Taking bees out of trees and building walls

Bees at Ag Farm Credit: Jon Cox
Bees at Ag Farm Credit: Jon Cox

Honey bee colonies and their combs can be transferred from a tree or wall into a hive. Because of the amount of work involved and the difficulty of obtaining good combs, you should not consider this method a convenient or easy way of obtaining bees unless you have no other alternative. In many situations, the beekeeper is providing a service for home owners and should charge for it.

The best way of removing a colony from a wall is to remove the siding or other exterior coverings to completely expose the colony. Then cut out the combs and brush or vacuum the bees from the interior of the wall. If exposing the colony is impossible, you may try to trap the majority of the bees out of the tree or wall. The first step in trapping bees is to close up all flight holes except one. Place a cone of window screen about 6 inches long, with an opening 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch in diameter at the apex over the open flight hole. Near the flight hole place a weak hive consisting of two or three frames of brood and bees with a queen or queen cell. In principle, the bees from the colony in the wall can leave freely through the screen cone but cannot return to the old nest, so they will enter the new hive prepared for them. It will take about a month for the brood in the old combs to hatch. By this time, most of the bees will be in the new hive. Keep in mind that completely trapping all of the bees or the queen is impossible.

After most activity from the old hive has ceased, remove the screen cone and leave the new hive in position for a week or longer. If no honey flow is in progress, the bees from the strong hive will rob out the old combs in the wall or tree. After the robbing has ceased, seal off the entrance to the old nest so that future swarms cannot establish themselves in the same location.

Remove the hive on the platform in the evening when all the bees are inside. To avoid the possibility of the hive bees returning to their original location, move the hive at least 3 miles away.

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