Do they have a loader they could raise up for you to work from?
If so set the ladder up beside it so you could get down when finished.
Not really a "farm" so no, just an old farm house with what is actually a really nice, completely empty (besides the bees) barn.
>So how do I move comb covered in bees down from 20 feet up without smashing a bunch of bees.
It's always a challenge to do a cutout. 20 feet up is more of a challenge. If you can figure out a way to tie into frames while on the ladder it would help. Making "swarm ketching frames" as designed by Dee Lusby will make it easier at the time of the cutout (more work up front). You could put the frames in a five frame nuc and lower that, or make a platform of some kind. Every cutout has it's own peculiar issues.
>My plan was to vac, cut comb into a couple of pieces and lower down on a rope in a 5 gallon bucket. Could I do the same with it covered in bees reasonably well?
It would be tricker.
> To me it seems like the vacuum may create more frustration for me and more angry bees than simply being gentle.
That's my theory.
>I'll have smoke of course, and will bring a spray bottle of sugar water as well.
The bees will already be sticky from you making a mess. Don't put sugar in the water. Just have a spray bottle of water. I would not contribute to their stickiness...
Also have a bee brush, a bucket of water, a bucket with a lid for honey, a buck with a lid for scrap comb and keep the lids on those buckets whenever you can to keep the bees out of them.
Swarm catching frames look nice (http://www.beesource.com/files/swarmfrm.pdf
), but I don't think I'll have the time to make that happen. I was planinng on pre-rubber banding a bunch of frames, but I don't know how comfortable I'd be trying to cut comb up and fit it into frames while up on the ladder. Seems like work better left for ground level to me. How important is it to keep the correct cell orientation. These combs are narrow and long, so it will probably take about three pieces of comb to fill a frame unless I strap them in rotated 90*.
And I'm with you on the sticky mess, just water it is.
This is only my second year, but have helped my mentor with 30+ cut-outs so take my advice for what its worth....not claiming to be an expert. We NEVER use smoke....it drives the queen into places that you may not be able to reach. We ALWAYS use a modified vacuum....last cut-out there was less than 5 dead bees on the plywood in front of the hive when we dumped them out. We are running over 90% for queen capture... Many of them caught with the vacuum. We always start in the morning...how early is temperature dependent. Again....my 2 cents.
I think I might put together a simple bee vac between tonight and tomorrow, just in case I decide I need it.
Re: Smoke, I was planning on trying to find the queen the best I can before lighting the smoker and trying to get her in a clip. The hive is relatively small and open, I think I'll be able to get a pretty good look at the majority of the comb, I think. Of course all that changes when there's hundreds/thousands of bees buzzing around and trying to sting ya.
Thanks to everyone for the pep talk and information.