Please feel free to post this message in its entirety to your bulletin-board discussion, as techniques for removing bees vary with the specific case at hand, and online misinformation is far more common than accurate information.
When Bee-Quick is used in this sort of situation, one most often uses a hole saw or large diameter wood-boring bit on a brace and bit to drill a hole at the point in the cavity furthest from and opposite the entrance. One finds the extent of the cavity with a cordless drill and a cable-tv installer’s long drill bit, drilling and plugging holes as one goes (plugging the holes as you go with window putty because each hole might become an new exit for bees) One then plugs a shop-vac hose into the exhaust port of a shop-vac, so that air blows out the hose, and then places a Bee-Quick soaked cloth over the end of the hose, followed by whatever kludge adapter has been fabricated to fit the hole you drilled or cut.
With generous use of Bee-Quick, stopping the shop-vac and re-soaking the cloth several times, the bees will leave the hive, and even the queen will leave. But leave for where? Most often, they will gather on the outside surface of the tree, where they can be brushed into a box or a bee-vac can be used to gather them up, but this is not a task for a novice with zero experience. Many experienced beekeepers own Bee-Vacs for tougher removal jobs, some of us constantly design new tweaks for bee-vacs. From the look of your tree, a bee-vac will be needed to get all the bees off the surface of the tree, or a skilled beekeeper will have to find the queen, get her into a cardboard nuc or whatever, to start the parade of bees into the box to join the queen (something worth filming if you see it).
(We have quietly sold a “stronger” version of Bee-Quick to selected bee removal professionals since 1999 for use in difficult cases that we named “Bee-Done”. It has rarely been needed, and is far too volatile/corrosive a liquid to sell to anyone but licensed and insured professionals.)
In your case, I’d suggest that the best approach would be to NOT buy Bee-Quick, but to use a direct mechanical approach:
- Get some pallet wrap – it looks like a giant roll of Saran Wrap, and it is. It is sold where boxes and shipping/warehouse supplies are sold.
- Get up there with a ladder or bucket truck and wrap the tree to enclose the bees. Lay a hunk of window screen over the uppermost entrance and staple the screen to the tree, wrapping over the edges of the screen with the pallet wrap to make a true bee-proof seal. Keep wrapping in the up and down direction until you have a good six feet up and down from the entrance wrapped. You have now enclosed the bees, and have an hour or two to figure out where to cut above and below the “bee section” to separate it from the rest of the tree, and remove the bees. You may think that you have a swiss-cheese like situation with dozens of bee entrances, but I suspect that you have far fewer entrances to the actual bee cavity, as bees do not like having to defend multiple entrances, and tend to abscond from trees that rot to the point of forcing them to “live in the open” with too many entrances.
- “But what about returning foragers?” You ask. That’s an astute question. I like duct-taping a “catch box” above the location of the main entrance, a medium USPS flat-rate box is a good size. I put a queen pheromone lure and a damp sponge inside. The pheromone lure attracts the bees and keeps them in the box, and the damp sponge gives them some moisture they’ll need after a foraging trip. A two-inch diameter hole is fine.
- Now that the bees are enclosed and the returning foragers are handled, the arborist or you can take a cordless drill fitted with a cable-tv installer’s 24-inch long drill bit and drill exploratory holes to find the uppermost and lowest reaches of the bee cavity, plugging holes as you go with window putty, just to be sure. The tree can also be “topped” with the bees confined, which should make everyone happier, as the part of the tree that endangers your garage can be removed right off the bat.
- The section of the tree containing the bee cavity can be removed as a single unit, and lowered to the ground away from the trunk of the tree where a qualified beekeeper can split open the log and remove the comb and bees. This is not a job for an inexperienced beekeeper to try alone. Mentoring and oversight is required if the hive is to survive the process.
- If you guess wrong, and cut open the trunk exposing the cavity or exposing an “exit tunnel”, you can jump in with more window screen or pallet wrap to seal the opening. This will require a veil and some panache, so again, an experienced beekeeper is essential.
Unless the day is unusually hot, a colony can tolerate being cooped up for a few hours without ill effects, so there is no need to panic and make hasty moves. In fact, the combination of heights, chainsaws, and stinging insects make this situation one where a steady hand and a calm approach is not optional, but required. If the day is warm, you can spray some water onto the screen mentioned above to help the bees cool the cavity off.
If the job goes badly, and the tree is topped, but the bee cavity has not been removed, you can rip off the screen that covers the main entrance, and come back at the job on a later day when you a better prepared.
I am guessing that you live in the far south from the types of vegetation in the wide shot, so waiting until it is too chilly for bees to fly to do the cutting is assumed to be impractical. If you do have a reliable “temps under 50F” period, I’d do the job during this time, as bees won’t fly much at temps under 50F.
As an aside, you might just find yourself another arborist. Could this be the first “bee tree” he has ever seen? I’ve worked with a lot of tree-topping guys, and they tend to view stinging insects as a normal part of the job, not something over which to throw a hissy fit.
fischer alchemy (makers of Bee-Quick)