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.

Saturday Tweets: Peppers, Sign Language and Bootsy’s Bass Formula

Stuff That’s Happening

John McDonald will be screening never before seen clips from a documentary in progress about the 3 Mules guy, John Sears on Wedensday November 15th in Romona, California. For more information see 3MulesMovie.com. I went to a screening back in June and McDonald’s film raises profound questions about the use of the commons.

Biodynamic beekeper Gunther Hauk will be teaching a two part workshop on Saturday December 2nd at Highland Hall Waldorf school in Northridge, California. Head over here to sign up.

Lastly, Bike buddy Colin Bogart has set up a Facebook group for Pacific Ready-Cut homeowners. Pacific Ready-Cut was the West Coast answer to the Sears kit house. Odds are good that if you live in an old house anywhere from LA to Seattle it was milled by this company. Join the Facebook group to share experiences about living in a tiny and old house.

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Bee Trellis

In order to keep the new Saluki and the bees separate, my client, Mrs. Homegrown commissioned a trellis to surround the hive boxes that reside next to her shed. In a small urban yard a trellis around your bees will keep everyone happy. Bees naturally tend to fly upwards after leaving the hive but the addition of a fence keeps the few sideways stragglers from negative canine and homo sapiens interactions.

As usual, the design process around Root Simple begins with the realization that our 1920s house looks best when surrounded by fuddy-duddy landscaping (that flipper fence was a mistake!). Inspired by a trellis in the front yard of a house in the neighborhood, I sketched out a few ideas on paper and then spent an afternoon with Sketchup finalizing the design.

Not liking the trellis options in the Big Orange Store, I opted to build mine from scratch in the workshop. Digging, setting the posts and final assembly had to be done while wearing a bee suit, which slowed things down considerably. As usual, I encountered obstacles while digging that interfered with the Platonic idea of a trellis I had sketched out. At this point I should have heeded the advice of my woodworking teacher to, “never wing it.” Instead, I forged ahead rather than revising the plans and, as a result, ended up with slightly wonky trellis spacing and missed deadlines.

For my own sake I’ll repeat the lessons learned that I can’t seem to get into my head: don’t wing it and triple the amount of time you think a construction project will take.

Saturday Tweets: Caturday!