Bees on a hot tar roof

Thankfully, July has been cool enough to make a cut out on a tar roof endurable.

honey bee cut out flat roof
Look at the roof. See the bucket near the corner of the building? There are bees up there. But I’m not worried because it’s only 65 degrees out.

About two months ago, I visited this building because the store owner had honey bees in his retail space. I spoke with him, with his contractor, and then with the property owner. The property owner didn’t want any removal, but opted for chemical death. His maintenance man did the deed.

This week, I got a call from the property owner. The chemicals failed. The bees were still in the store. He wanted them out no matter what. So Mr. TellBlast and I went over to hopefully cut out the honey bees. We’d be happy to increase our numbers, the store owner would be happy with a bee-free store, the maintenance man would be happy to be able to work bee-free, and the property owner was OK with it all.

flat roof honeybee cut out
Knives and hive tools didn’t work efficiently. We upgraded to an 18″ crowbar and  reciprocating saw quickly.

I think the most difficult part of the job was locating the nest. The other difficult part was not being able to move the nearby AC unit and vent pipes. You can see them in another picture further down. See how close to the edge we had to work?

honeybee removal
Getting closer to finding the nest.

Once we got through the layers of tar and paper, we saw that bees were coming from under the plywood decking, not from the tile parapet as the maintenance man thought. If the bees were behind brick or tile, we probably wouldn’t have been able to remove them.

Look down past the layers of tar. There are honey bees right underneath us.
Look down past the two and half inches of tar and near the bricks. There are honey bees coming out the crack. They must be right underneath us.

Since it seemed like the bees were under the wood, I asked the maintenance man if he knew what was under the roof. Would I be cutting into the ceiling of the store? He had no idea, but wanted us to do everything we could to remove the bees. So we cut 8″ away. The comb was found just inside that crack in the picture.

I removed what Matt exposed from that first cut. Here’s the beginning of the nest:

comb from the nest
He’s making the hole larger in the background. Having a nice flat surface and cool temps made this job easier than it could have been on a typical Iowa July day.

See the black bucket in the picture? The maintenance man leaves the buckets of tar on the roof when he is finished with them. We used them to hold all the layers of tar and wood and paper that we removed. We used three buckets total. He also told us that tar roofs are sold as maintenance free, but they aren’t.

This colony yielded six frames of brood and food and a five gallon bucket of  comb that we couldn’t put in frames.

remaining bees
I had my camera along, so I used it to see if there was more comb. Nope, I found many bees but no comb.   I did this a couple times during the removal process. We didn’t want to remove more roof than we needed. The nest was between joists and rafters.

Matt cut on both sides of the one joist in case there were bees over there, too. By using my camera, I could tell that it was bee-free. Because of the path the bees were taking under the tile parapet, we didn’t think they were on the other side of the second joist.

I would say that the reciprocating saw and a rope saved the day for us: the saw for cutting, and the rope for moving stuff to and from the ground and roof.

tar on blades
We weren’t using the proper blade, but it worked all right. Goo Gone works to clean tar pretty well.

We returned at dusk to relocate the bees. The camera showed me that the remaining bees were all out of the their former next space. I showed the maintenance man what he would need to fix:

roof cutout honeybee
We lowered the trash buckets for him. See the screen on that vent pipe in the foreground? It caught me a couple times.

This was a new way to spend time with my husband. It was great to have another set of hands around, and makes for an interesting story to tell people.

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