Removing established colonies of bees from buildings can be a tricky business to do well.
Pest control agencies will often spray colonies, which leads to quick bee death but can cause problems later on:
- Dead bees and dead brood can rot, making unpleasant smells
- Wax can melt in hot weather without the bees controlling temperature
- Honey can leak from the combs, damaging plasterwork, paint etc…
- Nectar which has not been fully converted to honey can ferment, leak and smell.
- Without the bees to defend the honey and wax stores other animals, including wasps and rodents, will come to rob the remaining food.
- Residual pesticides in the honey are carried back to other bee colonies and can weaken and kill them
- Bees like to live where bees have lived previously – spraying can kill the existing bees, but the space will quickly be recolonised by another swarm, putting you right back where you started.
I prefer to use methods which are non-destructive to the bees, do not leave potentially harmful bee residues in the walls, and do not involve pesticides:
This is the fastest method, which involves physically cutting into the colony and physically removing the wax, honey, brood and as many bees as possible. Depending on the size and difficulty of the job it can take between 3 and 8 hours. One cutout I was involved in had over 100kg of honey stored within the wooden wall of a barn! The ease of the job depends significantly on the bees location and how long they have been there.
A typical cutout will involve
- An initial site visit to gauge the exact location of the bees within the building and work out a strategy to gain access to their cavity.
- On the second visit I will gain access to the bees – typically by cutting into and removing panelling such as interior plaster work or exterior woodwork.
- Using a BeeVac a large proportion of the bees will be safely vacuumed up into a trap box
- The comb is then carefully removed from the cavity in sections. Honey is placed in a bucket and will be fed back to the bees later. The comb with eggs and larvae is carefully attached to a wooden frame and placed in a hive body.
- Hopefully the queen bee is spotted and caught safely in a special plastic cage so she isn’t injured.
- Once all the wax has been removed and the queen secured the remaining bees are carefully sucked into the trap.
- The cavity is then scraped clean of remaining scraps of wax and honey, and the location is left clean and tidy.
- The bees, in their new hive, are removed to one of my apiaries.
- Finally the, cut out honey is fed back to the bees and they are allowed to start building up their colony again in their new location.
- With the bees gone and the cavity clean the homeowner can reseal the cavity and redecorate as needed. Filling the cavity with fiberglass insulation ensures more bees do not recolonise.