how to move wild honey bees

StephenB(6PA)August 29, 2004

Between the roof and the interior ceiling of a room connected to my barn, a large colony of wild honey bees have settled in. I want to remove them so I can re-roof the structure. But I'm not sure how to remove them without destroying the bees--which I don't want to do. I was thinking possibly I could smoke them out, but I have no idea how this is done. I live on a small farm, and there should be plenty of other good locations for this colony. Any suggestions?

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have bees in hole in tree and would like to hive them.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2004 at 3:19PM
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In either of these cases, if you don't know what you're doing, call an experienced beekeeper. He may let you help. It may cost you some $$. If you do it yourself, you'll need the full set-up of veil, gloves, coveralls, smoker, etc. The bees will not take kindly to being disturbed. You should expect to get stung.

In the barn, you have to deconstruct the barn and remove all the combs and the queen. you will have to smoke them or use Bee-go to drive the bees out. You can spray them with sugar/water syrup and that will keep them busy for a while. Some guys use a vacuum or blower to remove the bees. If you can get the queen out unharmed,and place her and the combs in a hive readily or easily, you may be able to save the colony. You have to put the new hive close to the old location and hope the bees scent-fan their sisters into the new box. You'll have to remove ALL of the broodcomb and honeycomb from the barn roof and tie or otherwise place the combs in frames in the hive. The bees will want to return to the old location and it may take several days for all of them to figure out that their home is gone. They will want to try to rebuild it. Once the bees have gone into the box, you can move it to another location at night.

As far as the bee tree goes, it's tough to remove the bees from one. It's easier to cut the tree or section of tree where they are. Then you just place the queen and her bees and combs into a hive body and leave them alone for a while until they find their way to the new hive. If you can't cut the tree, you can use an escape cone made of 1/8" hardware cloth over the hole and put a hive body close to the escape. That will get the field bees out so they can't get back in, but the queen and house bees will remain. You can try to smoke them or use Bee-Go as described above. Then you have to try to lure them into the hive with swarm lure, brood frames or honey or something. Unless you know you have the queen (and she is unharmed), it will be difficult to get the bees from the tree. It's probably not worth the effort financially. I hate to kill bees, but the practical decision would probably be to do so. I have a bee tree nearby that issues a swarm every so often, so I leave them alone. Weather or mites will probably get them eventually. So unless your tree-bees are a nuisance, I'd leave them alone. You can buy a package of bees or an established hive more easily than you can remove them from a tree.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2004 at 12:55AM
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beemantn(West TN)

I somewhat agree and somewhat disagree with ncbeegee. It will be difficult if you are willing to go to the trouble but it can be done. If you are considering beekeeping as an option, get in touch with a local beekeeper who will teach you. Most guys don't mind training someone else as there are too few beekeepers in the world.

The Barn:

You will need to have a complete hive box with cover, bottom board, and frames. You should buy "drawn" frames from a beekeeper. This will give you a more likely scenario for getting the bees into the hive box. * You will want to do this just after dark when all the bees are in the hive. * Of course, you will need gloves, a smoker, and a veil. You can tuck your pants into 2 pair of socks. Bees crawl at night. * Tear out the eave in the bar where the bees are located. Remove ALL of the comb and brood. Take 2 or 3 frames out of the center of the hive box and place the brood inside the hive. You can also place this brood inside empty frames and hold them in place with rubber bands if you like but it isn't necessary. ** Leave the box about 6 or 8 inches from where the bees were removed for about 24 hours. There is a good chance the queen will be on the brood when you place it in the hive box. If at all possible, try to locate her on the brood. If she is not, try to find her as you dismantle the brood comb and place her on the brood inside the box. I would not use beego on the dismantled area because this could completely drive them away. * You will want to use a hookbill knife, like a linoleum knife to cut the comb as cleanly as possible away from the barn. **When you come back the next evening, have a heavy duty stapler with 3/8" staples, and a piece of window screen large enough to enclose the hive entrance. **When you have the hive entrance stapled shut, take a ratcheting tie down and strap around the bottom and top of the box as tightly as possible. This way you can move it easily and the box should stay together when you move it. ** Find a place where you can place the hive away from your house facing either south or east. Place the hive on top of a couple concrete blocks with the entrance just a little lower than the rear so that water will run out of the hive and not into it. **Get "Beekeeping for dummies" and read, read, read!!! There is a 50/50 chance these bees will stay, but this is the best method in my opinion.

The Tree:

If you are not willing to cut down and destroy the tree, don't bother. As ncbeegee said, they will probably split at some point and you can get a swarm off of it. Watch it closely in the early spring for this.

Otherwise, cut down and section the tree. As gently as possible split the tree open with a maul or ax or wedge. A wedge and hammer is the best way. Remove the comb as above and follow the instructions except that you should shake the bees off the log in front of the hive box and move the tree as far away as possible.

You will need to feed the bees all winter so the won't starve and will be strong in the spring.

Hope this helps! Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2004 at 9:14AM
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Aloha ncbeegee & beemantn. Thanks for the advice, that's what I thought. The tree bees are not in the way so I'll let them stay.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2004 at 12:31AM
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Thanks for the good advice. Since my main purpose here is to re-roof the structure, not get into bee-keeping, I guess I should look for the quickest, most effective way to get rid of the bees. "Bee-go" has been mentioned: From what I gather, this is a product which drives bees away, but does not kill them. If that's correct, would it make sense to squirt some of this into the opening where they enter the eaves? If that would move most of them out (hopefully to find another home), then maybe a mop-up spraying with Raid would clear the area so that I could get on with my work. Reactions?

    Bookmark   August 31, 2004 at 5:11PM
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ccrb1(z5 IND)

beego is the most offensive smell a human can smell. If you just squirt it into the building, even the exterior, it will stink for a long time.

Beego should only be used on the prescribed fume board.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2004 at 11:14PM
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beemantn(West TN)

As a who loves the honeybee... if you are going to drive them away, is there any way you can wait until spring? In the spring, they will be able to establish another home and make enough honey to carry them through the next winter. But... sometimes, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do:)

    Bookmark   September 7, 2004 at 1:28AM
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ccrb1(z5 IND)

further to the beego idea, I've heard it suggested several times that spraying beego in a wall with a bee nest in it, or things similar to that, will cause the bees to flee.

This is not the case. Beego will NOT empty out a brood nest. Enough of it might sicken the bees but they will not abandon a nest.

Beego in a tree hollow or anywhere else is a BAD idea.

In a house wall, it's disastrous, as the stink will last and last and last.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2004 at 6:35PM
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Ray_Scheel(z8b/SS31 E. TX)

Following up on the tree question:

I've had a big post oak (3' diameter) fall, with the canopy along / on one portion of my circular drive, with a hive in the trunk right where the major branches start splitting.

The entrance is a knothole currently facing straight down from the trunk, thoughthe trunk is still about 3-4' off the ground. Over the last couple of days it seems like the knot they were using as an entrance was getting larger and that they had an awful lot of bees working the netrance. This morning it is obvious they are building a comb on the exterior of the trunk. Any thoughts on why they might be doing that beyond asuming the hive body in the trunk is a wreck and they are building alternative arangements to hold what they are bringing in from the field currently.

I'm trying to get things together to build a hive and have found a guy who used to raise bees (but gave up) to borrow a veil and smoker from, and have coveralls that can be pressed into service. I was planning on starting to raise bees eventually, but not right at this moment...

If I get a bait hive set up, I'm presuming I should remove the comb they are building from the tree as a start to getting them into the new hive as well, followed immediately by putting up an escape cone. I don't see any problems with setting up a hive just inches from the knothole. Should I have the hive off to one side a few inches and elevated so that the bottom of the bait hive is about 8" from the knothole, or where the cone is pointing at the top of the new hive?

    Bookmark   September 28, 2004 at 10:49AM
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ccrb1(z5 IND)

if the bait hive has fully drawn comb AND capped honey in it, they might do all right with this. I have always been skeptical that the queen will eventually walk out the comb last and walk into the hive, but I've been told it can work.

You should be careful about damaging the comb in the tree, as you could kill or trap bees, or even the queen.

The cone should exit right at (or slightly inside the hive. The hive entrance is large enough they can come and go without the cone getting in the way.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2004 at 9:29AM
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Ray_Scheel(z8b/SS31 E. TX)

Well, any damage to the comb in the tree is already done, though I'll be as careful as I can when actually tearing into the trunk with the chainsaw. When the tree hit the ground a major branch about a foot in diameter snapped near the trunk at a point just a few feet from the hive entrance on the main body of the trunk. They appear to still be coming and going ok, and I'm not going to be working on removing the tree until I get the hive taken care of.

It turns out they were not building comb on the exterior of the tree but just forming a hanging sheet of bees overnight - we've had a bit of a cool front move through that may have triggered behavior I hadn't noticed before (the tree has been down over a week now while I try to figure out a plan). What I thought was a solid sheet with structure was gone when I got back in the evening, but was present again this morning.

Thinking out loud:

I picked up a smoker and veil from a former beekeeper earlier today, and tonight I'm going to be building a top bar hive, which should lend itself to positing under hte trunk with the escape cone dumping into a slot in the top that is screened to force the bees further traffic through the main entrance. I'll see if I can acquire come capped honey to tie to a bar as a coax, and I've got some old beeswax I can use for starter srips that was a keepsake of sorts from when my grandfather kept bees (I've got a couple of pie pans's worth, and I won't be using all of it, so I'll still have plenty as a keepsake if this doesn't work.).

We've still got quite a bit of flower activity here, and the bees are still working, so I'm hoping that I can arrange a transfer one way or the other before they run out of resources to try to finish out the new place. After I get the new hive and cone in place for a few days I'll start working on clearing the tree a bit more (with the entrance plugged so any bees "drummed" out by the chainsaw will end up in the new hive and not swarming me, and with me occasionally checkign the escape cone to make sure it doesn't get clogged by the exodus) and will then salvage what I can for the bee's use this winter from what I'm assuming will be a mess inside the trunk.

In thinking further, I'll probably use a wood borer bit the sized of a wine cork or handy dowel to try to determine where hive cavity is before working to remove that section, and use a few screw hooks and a come-along to assist lifting off a section without crushing more...

Query: Is twine an appropriate choice to use to tie old comb onto bars?

    Bookmark   September 29, 2004 at 2:31PM
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ccrb1(z5 IND)

twine is fine, although I prefer monofilament line. I also prefer a langstroth hive to a top bar hive, simply because the frames are four sided. I don't think a top-bar design lends itself to this application.

Checking the cone is important. It must be large enough for drones and the queen.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2004 at 9:02PM
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Ray_Scheel(z8b/SS31 E. TX)

Thanks for your feedback. Its helping me to know my ideas are not totally crazy.

A big part of the reason I'm going top bar instead of langstroth is financial, but I'm using a set of plans that will allow use of langstroth frames or can be supered with langstroth boxes when I get into a position where I can convert. I am prepared to build a rough frame to hold salvaged cone if necessary to hold the peices together. I managed to build 90% of the hive last night using a circular saw and wood I already had laying about, I'm short two 1x2s to rip an edge from and groove to make the top bars, and can't find the section of metal screen I thought I had laying around that will be used to fashion the exit cone and to steer traffic thorugh the body of the new hive.

Even if I could afford it, I don't have time for an order to come in before starting the process of trying to move this hive. It looks like I will finish building and painting tonight, and will get up early Saturday to rig up the exit cone and start steering all hive traffic into/through the new hive.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2004 at 9:56AM
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Ray_Scheel(z8b/SS31 E. TX)

I finished building the the new hive Saturday morning, then put it in place with the escape cone and started clearing branches around the tree. I actually had to clear a couple just to set the hive up under the trunk. Between cutting branches I kept sealing off more spots where they were escaping aorund the cone. Eventually I realized that was a losing battle, and decided that since I was suited up to work bees anyway, I might as well try to locate the hollow they were in and move them. I took a small bit and a dowel to fit and probed around the trunk to find spots where I knew a hollow was near the surface.

When I went to start the neighbors borrowed chainsaw, I realized it was out of gas and that I didn't have any premixed 2-stroke fuel handy either. Tried using a bow saw, but that was no fun. So, I put a crosscut blade in the circular saw and did plunge cuts to carve blocks, then a crowbar to break out chunks. The first hollow had dead wood but no bees, worked on another spot for a while and got nowhere as far as actually removing wood. Found another bulge over what was once an old knot near the entrance hole (the entrance cone was still working to steer hive traffic mainly thorugh it instead of around me) I pried back the square I'd cut and out flew a bee, and I saw a flash of comb behind it. So I topped off the smoker (having already realized that week-dead oak leaves were much better smoker fuel than the smoker fuel that came witht he borrowed smoker) and popped out the inital chunk, then decided to carve out a bit more. At this point I really began to appreciate the smoker.

Turns out the comb was aligend edgewide to the direction of hte fall, it had a little new wax on the top edge, and was a little squised looking on the bottom edge, but was in remarkably good shape when I started, and they had a few peices of brand new comb on the new top of the hive.

The first couple of peices of comb pretty much had to be torn out to make enough room to work, all honey, mostly old comb. The rest of the comb I had to cut in half to pull out and so it would fit on the bars I was tying it to. I started just using Buck skinning knife, but after the first peice, I got a bread knife to have soem reach to cut the combloose way back in the hollow. Each chunk was between 12-15" long and about 8" in height when tied to the bars. Of the peices, about 3-4 where a mix of uncapped honey and brood, which I put near the main entrance to the new hive, and around 10 were honey. I kept a few chunks of the honeycomb that were too small to tie on after making sure they were free of brood. On the brood comb, I even tied on the little peices.

When I headed in for the night, long after dark, I think only one sliver of honey was left back in a hollw I couldn't fish it out of and I'd gotten all of the broodcomb in the main cavity. While I'd been working, many of the bees had clustered in the cone/passage. At one point I was afraid they were jammed so I expanded the opening, but it appears they were just clustering. I think most of the bees were still in the corners of the old hive. There may be another section of hollow yet towards the base of the trunk, and that sliver heading up of honeycomb that I'll need to try to get access to if the hive has not fully moved downstair by Monday.

Since thier old home is now wide open and all the food and brood is a walk downstairs, I hope they will find their way down quickly. I didn't see the queen, but I was preoccupied transfering the comb and figured morning light would tell if they had decided to move on down, though by the time I was done, the new hive box had started getting pretty full of bees.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2004 at 2:09AM
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Read this again. Good thread.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 3:14PM
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