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Help with moving colony  RSS feed

 
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Our rental house has bees in the walls on the house.  It's happened before, a few years ago a professional came and removed the bees from the walls and then kept the bees/queen.  After that my husband thoroughly cleaned the area where the bees were so they wouldn't return.  Well, after a few years a new colony set up home in the house one stud over from the original place.  At first we thought it was just a small colony.  My husband didn't want to pay $500 to have them removed again, so he bought all the materials to safely remove the bees.  Our plan was to remove them and then let them free near our garden (different property) and hope they would find a new natural home.  Yesterday we started the process and were surprised by how huge the colony is.  The size was about 16"x48".  We were only able to get about 1/3 of the colony into the vacuum bucket before it lost suction from all the bees.  So we brought 1/3 of the bees and 1/3 of their honeycomb to our house.  We didn't plan on actually being bee-keepers and producing honey, just wanted to help our garden and needed to remove the bees from the rental house as it wasn't safe inside the house anymore.  So we set up a pallet standing up near a bunch of down tree limbs.  We thought the pallet might simulate the environment they were in inside the wall of the house.  and then placed their honeycomb in the pallet.  then let them out the bucket.  This morning they were swarming near the pallet and I saw a lot of the bees inside the pallet, so I am hoping they will make it their new home.

So I realize this is not perfect.  And now that I see how many bees the colony has, I wish we could get some bee boxes and actually do the bee-keeping thing. But we aren't prepared for that and it isn't in the budget to buy all that equipment at the moment. I'm wondering if there is anything I can do to help out this colony so it doesn't die?

Here is a picture of the house were the bees were.  The hole cut is from the last time, this colony is to the left of it and is slightly bigger than the already cut out hole.
LRG_DSC02375.JPG
[Thumbnail for LRG_DSC02375.JPG]
 
steward
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Location: woodland, washington
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whereabouts are you located? honey bees won't typically last long exposed to the elements like I imagine they'll be in the pallet arrangement you described. if you're not planning on ever harvesting any honey, you can build a suitable space for them without spending any more money.

you could tear apart a pallet, for example, and knock it back together into a box. you really just need a relatively waterproof roof and one or more entrances. the bees will do a lot of weatherproofing on their own.

when I was doing cutouts regularly (removing colonies and combs from structures), I never used a vacuum. I would just cut the comb out as gently as possible and tie it into frames. set those frames in a box, and the bees will go to it on their own, particularly once you've got combs with brood. the brood is actually the most important. honey comb can be a bit of a pain, and you might be better off just crushing and straining the honey out to feed back to the bees.

your odds of identifying the queen are pretty slim, and it's not really important. just be as gentle as you can with all the comb. using a vacuum is a pretty reliable way to maim and kill a lot of bees, likely including the queen. it's quick and easy, but if you're concerned about the well-being of these critters, it's probably best to choose another option. that said, some folks have had good luck modifying vacuums to be a lot gentler, so it could still be a good option.

once you've got all the bees and comb out of the house, it's important to make sure it isn't an attractive spot for future swarms. my guess is that the person you hired previously neglected to do this. using some combination of pine-sol, diatomaceous earth, and steel wool to mask the smell of the hive you removed and make it unattractive or inaccessible has worked well for me. swarms are naturally very attracted to empty hives from previous colonies. it gives them a big head start on the metabolically expensive task of building enough comb to raise new bees and store food for lean times.
 
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Location: Western Washington - 48.2°N, Zone 8a
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I agree with Tel on everything here, but just want to add a few things.

1. If they got into the next stud over then there are gaps in your house that the last hive remover didn't cover.  Kind of shocking given that they charged you $500 for it.  Generally, hive collectors will come and get the hive free of charge and leave you to do the cleanup and sealing, including cutting the holes in your house (boo!).  Look around that area of the house and see if you have any punched out grating in the soffits or attic vents.  Also look at the size of the hardware cloth used.  If it isn't quarter-inch or smaller, replace it with quarter-inch or smaller.  Bees can get through half-inch easily.

2. Unless you are in a very warm climate, they'll need a sealed box, you can use any wood box of size or make your own.  You will need to tie up the brood comb, but you can do it without frames.  The bees will make their own comb just fine...it may be straight or very harvest-able though.  If you want to feed the honey back to the bees you can just scratch the honey comb open with a fork and leave it out...they will clean it out and save you the effort to crush and strain.

3. In every area I've lived there is always some sort of swarm collection list run by the local beekeepers guild, or club, and they'll come out and collect the hive and put it in a box...especially since you've already done all the hard work.

Good luck.  It is obviously a successful hive, so if you choose to keep the bees you're off to a good start.
 
tel jetson
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David Lucey wrote:...  You will need to tie up the brood comb, but you can do it without frames.  The bees will make their own comb just fine...it may be straight or very harvest-able though.  If you want to feed the honey back to the bees you can just scratch the honey comb open with a fork and leave it out...they will clean it out and save you the effort to crush and strain.



good points, David. I actually only bothered building and using rescue frames the first few jobs. tied brood comb to top bars after that.

I don't know if I would leave scratched honey comb out in the open, though. could invite robbing. robbing could invite bee battles. bee battles could lead to aggressive/defensive bees that aren't a lot of fun to have as neighbors.
 
Kelli Miguez
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Thank you so much for the replies and for all the information!  

I live in southern Louisiana. So it is pretty hot (and humid) here. Area 9 for gardening purposes.  

I went out and bought some cheap wood supplies to make them a box. How big of a hole should I make for their entrance into the box?

Unfortunately it rained hard all afternoon and evening, so I hope they are okay.  We are going to collect the rest of the bees tomorrow morning and we will try the box method instead of the vacuum/bucket.  

And thanks so much for the detailed information about how to make sure bees don't come back.  Last time the bee keeper just said to clean it, but didn't specify how.

 
tel jetson
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Kelli Miguez wrote:I went out and bought some cheap wood supplies to make them a box. How big of a hole should I make for their entrance into the box?



probably a lot of different opinions about that. there are a couple of easy options, though. drilling a few holes that are big enough for a couple of bees to pass each other could work. maybe a few at the bottom of the box and a few at the top. if they don't care for any of them, they'll cover them up with propolis. another option would be to leave a small gap between the bottom-most board on one side your box and the bottom so that there's a full-width entrance just tall enough for drones (they're bigger) to come and go. again, they can make the entrance smaller if they like.
 
David Lucey
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Location: Western Washington - 48.2°N, Zone 8a
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Good point Tel, no point in riling up the hive.  I've used it in my bee yard in the past, but already had a pretty solid nectar flow every time I'm doing it.

As for opening, you can be pretty flexible.  it is a balancing act between temperature and defendability of the hive.  In conventional Langstroth hives the opening is about 14"x3/4", and at the base of the hive.  It gives a wide landing space for a lot of bee movement, but not so open that it lets all the heat out.  The hive will try to keep the temperature at about 95 degrees year round...and wind isn't your friend.

In the winter, or in low-flow seasons, some folks put in an 'entrance reducer' to make the opening smaller (maybe 4"x1/2", or even smaller).  This limits heat loss, but it also makes the hive more defensible from other bees or varmints trying to rob them.

When it gets too hot (you'll see the bees "bearding" on the entrance of the hive) then you can crack the top of the box with a small piece of lathe to improve airflow.

Hope that helps.  Most of beekeeping is "read, go ask some folks, then try your idea and see how it works".

 
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