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Honey Bees | How we evacuated an unwanted honey bee colony

Updated on June 18, 2013
Honey Bee Swarm takes over a Purple Martin House.
Honey Bee Swarm takes over a Purple Martin House.
Luckily the martin house can be cranked down to working height
Luckily the martin house can be cranked down to working height
Colony built comb outside and inside one compartment.
Colony built comb outside and inside one compartment.
A knife is used to slice off comb to fit into the frame inside a transfer box
A knife is used to slice off comb to fit into the frame inside a transfer box
Chunks of the comb are carefully placed into new frame with bees attached.
Chunks of the comb are carefully placed into new frame with bees attached.
Comb is continued to be removed.
Comb is continued to be removed.
Bees are encourage to move in with a brush
Bees are encourage to move in with a brush
A brush is used to sweep as many bees as possible into the transfer box.
A brush is used to sweep as many bees as possible into the transfer box.
Bees congregate making them easy to sweep into the box.
Bees congregate making them easy to sweep into the box.
With the bulk of the bees moved with the honey combs they produce a scent for others to follow.
With the bulk of the bees moved with the honey combs they produce a scent for others to follow.
Bees begin to move in assuring the queen was successfully moved in as well.
Bees begin to move in assuring the queen was successfully moved in as well.
After a few hours the box is closed and strapped shut ready to safely transport.
After a few hours the box is closed and strapped shut ready to safely transport.
Frames will be transferred over to a new hive such as this one from Cottage Craft Works .com
Frames will be transferred over to a new hive such as this one from Cottage Craft Works .com
Simple berry colander is used to extract the honey from the combs
Simple berry colander is used to extract the honey from the combs

If you have an unwanted honey bee colony show up and take up residence try to do everything possible to have them moved instead of calling in an exterminator.

Last summer shortly after out Purple Martins left a swarm of honey bees decided to take up residence in one of the martin house compartments.

These are the T-14 martin houses that are so popular with the Amish. We built them with plans from Cottage Craft Works .com.

We live along the Texas Gulf Coast so our martin colony returns early February, it was pretty important to move the bees out a bit earlier than recommended in order to clean and prep the houses for the new season.

Luckily the temperature was in the mid 70s, if it’s too cool the baby bees might die.

Fortunately the bees took up residence in something that was rather easy to access as these martin houses are equipped with a winch system to lower them to the ground for cleaning and maintenance.

Bees that take up homestead in the wall or attic of a house can be very problematic and expensive to eradicate.

Honey Bees population is on the decline and are feared to become a problem as so many corps and plants are dependent on them for cross pollination.

It just was no option other than moving these bees as we didn't want to see them killed off.

Not working with bees we called upon a veteran beekeeper who was willing to rescue the colony. Remember that offering “free bees” to a beekeeper is much like offering a neighbor a free dog or cat (or a ferret!). Characteristics like demeanor, resistance to pests and disease and “work ethic” are an unknown with feral colonies and beekeepers easily divide their good colonies if they want more bees.

A good place to start your search for help is to contact a local beekeeping organization found in an internet search. Most beekeepers will do this for free to just obtain the colony.

If they are in a house or complicated area, you may have to hire a contractor to work along with them, such as opening walls for the beekeeper to reach.

Luckily these bees weren't aggressive and we were able to make the move without having to smoke or vacuum the colony.

Our experienced beekeeper had a smoker going just in case.

We used a simple beekeeper jacket with hood and rubber gloves.

The combs were mostly outside the house and out beekeeper used a knife to slice the combs to fit into hive frames.

Once a bulk of the bees and honey is moved the bees send off a scent to tell the other bees where they are.

Soon the bees began to move to the transfer box to transport to a new hive.

Surprisingly he was not concerned with trying to locate the queen.

He can tell how the other bees act if the queen has been moved into the transfer box.

A colony must have a successful safe transfer to the queen in order to survive.

Honey bees are colonial insects so no single bee, even the queen, can survive on its own. The way the colony reproduces is for the old queen and many of the bees to “swarm” in search of a new home, leaving behind the established colony to raise a new queen to take her place. These reproductive swarms likely happen in spring when nectar and pollen are plentiful.

The bees usually settle in a cluster somewhere nearby while scouts fan out in all directions to find their new home. Our Purple Martin house was actually a poor choice since, as you can see, there was not enough room inside for the colony to live. Luckily the bees survived our winter, such as it’s been thus far, and are now a beekeeper’s “managed hive”.

If you happen upon a cluster of honey bees settled on a fence or tree limb, they are searching for a new place to live. And you probably don’t want a few thousand stinging roommates. Act quickly by contacting a beekeeping organization since a beekeeper can easily introduce the colony to a new home before they decide on someplace else to live. “Don’t worry, they’ll leave” Is the worst advice of all.

Jeff our beekeeper also told us that once a bee swarm moves in, they will leave a scent that will likely attract new swarms to also move in.

Since we now know how easy it is to move a hive, we will probably do it ourselves the next time, as we actually would like to raise bees.

We are going to go ahead and purchase a couple of hives, using some of the wood from inside the martin house as an lure.

Jeff also told us to use lemon grass extract oil to attract them to the new hives.

To discourage bees from using the martin house we sprayed the inside with OFF bug repellent. A very good tip to know if you see honey bees checking out an entryway into your house.

We were able to keep some of the honey, not having the professional extraction equipment we found a berry strainer worked just fine to crush the comb in the top and let the honey drain into a pan overnight.

Jeff will take the frames and transfer them over to a new hive like the one pictured from Cottage Craft Works .com

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