Late-Season Removal

The bees were pretty aggressive.  That was a change.

The lift.  Bees were located between
the two windows on the right

Several months ago, Mrs. Joyce Clingan called me and asked me to remove the bees that were in the corner of her home.  We had planned to schedule the removal to coincide with the fixing of her gutters.  She already needed to rent the lift, so why not combine the tasks, and just rent the lift once?

Made sense.

Of course, the gutter repairs had been delayed, and life had intervened.  Now it was several months later, and had gotten to a time when translocating bees can be difficult, but…. it was also time for the bees to go.  So she simply went ahead and rented the lift. Friday morning, I gathered my materials, and went over to see if I could figure out how to use the machine that would make my life easier.

After spending a little while getting used to the controls, I got to work.  Having the lift beats the heck out of climbing a ladder and balancing everything at every step.  I started off with the prybar, and pulled loose the fascia board, to expose the first section of bees.

Bee stinger – removed from the author’s nose….

Predictably, the bees were sincerely unhappy about this development, and reminded me repeatedly why it was a good idea to wear a suit and veil. They also expressed their displeasure with the innocent painter who was walking nearby, and sought me out to confer every time I took a break to get some water (one decided my nose looked like a potential new hive, and climbed in to investigate, and stung me when I objected.  Another worked her way under my baseball cap.  And stung me when I objected.  Yet another found the gap between my jacket and my pants, and my derriere experienced a sharp retort when I sat down.)

Peekaboo!

Once the hive had been opened, the next step was to further expose the comb.  The copper facing was easily removed, then another piece of copper facing, then the wood beneath.  By this point, the guard bees were less excited about the invaders around their immediate surroundings, and were more focused on the recovery of the dripping honey.  Particularly once a few combs of pure honey were removed, the focus on all of the guard and nurse bees was grabbing as much honey before it is stolen by the wasps, yellow jackets, bumblebees and other honeybees.

Copper facing removed.  Beautiful comb.

The comb extended below the wood line – there was more of a void that was filled with honeycomb beneath what I could see.  I could not get all of it without removing another layer of wood. Sooo….

That is the way these jobs work.  It is a matter of problem solving – just check out the blog entry on choosing your own adventure – bee removal edition. You open the hole a little, then extend it a little.  Then expand the hole a little more.  Eventually, you have the entire hive exposed, and you begin to remove comb.  By proceeding a little at a time, you do the minimum amount of damage to the structure.

Which, in this case, is a gorgeous historic structure.

The Clingan home.

Removing the next two pieces of wood exposed the remainder of the comb.  Beautiful, delicious honeycomb.  I took a brief break to share some comb with Jody – the painter who got stung – and with Joyce and her husband.

Fully exposed comb.  Honey comb on the far right and left; brood comb in the center

And then I was back at it.

Straw from previous use.
Note the bright golden propolis between the straw and comb.

An interesting side note was that the space had been occupied by rodents before the bees invaded the space.  The bees, when they moved in, did a fair amount of renovation of the space, to make it theirs, including a coat of shellac – literally – over the straw that lined the rodents’ home.  The substance that bees use to seal their hives is called propolis, and it is made of bee saliva, beeswax, and resin collected by the bees and then used to coat the entire straw floor of their new abode.  So when I opened up the space, there was a large amount of straw, and the entire thing was coated with this golden resiny substance that effectively sealed the space.

Pure honeycomb. Photo by Sabrina Dalton 

Once the full comb had been exposed, it was a relatively easy thing to remove the individual pieces of comb.  Any of the comb that contained brood – all located in the interior comb – was placed in a cooler, separated out to salvage as much of the larvae, eggs and pupae as possible.

The rest of the comb was separated out into two parts – the perfect, light-colored honeycomb for eating by itself, and the darker comb filled with honey, to be crushed and strained for raw honey.

At the end of the day, I had cut away all of the comb and left the bees in place.  I had hoped to find the queen, to separate her out, but Miss Cherry Street 2018 had remained hidden throughout the process.

The process of setting up the new homestead for the bees is interesting.  You take a box with frames on it, and rubber-band the brood comb onto the frames.  The broodcomb is what the bees are most protective of, so they are more likely to stay close to the comb, and continue to care for the baby bees.

Because I was coming back Saturday morning, I left the boxes with broodcomb on the lift, and raised the lift to the entrance, to encourage the bees to migrate from the space that I had emptied and the space I wanted them to inhabit.

Me on the lift.  Photo courtesy of LeeAnn Riggs.

Day 2 – when I returned, I took the frames of brood back to my house, and installed them on the back porch (yeah, Kathe will eventually make me move it).  When I got back, I removed the bees from the face of the building with the beevac, a neat homemade contraption that draws the bees into a bucket with the power of a shopvac, from which they can be transferred to a secondary location.

I had tinkered with the draw off the vacuum, and got it right. Previous attempts had resulted in a mess of dead gooey bees; I wanted to give everybody a chance at survival. When I released the bees onto the back porch box, there were almost no dead bees at all. 
I did my own waggle dance at that point.
The final step was to clean the whole area, scraping the wax off of everything, wiping it down with ammonia to deter return visitors, and apply some wasp spray.  The cleaning was actually pretty fun, with wide open space to work in, and easy access – because of the lift – to the full 7-foot width of the hive.  I applied the expanding foam sealer to the holes in the space, to prevent future incursions.  And finally, I tacked up a tarp on the opening to protect it from the elements until the painter could come in and replace the pieces I had removed.  

Now all that remains is to put the honey in the jars.  

Published by Company Bee

Novice beekeeper trying to help out.

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