Articles

How To Safely Remove Unwanted Hives

Excerpted from: Removing Honey Bee Swarms and Established Hives

Preventing Honey Bee Colony Establishment

Honey bee under house eaves

Sometimes it’s difficult to determine whether a honey bee cluster on the side of a building is simply resting there or moving, one by one, through a hole into an inner portion of a building. If the cluster size is shrinking but hasn’t flown away, chances are they’re moving in. When the bees first arrive, they are short on food and have to build combs from wax they produce from the honey they are carrying. They must continue to go outside to forage for nectar for the colony to survive.

At this point, they can be “locked in” their new home with screen, steel wool, or something else through which they can’t chew to escape. If sealed in, they will die in place over the next week or two. However, trapped bees will search around between the walls trying to find a new way out. Some of them are likely to find their way into the living quarters, especially by following beams of night time room lighting.

A well-established colony may have up to 100 pounds of honey, many pounds of adult and developing bees.

Bees don’t fly in the dark, but they will fly to the windows the next morning and stay there most of the day while they die of dehydration. You can safely suck up these bees with a vacuum cleaner hose. Remember there may be live bees in the bag for a couple days after they’ve been vacuumed up.

How To Remove Established Colonies

Extracting honey bees from buildings is considerably more difficult than collecting swarm clusters. When the colony is first established, only a few pounds of adult bees are present, but these bees rapidly build combs, collect honey, and begin to rear more bees. A well-established colony may have up to 100 pounds of honey, many pounds of adult and developing bees, and many beeswax combs. Removing such as nest is a challenge.

The first step is to determine the exact location of the combs and size of the colony.

Killing The Bees

Although honey bees can be killed in place inside buildings by using pesticides that are labeled for killing bees inside of structures, this removal option often leads to undesirable consequences. Note: These chemicals are available only to licensed pest control operators. If the adult bees fall into a large pile, they may hold their body moisture and rot in place, producing a very bad odor. Liquid from the decomposing mass frequently penetrates the structure, leading to costly replacements.

If the colony is well established, there are further issues associated with killing the colony. Unattended brood can also rot and become very odorous. Unattended honey stores can absorb moisture and ferment, creating gas that causes the cappings holding honey in the cells to burst. Gravity will start moving the honey down attached surfaces until it encounters a horizontal impediment, such as a window frame, doorframe, firebreak, ceiling, or floor. Honey then seeps through the drywall, leading to large amounts of cleanup and expensive replacement.

If pesticides were used to kill the bees, then the honey, wax and, dead bees are contaminated and must be handled as hazardous waste.

Live Removal Of Bees

Honey bee under briick wall

A better procedure than applying insecticides, especially if you have a beekeeper who is willing to help, may be to eliminate the bees without killing them. First the beekeeper will need to locate the nest by tapping the wall and listening for the hum of the colony. Some beekeepers rely on stethoscopes to find the edges of the nest. Others drill extremely small holes in the wall and insert a fine wire to find the periphery of the nest. To take honey bees and their combs from the nesting spot requires opening a fairly large hole in some portion of the building. That is best done by a professional contractor so that the hole can be easily closed after the bees are removed.

If the bees are to be saved, the beekeeper gently removes them and their combs. If the bees aren’t going to be saved, they can be removed from the void with a vacuum device such as a Shop-Vac. This process tends to stimulate the bees to release an alarm pheromone that smells like bananas and increases defensive behavior, so everyone nearby must be fully clothed in a bee suit. Many beekeepers have baffles and collection containers in their vacuum lines to try to protect and save the bees. If the homeowner has a lot of patience and knowledge, the bees can be “trapped” out of the building using a one-way wire screen device that forces bees that leave the building to relocate into a beehive placed adjacent to the original entrance.

Finding Professionals To Help

It is relatively easy to remove a swarm cluster but a lot of work to remove bees in a cavity. Beekeepers might be willing to collect swarms for free, but generally it isn’t worthwhile for them to remove established colonies without charge, and in some areas your only option will be to hire a structural pest control company.

Both contractors and some beekeepers list their services on the Web. Beekeepers available for swarm calls and extractions also tend to put their names on lists of bee clubs to which they belong. Those clubs usually have Web sites that list locations.

Resources

  Wisconsin Beekeeping Clubs
  Swarm Removal By Wisconsin Beekeepers

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