Removing Established Colonies from Your Property
Please contact me to get a free estimate. If you are a contractor or pest management company please add me to your contacts and I will gladly assist in your aid in removing honey bees. My mission is to protect and rescue feral honey bee colonies.
Extracting honey bees from buildings and undesirable locations 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.
Many pest control companies often kill honey bees 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.
I always advocate for the capture and collection of honey bees, not only does it help pollinators, it often times is the least damaging in process in the long run. Killing large established colonies does come with its own issues. 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.
A better procedure than applying insecticides, is to contact 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.
Tell your contractor or pest management company you are interested in saving honey bees rather than killing them. Many of these companies have contacts in the beekeeping world that can help ensure the safety of the honey bee colony. If they don't know a beekeeper, put them in touch with us!
If the bees are to be saved, the beekeeper gently removes them and their combs. 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. For more details see Removing Swarms and Established Colonies from Private Property.
*Be aware that pest control companies generally will kill the bees before removing them. NEVER try to remove the colony yourself unless you have experience and proper equipment.
Preventing Future Invasions
Following extraction of honey bee combs from any site, the odor of beeswax remains. Because honey bees have an extremely acute sense of smell, that odor will be noticeable from a long distance and highly attractive to any future honey bee scouts seeking new nesting sites, long after the previous bees have been removed. Therefore, after bees have been removed from a building, all holes large enough to insert a pencil, or larger, that lead to spacious cavities in the building must be sealed. Although honey bees can chew out of a building through caulking, they won’t chew in through it.
Larger potential entrances can be covered with screen having six or more meshes per inch. Cavities can be filled with expandable foam to make large spaces unsuitable for nesting. The area requiring examination and servicing includes the entire side of the building around the previous entrance or both sides of the building, if the entrance were on a corner. If bees can find access to a void adjacent to the previous nesting site, they’ll move right in.
During the extraction process, some bees are likely to escape. Also, some honey bee foragers spend the night away from the hive in the summer, so there is likely to be a cluster of bees forming around the entrance after the bees and combs have been removed. That small number of bees can be vacuumed up or left alone, as they will eventually disappear.
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