I guess I'm joining the club, hope you guys don't mind. I did my first cutout this weekend, in response to a Craigslist posting about bees in a wall. I did the work for free since it was my first, and had a prior agreement with the homeowner that since I was working for free, I would do my best to be careful, but could not guarantee that I wouldn't break a board or something. It was under very old (rotting) wooden siding, inside of a 2x4 stud wall. No insulation, and the bottom row of siding was rotting from being in contact with the ground, allowing the bees access. Also they were entering around a piece of window trim. The termites had opened up some entrances for them too. I advised the homeowner that these issues needed to be addressed, or another group of bees might just move right back in. But I was also doing the work as the impression I got was that they couldn't afford to pay someone to do it. So I doubt they'll properly fix the wall anytime soon.
Anyway, it took about 3 hours to cut out the hive. It was easy work, standing on the ground. But the hive ended up being over 5' from top to bottom. I cut about two feet worth of brood nest off the bottom, and the top 3' was all capped honey. Some of it had honey on one side, and brood on the other side. I tossed that stuff. I also did see some SHB, but those are just about everywhere down here in Houston. Then again, they may have showed up as robbers. I didn't really notice them at first, but as I worked I noticed more of them.
It took about 30 minutes of searching, but I did catch the queen. It was odd. There were 3-4 different "clusters" that bees were all marching too, so any one of them could have had the queen. I worked each cluster as I could, taking a handful of bees and dropping them on my top cover to look for a queen as they scattered. I was starting to worry that she had crawled into another hole in the wall. At last I spotter her on the side of the wall, down near the ground. The bees were not clustering here at all. There were a lot of bees, but they were all lined up, carpeting the wall. The queen was just lined up with them. Odd. When I picked her up she tried to fly, but didn't get far. She did a quick U-turn and actually landed on my leg. Queen catcher in hand, I snatched her up. The bees continued to cluster up around the top of the wall where bits of comb remain. I returned yesterday with some BeeQuick, and easily dispersed them. Upon return yesterday evening, there were no bees left clustering on the wall, and I think they mostly were all in/on the box. I hope to go pick it up tonight.
It was really fun doing the work, despite sweating all the way through all of my clothes, and my bee suit. It was a horrible stick mess of course, but still fun. And I had a good audience. There was mobile home parked behind the house, about 15' from where I was working. The kids watched the entire time as I worked, and occasionally asked questions. I showed them the queen when I caught her, and offered them a chunk of the good sealed honey.
No sooner than I agreed to do that job, I got another call about removing a colony from a tree that needed to come down. And got emails about two more potential jobs, as well as contacts for a lot more Houston calls from guy that works in Austin, but gets Houston calls. It's like the flood gates opened! I just hope my wife will tolerate me getting so many bees. She is warming up to the idea, but not as quickly as I am. It's kind of like she is a candle, and I am the dynamite fuse. I just hope there isn't even an explosion