Extracting a Colony in the Winter?
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  1. #1
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    Default Extracting a Colony in the Winter?

    Have a friend that has a Bed & Breakfast.... They also have a colony of bees living in one of the walls... Exterior is logs.... Interior framed and dry walled...
    Their business booms spring, summer and fall.... Winters are dead...
    Since the logs have many places for the girls to egress from the building, the only way to extract this colony is from the inside... cutting into the dry wall. And now is a good time with business nil... Problem here in Montana is that it's a bit chilly outside..
    Extracting the colony would not be a problem... What to do with them after is the question...
    Any suggestions?
    Chuck
    SAEPE EXPERTUS, SEMPER FIDELIS, FRATRES AETERNI
    (Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever)

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Extracting a Colony in the Winter?

    They may be a bit more fiesty. I did a cutout in February and the bees were super mean. Its also alot harder on the bees to recover, even if they could make it thru. They'de likely die or dramatically decrease in population rendering the potential life saving cutout nill.

    Cutouts take a day, maybe two, see if you can work with them to wait until bloom starts. You could create a plastic tent around the area to isolate it from the rest of the building.

    Also if you arn't very experienced you may want to consider not doing the cutout on someones home or place of bussiness. Or atleast let the people know.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Extracting a Colony in the Winter?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Walker View Post
    Extracting the colony would not be a problem...What to do with them after is the question...
    Any suggestions?
    Famous last words Definitely sounds like the inside is the way to go, have you identified where the colony is? What do you mean what to do with them afterwards? I would treat them like any other colony I removed from a structure, rubber band the important stuff to frames and put them in a hive body, move to a yard. As burns375 suggested, wait until something is blooming (which =s egg laying has commenced at a higher rate). However, if your ultimate goal is to just get them out while you can, it could be a crap shoot especially if you don't find the queen and there are no eggs/two day old larvae to transfer.
    Please excuse me, I am now free to go manage & treat ;)
    my ladies the best way I know how.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Extracting a Colony in the Winter?

    One thing I do before I start cutting is use a laser thermometer to locate the center of the cluster, works well with sheet rock. Good luck

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Extracting a Colony in the Winter?

    Do you have a dead out with stores you could transfer them into? It is the only thing I can think of that might lessen the disruption. You would still cut out and frame the comb, and then give it back to them once the blooms start.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  7. #6
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    Feb 2009
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    Default Re: Extracting a Colony in the Winter?

    Wakker,

    Why not build, buy, borrow or steal a "Robo-Vac" (plans are on the net) which will just suck them into a super or two with empty drawn frames and honey filled frames and you'r done for the time being. All you need to do is open the sheetrock on the inside with a saber saw or a hand sheet rock saw at the 'hot spot" as noted in Post #4 above. You can order a queen from Hawaii today as a back-up. You may or may not be able salvage some brood if available and honey comb to put with the bees. You can work inside a closed room or "tent it off" as noted in Post #2 above. You might need a "helper" beekeeper to hand you things so you can work continuously. Should be pretty easy.

    I use my self-built RoboVac with a hose to recover low swarms in trees or house walls and with a long PVC pipe to get them out of treetops. The bees get sucked directly into a 10 frame Lang with one or more supers of drawn frames. Then the job is finished.

    Let us know how it goes !

    Good luck,
    Steve

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Extracting a Colony in the Winter?

    Well I have everything that I need to do the extraction....
    I like the idea of the laser thermometer... Don't have one of 'em but I have used one before... However, I do have a stethoscope and have pretty much found where they are in the wall... The interior is typical 16" centers and they are in one of those bays and it doesn't appear that they used any fire blocking in the wall so there's no telling how much comb is in there or how long it might be. They have been in there for over a year!
    I have my bee-vac and what is appealing is that they are all together in one big ball!! Should be any easy vac job!
    Cutting into the drywall is no big deal either... I have done a lot of drywall work.
    My worry is taking them from a relatively warm environment (One wall is at about 60 degrees), vacuuming them into a hive body that is going to have four walls below freezing when they go outside and into the bee yard....
    Waiting until the 1st bloom would be ideal, however they will have customers for the B&B... And the owners don't want to customers to panic ...
    Last edited by The Walker; 02-07-2018 at 10:04 PM.
    SAEPE EXPERTUS, SEMPER FIDELIS, FRATRES AETERNI
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  9. #8
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    Default Re: Extracting a Colony in the Winter?

    Walker,

    I've done cut outs in wall cavities (in the summer) where the comb was 5 feet long and shingled on a diagonal. I cut out pieces horizontally the right height with a box knife and worked on a table to rubber band them into empty frames. A real slippery sloppy bee ridden mess. Later I used cotton string with a pre made trucker's knot to tie the comb into place. That worked better, but still a mess. If shingled, there might be two or three wide long pieces of comb plus two narrower, shorter pieces.

    Start with more than enough spare equipment, because you won't get a second chance. Wear 7 Mil nitrile gloves so you can feel things and tie knots, a 3/4 full bucket of water so you can wash your hands, a tarp on the floor that you can wash later, and a couple of clean empty five gallon buckets that you can put all of the comb and honey scrap in for later harvest for yourself. Maybe a folding card table to work on. Once you have gotten through this one you will be ready to do another.

    All the best!
    Steve

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Extracting a Colony in the Winter?

    Thanks for everyone's inputs!!! They're all great suggestions!
    I'm guessing that whether this is done in the winter or summer, that bedroom is going to have a few of the girls flying around in it!
    I have use rubber bands in the past to contain the comb, but I like the idea about trying the string! But like what was stated, either avenue is going to be a mess....
    Having done this in the past, I have just removed one section of comb at a time since but the comb has always been on the wall opposite the cut-out... Call it luck
    But with the drywall being 1. The warmer of the two walls & 2. The straightest and smoothest in surfaces, I have a feeling that even though I know where the ball of bee are at, I could be cutting right through the comb when I remove the drywall....
    Has anyone ever did a trap-out wherein the comb was left in the wall? Does it ever start to go rancid and start smelling?
    SAEPE EXPERTUS, SEMPER FIDELIS, FRATRES AETERNI
    (Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever)

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Extracting a Colony in the Winter?

    Leaving old comb in a wall has the potential of lots of problems, smell, ants, rodents, etc.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Extracting a Colony in the Winter?

    Unless you are a building contractor, have the agreement with the owners that wall repair and outside log repair is their responsibility. If you are a contractor, you might choose to bid for the repairs.

    Advise them that bees will return unless every access point is sealed.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Extracting a Colony in the Winter?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Walker View Post
    I could be cutting right through the comb when I remove the drywall....
    Has anyone ever did a trap-out wherein the comb was left in the wall? Does it ever start to go rancid and start smelling?
    Not if you are cutting the sheet rock along the framing, this also usually prevents cutting into electricity also I would not rely on a stethoscope to identify where the colony is. Thermal camera (my favorite) or laser thermometer is the way to go. All trap outs leave the comb in the wall, which is why I am not a fan of them, and I definitely would not try it winter because you are separating the colony. Also that's a long haul, and I am certain customers would freak out about all the bees outside the wall figuring out the trap. Yes, comb left in cavities can become rancid, and will always be a future invitation for bees to move into the same part of the cavity or close by.
    If you are worried about temperature change, use boxes that have already had bees in them (propolized) and insulate the sides and/or inner cover once outside. Hops B, brought up some really good points also. Your friend hopefully is helping
    Please excuse me, I am now free to go manage & treat ;)
    my ladies the best way I know how.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Extracting a Colony in the Winter?

    I'm not a contractor, in the general sense of the word.... But I do know my way around construction. And FONH following the studs is the only way to go... It's the cross cut that bothers me.
    I would never attempt to go through the "Log" side of the home, only the internal side... I have done several trap-outs now, but have yet to capture the queen.. Fortunately they have all been in remote sites, away from any living type quaters, and caught quickly upon the swarms arrival... Still a long process...
    Well I guess it will all come down to whether or not the owners want me to go in... Until that happens it's a moot point.
    But I do appreciate all of the inputs and I am going to look into a the thermal cameras and thermometers...!!!! This is one item that I do not have in my arsenal of weapons!!!
    SAEPE EXPERTUS, SEMPER FIDELIS, FRATRES AETERNI
    (Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever)

  15. #14
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    Default

    I don't know where you are at. I am in Michigan and am awaiting April to do 4 cutouts. Assuming the bees make it through the winter. I would not do anything until the bees can handle the weather. Otherwise you might as well kill them and clean out the wallspace. People seem to be ok if you explain it to them. When you open the hive the bees will gorge themselves cleaning up honey. They will need to fly to empty their bowels afterward. And the will need a flow to help them build new comb.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Extracting a Colony in the Winter?

    I did one about a month ago similar to your situation. Don't vac the cluster, that's way too much stress on cold bees. Bring the vac and use it for stranglers, but shake the bees into the new hive. Give them some empty comb space to cluster back onto, and surround them with as many banded honeycombs as you can, then insulate the box. The hive I removed is still alive and looking good as of 2 days ago. Here is a video of how I did it:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSpE...ature=youtu.be
    Mistakes are the best taechers

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Extracting a Colony in the Winter?

    Since you say extracting the colony would not be a problem I'm assuming you are experienced and we don't have to talk about that.

    I googled the 10 day forecast for where you are and yes, it's pretty cold.

    https://weather.com/weather/tenday/l/59864:4:US

    In these kind of temperatures I do not think you should try cutting and pasting comb into frames. It will never be perfect and in the cold will make it very hard for the bees. I would suggest putting 3 well made brood frames (not with actual brood in them) into the bee box, preferably one with some honey. Then dump the bees from the cutout into that, at the same time discarding all comb from the cutout into a bucket or container.

    Once the dry wall is removed, take some time to study the comb layout of the hive and plan how to remove it. So that once you start you can get the job done in minimum time. Then work quickly and efficiently, taking combs out one at a time, dumping the bees into the hive and then throwing combs into the bin. Get it finished and close the hive.

    The closed hive should then be placed in a warm room, to ensure the bees don't die of cold plus they can move and form a cluster.

    After that, go back to where the cutout was and start your cleanup.

    24 hours later take the hive home and open the door. If no honey the hive will need feeding, which in that situation is a whole subject in itself. But a comb with honey is a much better option if that is possible. Next time the temperature gets over 50 give it a quick check.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Extracting a Colony in the Winter?

    Walker,

    A previous poster mentioned the use of an Infra red (IR) thermal gun to locate the sweet spot of the cluster. You can purchase such a thermal gun from Harbor Freight in Missoula just an hour to your south for under $30.00.

    FYI: If you tape a large sheet of butcher paper or wrapping paper on the wall over the general area where the cluster is located you can measure the temperature and write the values on the paper at a number of spots, and then contour the values in 2 or 5 degree intervals (contour lines) and find the exact sweet spot before cutting into the sheet rock.

    Steve

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