Bee removal musings

bee tree, honey bees, bee removal

Taking this bee tree was my dilemma last week.

I want to talk a bit about appropriate conditions for removing honey bees. Property owners say things like

  • ‘I want to save the bees.’
  • ‘You’ll get free bees!’
  • ‘If you don’t come, I’ll call an exterminator’

and they may end up frustrated when they hear a bee keeper like me say, “Sorry, I won’t get your bees.” They could avoid this by understanding a few things.

  1. I most likely will not get honey from your ‘donation’ for 1.5 years. (Bee removals are very resource intensive, which means they are not free.)
  2. I need certain equipment, supplies, and woodenware on hand to put the bees in a successful and appropriate hive.
  3. I spend active time in the field all year round (and money) to keep the bees alive. Bee keeping is not a ‘one and done’ job (I call that ‘bee watching’).

Property owners will be wise to know that:

It’s appropriate to ask for a bee removal before June 1. Why not later? Because bees need a full spring AND summer, to build up their nectar and honey stores. When you call me in July or September, the bees won’t have very much time to gather ample food stores needed to survive the winter. If you find honey bees after June 1, call me next April.

It’s appropriate to ask for a bee removal when you will be doing work on your house. (before June 1) If you will be tearing down walls, taking a shed out, etc. then call me. I’ll have easier access to the colony to remove its comb (which improve chances of survival). Also, my bee vacuum can reach everything better when walls, etc. are not blocking my way. (You have electricity on site, right?)

It’s appropriate to ask for a removal when you are cutting down a tree. Have your tree guy call me. I’ll loan him a bee jacket and gloves and show him the best places to cut (see photo above). 

When is it not great for the bees to be removed?

After June 1. See above.

When the bees are not actually bothering you. Seeing bees living in a tree is natural. There are many bee trees every where, and no one is being harmed. You don’t know where most bee trees are because you don’t pay attention unless you are bothered. (If honey bees are in your house and intrude on your lifestyle, then it’s appropriate to ask for them to be removed.) Their pollination beautifies your neighborhood, by the way.

When they are not on your property. Yeah, I’m not trespassing to make you feel better about saving the bees.

When I can’t reach the bees — height, obstacles such as bricks, etc. make a full removal impossible. I want to remove all the honey bees and their comb if possible.

There are removal options when the above conditions are not met, and they result in less success for the bees. They also lead to negatives for both the property owner and the beekeeper.

  • For the property owner: all comb (and their contents) that is left behind will emit an attractive odor. Removing the bees is not enough. Their entire home needs to be taken, and the site needs to be filled and sealed. Animals that like to eat grubs and honey will visit the site. Another colony of bees will most likely revisit the site.
  • For the beekeeper: taking bees without all the resources of the hive — the comb, the younger castes of bees, the foragers who are out of the hive during the day — will result in a colony that most likely won’t survive on its own. It will need to be combined with another hive in order to survive. If there is no pre-existing hive for combining, there will be multiple feedings required, and my experience tells me that feeding would be for nought because the removed colony will die anyway.

Do not get me wrong. Bee rescues are quite fun because I find problem solving very fun. Each removal is unique and thrilling in its own way.

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