and most of the bees were in a deep hive body with 7 frames of transferred brood comb with honey. I emptied the bee vacuum 3, maybe 4 times. I vacuumed clinging bees from the first third of the cut comb, but then found it faster to blow them off with an air hose. (The owner just happened to have one handy.) I first checked to see if the cut comb held the queen. I was concerned about how many hive beetles I saw in the brood comb. (Hint.) I left the box on the scaffold and told the owners I'd return at dusk 2 days later. The owner told me on Tuesday morning the bees had been flying in and out of the box, and there was a small cluster (softball size) back in the joists. When I arrived in the evening, I was disappointed to see the cluster the size of a beachball! It was obvious the bees had absconded. I took the box home and inspected it the next day. It was totally infested with small hive beetle larvae. So it looks like the bees absconded because of the beetle larvae. Iddee said it would have happened at my house if I had brought the box home Sunday night. Bummer. But I have learned a lot and can now claim I've done one removal, although not wholly successfully. The home owners now have a large cluster of bees without comb.
    So that's my report. Again, I thank everyone for their input.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Orlando, FL
    Posts
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    Default

    The large cluster of bees is a swarm like any other. Go get it and put it in a box.

    I've had problems with SHB too and I don't bother with much if any wild comb anymore. The weaker they are the worse the SHB get. Pollen and old brood comb are the big enemy.

    What I have done the last couple times is to vacuum all the bees and then give them one frame of eggs and young larvae from another hive.

    This way they have one comb to defend and the rest are new foundation that they can ignore and so will the SHB. When they are ready for them the frames are there and ready to go.

    Also, if I did not get the queen (and I usually don't when using the vac) then the bees will make queen cells on that one frame and I'll know in a few days if I have a queen or not. If I do, no cells and she will be on that one frame somewhere. If I see queen cells, I can do a combine or get them another queen depending on the situation and time of year.

    This time of year, I'd probably just combine.

    You're not done. Go get those bees.
    Troy

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