Accidental bee ... something

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New Bee
Nov 14, 2015
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Hello all,

Just to introduce myself in that I know basically nothing about bees and thought that I would join up to learn more.

I'm British but my house is in Germany. I return there in-between contracts. The house has a chimney with four flues, two used, two unused. One of the unused flues has a colony of bees in it. Googling it I'm pretty sure that they are Carniolan bees.

Last November I invited a local bee keeper along to see if he wanted to take them off my hands. They had been there for three years. He went up into the attic with me, opened the access hatch to the flue, listened and told me that they were all dead, probably because of the Varroa mite. Although I never saw any evidence of any mite on any of the bees, alive or dead. He also said that he wasn't sure how he could remove the colony.

After he left I started removing all the wax from the flue. I filled a big black sack with the wax and stashed it away. There was no honey in any of the honeycomb. I removed 24 litres of dead bees from the bottom of the flue and put them in my compost tumbler. I didn't have the tools to remove all the wax, there were a good few metres of it in the flue and my arm would only go so far up and down. I stopped when I started hearing the odd bee noise.

The next morning I was rather taken back to find that some of the bees had actually woken up and I spent the next morning escorting them out the bottom of the flue through the front door. They were very drowsy and didn't fly away once outside.

I visited again last April, checked the flue and there still weren't any bees. I had brought some drain rods with me to continue the job. I prodded around a bit but didn't have enough time to finish the job.

I visited again last week (again in November) and there seems to be a new colony of bees. The weather was a lot milder this time compared to last year. The bees have started to build new honeycomb in the space that I had previously cleared. Again the ones I've seen seem to be the same species as the ones from last year.

I have a photo and a short video here:

You can see the old grey wax which I had been previously removing and the yellow honeycomb is all new.

I'm wondering though whether it would be best to keep these bees. I certainly wouldn't want to kill them. I haven't actually seen any mites on any of them. The house is in the Harz national forest and the local bee keeper in the next town along actually sells organic honey in the local health food shop. There is very little farm land here, it's all forest.

Another thing. We actually grow an awful lot of carnivorous north American pitcher plants. My husband is trying to grow enough to start a business. In the past we've always rescued bumble bees who have got trapped in the plants but unfortunately they always fly off to tell their mates where they can get drunk and bring more bees along that need rescuing. That is when they stop laying on the ground shivering and can manage to fly again. I'm beginning to wonder though whether all the carnivorous plants might be making it an ideal habitat for the honey bees. I read that the carnivorous plants kill the Asian hornet which in turn would otherwise kill honey bees.

I know that the Sarracenia minor pitcher plant has a symbiotic relationship with ants. The ants feed off the nectar and enough of them fall into the plant to feed it. Having a local colony of bees in my chimney might help feed and grow the plants. They in turn might be protected from predators. Although on thinking about it, we rarely see honey bees eaten by the plants. They mainly eat bumblebees, wasps and flies. I wonder how this would affect the honey if the bees feed on narcotic nectar? I watched a documentary recently about Himalayan bees that produce hallucinogenic honey.

All I need to do is figure out how to use the bees in my chimney. I could just remove the honey comb that reaches the access hatch. I've always fancied keeping bees but until recently never had the space to do it.
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Firstly, if you don't want bees in your chimney then they will have to be removed or killed and the chimney sealed or used a lot .. as the attraction to a new colony is the remaining comb and wax from the old colony. The likelihood is that - unless you seal up the chimney it will be re-colonised by another set of bees.

Secondly, if you don't mind having bees in your chimney and they are doing nothing to harm you then best just leave them to get on with it. Bees like chimneys and regardless of whether they survive or die out (possibly from the effects of varroa) is irrelevant .. colonies will come and go and they will swarm at times.

Keeping bees in a chimney in order to harvest honey is a non starter .. in removing accessible comb you are destroying their nest as well as potentially removing the stores they have created for survival over the winter.

Your options are very much dependent upon whether you want to become a proper beekeeper ?

If you do ...then I would leave them in place for the time being and think springtime for your next step ... which is really not for a new beekeeper or a non beekeeper - because what you need to do is either a cut out or a trap out in order to remove the colony from the chimney and get it into a hive in your garden - and then seal the access to the chimney up when the bees are all out.

The success of this will be dependent upon capturing the queen bee as the rest of the colony will then follow her.

It's going to be a messy business and there is no guarantee that a cut out will be successful as the queen may not be captured and she could even be accidentally killed in the process .. you really need a beekeeper who knows what they are doing ... or do a lot of google searching yourself and learn a lot about bees.

Your other alternative is to get a bait hive set up nearby next spring's almost certain that they will swarm and the queen that is with the colony in the chimney will leave .. and they may take up residence in the bait hive you have set up. You then have a small window of opportunity - a few days at most.... when the remainder of the colony will be much smaller (and effectively queenless) when you could remove the comb, vacumn out the remaining bees - seal their access to the chimney and if you have managed to capture the swarm in your bait hive .. shake them out in front of the hive and they will, hopefully take up residence there. You are then a beekeeper ... with all the added responsibility that entails ... spend an hour or two reading the posts in the beginners section and you will get some idea of the commitment that will be required.

If you have not captured the swarm then your best bet, I'm afraid, is to kill the remainder of the colony and seal up the chimney.

I'm afraid bees in chimneys are one of the more difficult beekeeping issues to deal with and it's not something to be undertaken without a degree of knowledge about what you are doing ...

Really ... if they are not harming anything or being a nuisance .... leave them be. If you want to start beekeeping then there are easier ways of getting your first bees than trying to extract them from your chimney ..
Fascinating.... and welcome to the BKF

I did not think that it was possible to have Organic bees in the EU ( according to Soil Association's pragmatic rules!)

Agree with Pargyle.

Yeghes da

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