I am contracted to a business to remove swarms and bee colonies from their facility. Their outbuildings and storage yard take up at least a square mile, it is huge. I got a call last week about bees in their salt storage building at the entrance. The building is only used in the Winter when they need salt for their roads. The building is unheated and the bees were located in a 2 x 6 stud wall with siding on both sides at 28 feet up!!! After renting an extension ladder and removing the siding, I found two colonies side by side. One colony was 36" long by 15" wide by 5-1/2 deep. The other colony in the next stud bay over was 48" long by 15" inches at the bottom and 30" at the top and 5-1/2" deep. It was a big job cutting out the comb, fixing it in frames and relocating the bees to my yard. I estimate the colonies to be 5 to 6 years old based on the size and color of the comb. The thing that amazed me is the longevity of the bees without treatment and I did not find one small hive beetle in either colony or evidence of any wax moth activity. I wonder why in two feral colonies why there was no small hive beetles. Also how they survived so long without any treatment for mites.
The larger colony had built their comb in a curving fashion attached to both sides of the plywood which made it difficult to fit into a frame. They also had over a 100 lbs. of honey. The smaller colony had their entrance at the bottom of the stud bay and the bees had to walk ten feet up to get to the bottom of their comb.
My lessons learned - bring several five gallon buckets of water to wash things as you go, I was covered in honey. Use scaffolding next time as a ladder is too much work. A bee vacuum is a requirement to get the bees out of the way when cutting comb. Cover the ground with a drop cloth or plastic to avoid a big clean up job at the end. Always have a queen catcher attached to your bee suit - as I removed one of the comb sections she was on the next comb and I trapped her in my catcher. Use dishwashing gloves for better grip and easy washing. I got a total of 5 stings over the two days this job took. When you cut the comb out, make sure it will fit in frame in the right direction. I had a frame with me on the ladder and used it to size the comb before cutting. A filet knife is great for this job because it is long and flexible. Bring at least two brood boxes and 20 empty brood frames for the cut out comb. A battery operated circular saw with a sharp blade would have come in handy to make cuts on the plywood siding verses a full size circular saw with a cord. Working from a ladder 28' up with a heavy circular saw was a real pain.