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Emergency Cut-out in a Felled Walnut

5322 Views 18 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  Christo
I've been a lurker and an information sponge until now. I'm hoping for some input so I don't make any big mistakes.

Here's the situation. A local tree trimmer took out a big walnut. Turns out it was hollow and has a good sized colony living in it. The tree has been taken down and moved to a log yard. For the most part the colony is intact and the cluster looks good but is now laying horizontal instead of the vertical position it was formerly in. I was offered a chance to save the bees if I want to and am hoping I can.

This evening after work I sealed up both open ends with plywood and screws. I sealed a cut through the log nearest the comb with caulk. The big end is about 4' across and the small end is about 2'. I propped the small end opening open a little so the bees can get in and out as needed, but it won't be open to flowing air. Before closing it up I gave them about 7 pounds of bee sugar blocks just in case they were getting low on stores. At this point they should be protected from the cold wet mixed precipitation that's predicted for the next 3 days.

Our weather is supposed to warm to 58F on Sunday and about the same on Monday then dive back down to winter temps through at least the next 10 days.

My big question.....Do I jump in and do a cut-out on Sunday when temps are in the 50s and get them in a hive box that's more protected as our weather rides the roller coaster to spring or do I just leave them alone and work on the cut-out when temps are warmer?

The trimmer is very pro bee and said we can leave them in the log yard as long as needed to hive them.

Any input would be greatly appreciated.

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Due to the all of the circumstances, My vote is to ride the rollercoaster out and wait. Interesting move on the sugar.
Tough call, the first thought, wait until they're stronger and can stand the move. The second thought is the comb oriented so they can still raise brood.
One thing I would recommend is don't button them up too much, see if you can figure out a little venting with the plywood so they can circulate the air in the cavity, especially if they're in contact with the caulk.
With the weather roller coaster we are on in spring, sooner may be better than later. The log is probably laying on it's side rather than upright. This will totally disrupt the bees ability to access their normal activities. Imagine your house on it's side. I'd use the brief open window this weekend to my advantage.
Ask the tree trimmer to stand the log back up on end so the bees can get things in order and put a hive body on top to get them use to going in and out of it. Then when the roller coaster comes to an end you can do a trap-out if they still have a queen? If there is no rush you may get several starts from them.

Good luck and have fun.
If the log was dropped on the ground it could be a real mess inside. Honey combs break loose squashing bees and drowning them in honey, brood combs pressed against each other with no way for new bees to hatch out or nurse bees to cover and keep warm. Hopefully the queen did not get squished also. From the several bee trees I have dealt with that have hit the ground they need to be opened up ASAP. If they are found and lowered to the ground you can keep them going for a good while.
First I would ask the logger if the log is valuable that will have a big impact on what can or can not be done.

If it's a valuable log the logger is not going to want you cutting on it further to get the bees out and will have a limited amount of time he can wait till it needs sawn.

Thanks for all the input!!!!

The log only has firewood value. I can cut away at it in any way needed to extract the bees. I was able to look up inside and the comb really looks ok, isn't smashed and there is distance between each row. The bees aren't in direct contact with the caulk. I just sealed the cut that was facing upward to stop the chance for water to drip in from above. There is still a chainsaw width cut facing downward for venting and movement. The log is about 12' long and might be a huge fall hazard if it's stood back up. They were in a good looking cluster and active when I looked up inside to check them.

I worry that if I do a cutout this weekend they won't be oriented and settled enough to handle the next drop in temperature on Tuesday. Is a day in a new setting enough time to get settled? I have extra frames of honey, comb and sugar to provide them in their new setting. Seems like about the same number of risks for going in now or waiting a while.
Is there anyway to get the log cut from the current 12' length to a shorter size that you are able to stand it upright? Chances are the bees / comb are not the whole way in the 12' piece. Just start cutting at the opposite end of where the bees are, cutting off pieces at a time until you come to where the comb starts. Hopefully you can get the log down to a more manageable piece that you can load on the back of your pickup and take it home to stand up in the proper position.

Currently, with the comb on it's side, I'm not sure if the bees can successfully raise brood that way.

I would NOT cut them out this weekend - you will just end up having a mess trying to get the comb into frames with bees flying everywhere. As it gets later in the day, all of those bees will just end up dying - as they will try to go back to the log rather than the new home you have for them.

I would cut the log to a manageable size, take it home, and put it upright. Cover the top so no rain or snow can get into where the bees are. Once the weather warms up - probably sometime in late April or early May, then do your cutout. I'm afraid messing them now will be a certain death sentence.
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I asked the tree trimmer more questions. The monster log, which I thought was the trunk, turns out to be a giant limb that was growing at about 30 degrees off horizontal. That's good news for the angle of the comb. It's not too far off where they built it. The other good news is that the limb was roped down, not dropped. The only jarring it took was when they rolled it off the truck to where it's sitting now. Guess that's why the comb looked totally intact.

I'm going to let it sit until our weather warms a lot more and hope that's the right decision. When it warms to the 50s this weekend I'm going to give it a glance and make sure they have some clear passages for cleansing flights and ventilation.

Great to have people with much more experience helping me to save a few more bees.

Thank you for all the input...........Chris
Wow, they sound like they really did care about preserving it. Cool to meet people like that. And sounds like it came from a massive tree.

I'm sure you've thought about it, but make sure they have the limb laying the right way. Top side on top. I don't know if there is a completely right answer whether to do it now or later, just do what you can and pray they turn out right. Bees are funny, they make it when I don't think they will, and they disappear when I think they're fine, lol.
Excellent news on the tree trimmers part, good on them. With that said, I would wait for warmer weather now. As senilking said roll it over to make the top side up. This might take a little looking and thinking but look for the bottom edges of the comb.
Good call on orientation. I was wondering how I'd figure out which way should be up and didn't think to check for to bottom edges of the comb. I might need to get creative when it comes to finding a way to roll this beast. I can't imagine I'd be lucky enough to find it pointing the right direction.
Since it is in the tree trimmers log, ask them if they have a cant hook or peavy to roll it with. Be very careful, logs can and will get away from you and pin you to the ground, they are nothing to fool around with.
Here's an update on the walnut log bees. I set 10 frames of honey outside the log in a hive box around May 1st. They used it as a resource and moved/ate it all in about a week. I hoped this would help get them through until the weather warmed. We had our first hot weekend on May 24 which is when I decided to do the cutout.

I started the chainsaw at 10am and left the site at 6pm that evening. I banded all the comb, honey and brood that was salvageable into frames and moved it into a hive box. I never actually saw the queen that day, but when the log was mostly empty the bees oriented and ALL moved into the box. I made the assumption she ended up there as well. I wasn't under any time pressure to relocate the hive, so I figured maybe I should wait until I saw evidence that there was a laying queen in the hive. It was a tough cutout and I was worried that she could have been injured or squished. Thought some time would allow the hive to regroup and create a new queen from the eggs or larva I relocated if they needed to.

I'd been giving them a peek every week but didn't see anything that led me to believe it was a successful removal. Today I went digging deeper and found huge amounts of pollen, eggs, larva, capped brood and a QUEEN!!!! She had moved up onto the drawn comb I provided. It was a good bee day today. These Michigan winter survivor bees are the nicest ones I've had opportunity to work. Not too may hives would have almost ignored me and my Stihl like these did during the process.

I took a few pictures during the process....when my hands weren't too sticky to touch the camera. I think the link to the pics is below if things worked.
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Christo, looks like you did a real good job , way to go , glad you have a healthy laying queen after all your hard work .
Here's an update on the walnut log bees. I set 10 frames of honey outside the log in a hive box around May 1st. They used it as a resource and moved/ate it all in about a week. I hoped this would help get them through until the weather warmed. We had our first hot weekend on May 24 which is when I decided to do the cutout.

I took a few pictures during the process....when my hands weren't too sticky to touch the camera. I think the link to the pics is below if things worked.
Fantastic! Thanks for the photos and congrats on the successful cutout.

I've found trying to save honey comb to be more trouble than it's worth if there's a lot of it. I usually grab honey comb and crush/strain and feed it back to them later. They can use the fed honey to rebuild or reconnect/strengthen the brood comb into frames. Did I understand correctly that you cut/trimmed/framed the honey comb? Was it new/soft/white, or had it been there a couple seasons? Was it worth the trouble?
I started the morning out trying to take ALL the comb, both brood and honey. I think you're right about the honey being more trouble than it's worth. It was a mess. What I kept running into was that there was brood on one side of the comb and honey on the other. So I had to deal with the mess to avoid losing any of the brood. About half way into the process I started ditching the honey as long as it was free of brood. I knew the hive was going to stay on site until I was sure there was a laying queen, so I laid the comb out on a nearby log for them to feed on. This had been an active hive for many more than just a few years, there was some really old looking comb in the hive.

I still can't believe how docile this hive is. This easy going temperament and the fact that they survived a terrible winter makes them a great find and worth all the effort to hopefully split them and keel them going.

Maybe the biggest benefit of this whole process was the bee education I was able to share with the tree trimmer and the person that owns the land the hive is on. They were both deathly afraid of bees when this process started. Now they have both been able to see that honey bees are not the same as yellow jackets and don't attack when you walk near the hive. The trimmer has even offered me his land to place hives on. Cool experience for all.
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