How to Remove Bees From a Tree

Tree cavities are the natural living quarters for honey bees. I occasionally get calls asking if I can remove bees from a tree. I usually say no because the process is labor intensive and dangerous if the bees are up high. I tell people to just leave them. If they aren’t bothering anyone who cares?

My neighbor called with a bee problem. She had a bee colony in a tree at ground level next to a patio. I knew that the job wouldn’t’ be too difficult.  Here’s how I moved the bees from her tree to my apiary:

1. First I told her that when I was done removing the bees she needed to contact a certified arborist. A cavity is often a sign of a disease that could suddenly and unexpectedly cause a huge limb to break off.

2. Back in my workshop I made a simple one-way exit cone out of 1/8 inch hardware cloth.

3. I called up my beekeeping friends Max and Kirk to get some brood comb. Brood comb is comb with bee eggs in it. They gave me a frame of brood comb along with the nurse bees that were hanging on it.

4. I made a platform for a medium box, put the brood comb in it and quickly attached the exit cone to the tree with the end of the comb right next to the bee box. The bees leave the tree through the exit comb but can’t get back in. Instead, they take up residence in the box with the the brood comb (they are attracted to the smell of the brood comb). The workers will use the brood comb to make a new queen or sometimes the queen in the tree will migrate out to the new box. The whole process takes six weeks and requires frequent checks to make sure that the bees haven’t figured out another way out of the tree. At the end of the six weeks I came back and took the box back to my apiary.

In the Facebook live video above you can see the trapout just minutes after I attached the one way exit cone. The bees can be a little cranky for the first few days after the trapout begins.

And this is a good opportunity to warn again about bee removal scammers who promise you that they can do a live removal of bees from a tree quickly by “smoking them out” or some other such nonsense. What they are likely doing is spraying the hive with a product called Bee-Quick that commercial beekeeper use to drive bees out of honey supers. Unfortunately, spraying Bee-Quick into a tree and driving the bees out, with no resources, is really no different than exterminating them. The beekeeper you hire for a tree removal should suggest a trap-out or simply leaving them alone. If the tree is being cut down it’s possible that the section with the bees can simply be relocated or if the hole is large enough to reach into, a cutout can be done.

The bees that I took out of the tree back in June are doing well in my backyard:

The 2×4 is my crude way of making the entrance smaller. When a hive is getting established a smaller entrance is easier to defend against other bee colonies in search of free honey. My new “tree bees” seem healthy and are already expanding into a second box.

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3 Comments

  1. That’d a great explanation. Love how you got the bees to a new home without harm. Patience is the name of the game, but the results are well worth it.

  2. Truly a shame people don’t realize when bees swarm that they almost never sting. As for other ‘homes’, we’ve rescued bee colonies from the tops of factories and bushes and those seem the hardiest bees of all. Worst is when you get ‘know-it-alls’ who insist to others that the wasps attacking them are actually bees. My son went through that this summer after a frantic call from a home engagement party. He discovered that the owners, cake caterers, had left their filled supply trailer window open a crack over winter and when my son took a peek inside, he found a 14ft long by 6 ft tall wasp nest throbbing with angry wasps. The exterminator who came in had to call in 2 other companies to help because no one had enough wasp killer on hand to deal with the massive, violent nest. My son was glad to walk away from that one empty-handed.

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