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When I received an email from Kelly McLachlin explaining that she had an established colony of honeybees living in a Beech tree in her backyard, I was obviously very intrigued. I had her send me pictures of the tree and the bees and I was still slightly confused. I knew how much hollow space honeybees needed to make their hive and it was perplexing to see them coming and going from a crack in a seemingly solid and healthy tree. When I arrived on site however, things started to become clearer.

The Trap-Out

Another beekeeper, Marco, and I set out to extract this colony without harming the bees or the tree. Kelly was very accommodating and we decided to try a “trap-out”. This method of honeybee extraction includes setting up a bee escape to allow foraging bees to leave the hive, but not return afterwards. To coax them into a new hive, young brood is used to lure the worker bees inside. If all goes well, the bees will raise a new queen from one of the eggs inside the new hive.

This trap-out process can take up to six weeks before the bees have all left the original tree, and it’s very likely that the original queen will never leave. She will die in her empty palace filled with honey. After the extraction, the tree will need to be sealed up completely, otherwise the homeowner stands a very good chance that a new honeybee colony will move right in next year.

The trap-out is in place. MTK.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KEZQNIr9Ow&w=700]

Only days after retrieving a swarm from a house in Kitchener, I was emailed by the principal of Lexington Public School in Waterloo. There was a swarm of bees hanging in a tree in the school yard. After work, my friend Mike and I went out to the school to retrieve them.

We used a standard deep Langstroth hive box with pieces of plywood on top and bottom to capture the bees. There was a 1¼” hole in the box to use as an entrance. After the bees were in the box, we left them until dusk with a big sign that said “Caution. Live bees. Do not disturb.” I also wrote my phone number in case anyone had any questions or concerns.

After nightfall, Mike picked up the box and transferred them to a new top bar hive, where they are now happily setting up their new home.

Swarms in your area?

If you have stumbled upon a swarm of honeybees in your neighbourhood, please contact me. I will do my best to help them find a safe home.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGcYV8CW1XU&w=700]

Yesterday I checked in on the bees that I captured last Friday. In exactly 4 days, they have drawn comb on 7 bars, they have collected nectar and pollen, and the queen has been busy laying eggs. Bees continue to amaze me.

Just in case you missed it, here’s the swarm capture video.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjeIh8_F6Tc&w=700]

I recently built a swarm trap (AKA bait hive) to attract and capture honeybees in my own backyard. The above video shows the finished bait hive, which was based off a standard top bar hive design. I used the tips that I posted previously in my article How to Catch a Swarm of Bees while building this trap.

There are 17 top bars across the top, each with a groove filled with beeswax. The interior volume of the trap is exactly 40 litres and I rubbed lemongrass oil inside as well. I have since placed this trap, with attached cover, on my 2nd-floor balcony. I hope that a swarm of bees will find this to be an ideal location to live and move in.

To be continued… (I hope)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5k6IltahyA&w=700]

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Jon Lambert. He was looking for someone to remove an established colony of bees that had been living in the roof of his house for approximately four years. Jon realized the importance of honeybees and was seeking a beekeeper to remove the colony instead of simply destroying it.

There are big advantages to finding a feral colony like this. Bees like this are usually well-adapted to the local climate, resistent to pests and diseases and obviously healthy enough to have survived for years without medication or treatment. The trouble with colonies like this is that they are usually difficult to access. To be quite honest, that is what deterred me from retrieving this colony. I didn’t want the hassle of deconstructing someone’s home to retrieve the bees. Luckily, I was able to find another beekeeper in the area who gladly helped Jon remove the bees. He was able to find and save the queen, and he also found a capped queen cell, so was able to make two strong colonies from this retrieval. Thanks to Jon and Shawn for making an awesome video of the rescue!

If you have honeybees on your property, and would like them removed, please contact me and I will do my best to help you out, or refer you to an experienced beekeeper who will be able to help.