Rex Smith’s Honeybee Removal – 2016
If you are in need of having a honeybee swarm picked up, or a full colony of bees removed from a structure – please see the following links for my contact information: (These same links are in the top menu bar on this website as well.)
Also please understand that most bee removal specialists are overwhelmed beginning in March with calls. In peak season I personally receive between 30-40 calls per day – and do 1-3 full removals per day. If I do not answer the phone, I am probably in a hive – so please do leave a message and I will return the call as quickly as possible.
Frequently asked questions (and my answers):
One of the first questions I ask of a homeowner with bees is: “How long have they been there?”. Many times, the answer will be “I’m really not sure – maybe from last year or early this spring”. And occasionally I’ll hear “They just moved in this week – come get them NOW! It’s an emergency!!”
This particular case – was that the homeowner admitted that they had only recently (in the last week) *noticed* the bees – and they really didn’t know how long they had been there. A person performing a removal would MUCH rather hear this honesty – then the insistence that bees have been in there for only a day or so – only to open it up and find 10-20 full combs that are brown to black – indicating that the comb had been there for a matter of years.
These bees were fairly high in the air. 2nd floor soffit. (click pics for larger versions)
Once the soffit was carefully opened – it was evident that the bees had been there a *bit* longer than a week or so. The texture and color of the comb indicates that they had probably been there since last fall.
In all – there were 13 combs removed.
The brood and honeycomb were tall – Appx 20″ tall at the back (as they followed the steep roof line).
After the removal was complete, the void space was filled with fiberglass insulation, their entry hole was filled and repaired, and the soffit was put back in place.
All in a good day’s work!
I often am asked : What will happen if I just leave the bees”, or “What if we wait?”.
The following pics are a graphic example of one possible scenario that can (and does) occur.
Scene: In October of 2015, the homeowner observed bees swarming, and moving into a 2nd floor peak soffit area of his home. I was called, and a removal date was set for mid October. I arrived, and upon opening of the soffit – the bees were not found – they were actually in the roof line – above a finished-out 2nd story room.
The homeowner was made aware of the situation, and the options available. I could (a) open up the drywall inside the house – which would have been the easiest method at the time because of the pitch of the roof. or (b) – I could remove a section of roof shingles and decking above the colony.
The customer opted to wait. I hadn’t heard back from him until a month ago (June 2016) – when he called to let me know that the house was to be re-roofed, and he was ready for the bees to come out – but if it could be coordinated with the roofer, so that the decking could be opened up and re-roofed at the same time.
We are NOW at the summer solstice. The sun is farther north in the sky than it was in October. The bees did not realize that their home would no longer be protected by the trees above in the heat of summer. The comb melted, and dropped onto the drywall ceiling of the room below. From the appearance of the comb and it’s condition – I’d say the comb dropped about a week ago. It was a NASTY MESS. (click any of the photos for a larger view)
A layer or two removed:
And the REAL nastiness is exposed:
Yes – the black in the bottom is the drywall – where honey and wax fell – and drained/dripped and seeped from the roof joist space – and impregnated the drywall. Note also – the Small Hive Beetle larvae, and also Wax Moth larvae. Yes – those are “maggots” – just not from flies. The stench of the mess was horrible.
The mess filled (2) 5-gallon buckets with comb that was pretty nasty. Larvae, stench, etc…
After cleaning it all up, and scraping out everything possible, the space was filled with insulation, so that there would be no void available for bees to occupy in the future. And the rest was left for the roofing crew to complete.
My view from the peak of the 2nd story roof peak:
Kim Flottum, author for Bee Culture: The Magazine of American Beekeeping – will be presenting tomorrow (Monday 13 June 2016) at the Collin County Hobby Beekeepers Assn. monthly meeting. Click HERE for Kim’s website
From his bio page:
After receiving a degree in horticulture from UW Madison, Kim Flottum worked four years in the USDA Honey Bee Research Lab, studying pollination ecology. After that, he spent two years raising acres of fruits and vegetables, where bees played a large role. He brings this experience, plus nearly 20 years of writing and editing articles for beekeepers in the monthly magazine Bee Culture. He is the publisher of books on honey bee pests and diseases, marketing, queen production, beekeeping history, beginning beekeeping, and the classic industry reference, The ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture.
The meetings are held on the Collin College campus on the 2nd Monday of the month, in the Conference Center of the Central Park Campus – at 2400 Community Ave., McKinney, Texas. Meetings start at 6:30pm.
Collin County Hobby Beekeepers Assn website.
This North Texas Municipal Water District wastewater treatment plant has had bees in the past. This year – they have them again. From the look of the comb, these bees have occupied this space right at a month to 6 weeks. The queen was a bright orange color, and easy to spot.
Honeybees have lived in the roof space of this breezeway between the house and garage for at LEAST the last 8 years (since the homeowners bought the house – and for years before they bought it). This property is located in Wylie, Texas, and was hit hard by the hail storms earlier this spring. When the roofers learned about the bees – they insisted that the bees be removed before they would repair and replace the roofing of the home.
We had no idea what to expect when opening the void space, since we knew that bees had occupied the void for so long. Luckily, while the colony was sizeable – it was not as large as it certainly could have been.
The cluster of bees was about the size of a basketball once I had removed the brood area comb from the roof line.
Another section of soffit had unused comb that was OLD. All of this was removed as well. The queen was found in the vacuum catch-box once I took all the comb and bees to the Harmony Hollow Bee Yard – and the bees were reunited with their saveable comb and put into a standard commercial type of hive.
This property was unique in another aspect: It is the location of In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Rescue and Education.
Once I finished with the bees, I was taken on a short and marvelous tour of the big cats on the property. Here are a few pictures that came out nicely. I would encourage you to visit this sanctuary in Wylie, Texas – and take a look at the cats they have saved. Many of them arrived in very poor health, starved, and underweight – and through the tireless work of Vicky & Eddie Keahey – as well as their approximate 200 volunteers annually – these large cats are brought back to health. Please do take time to look through the stories of the cats on their website – and consider donating towards their care. (I watched as they were allocating out their daily diets – and it is a HUGE amount of food that is consumed by these cats)
The following article was forwarded to me from a friend. It indicates that at least 20 years ago, research was being done to determine ways to get rid of the varroa mites. We now have other treatments available to us to use. And some beekeepers use methods that range from “apicentric” to the other end of the spectrum in a full chemical warfare. Either way – bees and beekeepers are dealing with our dreaded “bug on a bug”.
The original article from the United States Department of Agriculture is linked at the end of this post.
The article states as follows :
Smoking Out Bee Mites
Beekeepers have a long-established practice of using smoke to calm their bees before opening the hive. Now U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists have found another potential benefit from smoke: Some plants, when burned, give off natural chemicals that control honey bee mites.
Brownish-orange bumps on the backs of these bees are Varroa jacobsoni mites.
Photo by Lila De Guzman. Image Number K5069-21
Frank A. Eischen, an entomologist with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Weslaco, Texas, has found that smoke from certain plants either kills varroa mites or causes them to fall off the bees.
This mite began infesting honey bee colonies in the United States in the 1980s, was discovered in 1987, and has since become the biggest threat to managed honey bees. The mites attach to bees and feed on their blood. If the infestation is severe and left untreated, the mites usually kill the colony.
The standard treatment for the mites is fluvalinate, a synthetic pyrethroid harmless to the bees. Beekeepers put fluvalinate-impregnated strips in their hives to kill mites, but they can use the strips only during times when bees are not making honey. Otherwise, the chemical could contaminate it.
Another problem with fluvalinate is that European researchers have reported that mites are developing resistance to the chemical.
Several years ago, Eischen began looking for alternative controls for mites. So far, he has tested smoke from about 40 plants. The first one he tried was a desert shrub called creosote bush, native to Mexico, Texas, and other areas of the Southwest. A Mexican beekeeper, David Cardoso, had recommended that Eischen test the olive-green plant, known in Mexico as gobernadora.
Eischen set up a standard lab test, placing 300 to 400 mite-infested bees inside a cage and covering the cage with a plastic container. Then he put the plant material inside his smoker, lit it, puffed the smoke into the container, and corked the plastic container opening to prevent the smoke from escaping.
He kept the smoke inside for 60 seconds, then removed the bees. Next, he placed the bees over a white, sticky card to catch any mites that fell off the bees.
Varroa jacobsoni mite. Photo by Scott Bauer. Image Number K5111-10
“Lo and behold, the smoke from creosote bush was knocking down mites right, left, and center,” Eischen says. “It gave us the idea to start looking at other plants that, when burned, give off chemicals that removed the mites without harming bees.”
Among the 40 different plants Eischen has tested, the most promising plants are creosote bush and dried grapefruit leaves. Creosote bush smoke achieves a 90 to 100 percent mite knockdown after 1 minute, but Eischen says that excessive exposure can harm the bees. “It’s similar to burning tobacco in that respect,” he says. “It’s hard to find chemicals that remove mites without harming bees.”
Grapefruit leaves fit that description. After 30 seconds, smoke from the grapefruit leaves knocked down 90 to 95 percent of the mites in the cage test. With grapefruit leaves, however, few of the mites are killed. Most simply fall off the bees.
“The smoke chemicals either irritate the mites or confuse them. We aren’t exactly sure,” Eischen says. “But we do know that the grapefruit leaf smoke doesn’t seem to have any bad effects on the bees at all. The bees come through fine.”
Eischen stresses that the findings thus far are preliminary. “These are crude experiments, and we haven’t yet analyzed the active chemicals in the smoke that knock down the mites,” he says.
“We’re not yet telling beekeepers to use these methods for controlling varroa mites,” says Eischen. “We’re using these experiments to try to identify and isolate the chemicals that act as miticides.” — By Sean Adams, ARS.
Dr. Frank A. Eischen is at the USDA-ARS Honey Bee Research Laboratory, 2413 E. Hwy. 83, Weslaco, TX 78596; phone (956) 969-5007.
The original article is located here: http://agresearchmag.ars.usda.gov/1997/aug/mitesmoke/
Luckily, these bees have only been in this home for about 2 months. The homeowner was trying to do yard work – and was getting tagged occasionally by bees – so his wife made sure that he called a beekeeper to do a live removal (as opposed to having them exterminated).
They were entering at the soffit trim level (trim-to-brick transition). Usually this places the hive into the soffit – HOWEVER – this time, I know that was unlikely – as the soffit was not shaded by a tree or by a higher portion of the home. The attic & soffit space in this case – gets WAY too hot for comb to stay solid – and is too hot for the bees to survive.
They had to be lower – in the area shaded by the soffit. As soon as the trim was removed, I could see comb going downwards – behind the brick. After a brief discussion with the homeowner to confirm with him about the hive location – I proceeded to remove 4 bricks to access and pull out the comb.
The queen was found and caged, and the remainder of the bees were collected into a hive body.
Then repairs to the brick commenced. (note – repairs are ALWAYS the responsibility of the homeowner – however, it is advisable to close the area pretty quickly – so I can do the non-cosmetic repairs – and can typically quote a price before starting the removal.)
A friend of mine has inquired several times about having hives put on their land – both for adding to the biodiversity of the land and flora, but also for the State Agriculture Exemption that includes having honeybees as livestock.
Every county can decide how many hives per acre are required, and the tax exemption is currently for a minimum of 5 acres, and up to 20 acres.
Hives were loaded up the night before
Then driven to their property.
and setup onto hive stands. Each holds 5 hives (4 comfortably, 5 hives are pretty tight together)
Some of the hives were smaller 5-frame hives that were ready to move up to full-sized 10-frame boxes. The bees are all setup in front of an unused chicken coop.
Honeybees moved into this space over a bedroom (in the joist space between floors) about a month and a half ago.
The bees were not a problem for the homeowner, however, they were concerned for the safety of their dogs – so called to have the bees removed.
The bees are entering at the junction of where the siding meets the brick. There was about a 1/4″ gap. The bees had taken up residence just behind the band-board of the joists – but not accessible from the drywall area of the bedroom. The comb width was about 16″ (joist spacing), by about 12″ tall.
This home has had a colony of bees on the side for about a month. The homeowner was informed about the bees – and a call was made to investigate and get them to brighter pastures.
Here’s the view as I peered through the shrubbery:
I could not tell yet (for certain) whether or not this was a new hive – or an extension of a larger hive within the soffit or wall. After removing the external comb – it was determined that the hive did NOT go into the structure of the home.
The comb with eggs and brood was saved, the queen was found and placed into a hive body with the comb – and the residual wax removed from the home. I also ran a fresh bead of caulk to make sure that bees could not enter in the future (from this spot, anyway).
Here are a few pics and a video of the bees orienting to the new box:
And the video: