Removing bees — free or charge?

Katie over at Kitchen Stewardship wrote that removing a hive might be free, but that you may be charged. I thought I’d add some insight to the situation from a beekeeper’s point of view.

The difference between a swarm and a hive

I think many folks use the word “swarm” like “herd” or “pack,” or any other word that means “a large group of animals.” To a beekeeper…

swarm: noun. A group of homeless bees that is looking for place to make a hive over the next 2 – 12 hours.

hive: noun. 1. An established nest of live bees. 2. A stack of wooden boxes where bees live.

Now that I’ve got that straightened out, let’s talk swarms. Swarms will often be seen hanging off a tree branch. They form a ball around their queen and want to settle someplace. They have no honeycomb because they aren’t established. If you’re quick to act and can reach the swarm, you can box it up and be off in less than an hour. If you cannot reach it, you may be able to spray some juice or syrup on them to make them fall to the ground, then get them in a box and take them to an appropriate bee yard where they may be sweet and calm and productive. You may have a grumpy colony on the other hand, and can’t wait for it to die off naturally.

Or you may have a hive. Hives can be any age and can be almost any place. Here is one that I got a call for earlier this year. It’s in an old tree. In this case, cutting down the tree would be difficult because of its location and size.

trapout bees iowa

 Trapouts like this require a keeper to leave a box at the location for about one month. I sealed up the entrances/exits as best I could, except for a small tube of screen – I’m adjusting the tube here. Over the coming weeks, the bees move into the box. For this well-established hive, multiple trips across town were required, and left a deficit in my supplies. Anything that comes up between now and when the trapout is over will have to dealt with, but can’t include the use of this box, the frames inside, bottom board, and inner and outer covers.

Now let’s look at a hive that requires a cutout. We had to enter the house and cut out the wall to find the hive.

cutout bees foley's russian


Once the wall was out of the way, we could see where the hive was located. We guessed pretty well by feeling how warm the wall was around the window. It was very warm by his left hand. The hive was 2-3 years old and went from the header above the window almost to the floor and on both sides of the stud.

honeybee removal

Because we found great comb, we were able to save brood (baby bees and eggs) by cutting it to size and banding it into frames. I have no idea how Jason does this when he works alone.

cutout honeybee removal hive

You can see a blue tub on the floor. That tub is used for other comb — mixed brood and honey. Sometimes you find gorgeous comb honey that might be saved for consumption. Our gloves were still dry and clean at this point, but the upper comb got pretty messy, because the cells full of honey had to be cut out. Honey coating the inside of your gloves, maybe in your hair if you’re working in a ceiling, yeah, removal is a messy job. So a keeper might charge for jobs like this. Here’s that tub.

tools hive removal

See the tools on the floor? You probably can’t see the rest of the stuff — and we could have brought more — we hauled across town and between the truck and the house: two hammers, rubber bands, a knife, drill, sawsall, headlamp, beesuits, smoker, gloves, hive full of frames, bottom board, inner and outer covers, and strap, and all the wall that had to come down. We left rather sticky.

We spent about an hour and half on this hive.

2 thoughts on “Removing bees — free or charge?”

  1. Super interesting! As a consumer, I’d just expect to pay for the service as it’s something that there’s no way I could do myself. If I have bee issues, I’ll know now to hope for a swarm rather than a hive!

    1. You’ve affirmed my brother-in-law, who had the same reaction — “I know I can’t remove the bees myself, so of course I’d pay someone else to do it.”

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