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Swarm removal - wall cavity

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drumgerry 

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I've been asked to remove a relatively newly arrived swarm of bees from an old timber building which is part of a complex of buildings undergoing renovation just now.

I took a trip over to look at them today. They arrived about 10 days ago and have taken up residence in a wall cavity. They are accessing the cavity via two gaps in the timber cladding on the gable end wall about 12ft up. To make it clear the walls of the building are formed from this timber cladding so it's sort of a big shack (attached on to an old woolmill). Spoke to the site manager who is happy for me to crowbar off the cladding to gain access to the colony.

I've never done a swarm retrieval like this before so I'd appreciate any advice.

They have a mobile scaffolding platform which I have been offered the use of. My thinking was to go along tomorrow and

remove as much cladding as necessary,
cut any combs out (hopefully with queen attached),
fit them into frames using elastic bands,
leave my hive placed on the scaffolding with the entrance open at the same height as the entrance to the cavity to catch the foragers,
leave for a few days and then remove to the apiary last thing at night.

Have I missed anything crucial in that lot? Am I likely to find a huge amount of comb built in the last 10 days or not very much?

Like I said any advice on doing this is much appreciated.

Cheers

Gerry
 

dudley 

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As you may be aware a swarm makes comb like it's going out of fashion. I recently removed a swarm from a chimney that had supposed to have only been resident for 12 days. I attach a pic for you to see just how much comb they have made in 12 days.

In you're case as you have contractors on site, the building is being renovated and prmission any damage you cause may not be a problem, but it is worth mentioning that you should have public liability insurance while working on other peoples property.

It will be messy, there will already be uncapped honey in the comb and it will open and break up as you handle it and you and the bees will get in a right mess. The shape does not conform the a nice square frame so you will be putting fixing comb in bits next to other bits to try and fill the frame, and brace it to each other, and banding or threading is not easy. It is a two handed job. To be honest, if it is a recent swarm, you wont have brood to save so it would be better to remove any comb and treat as a swarm.

The big difficulty with sewing, banding, wiring natural comb into frames is preventing cross combing in you're hive later. I have exactly that problem with a cut out I did in April.

Good luck and have fun.

Steve



This photograph shows the tall chimney pot removed, and as suspected the bees had combed under the bottom ledge of the pot where it sits on the brick stack.View attachment 1869

Here you see my Heath Robinson support gadget in position (size adjusted on site to suit the flue opening after the pot was removed).
I first slid it down under the colony. When I knew that the plywood was well below the mass of comb and bees I pulled back on the string bringing the bottom flap to 90º of the upright board thus creating a shelf. The string was tied off and lifted it up until I felt resistance from the swarm and comb. A timber stick was then slid through the most suitable hole in the vertical bar and supported on the brick stack on two sides so that I could let go and use both hands on the bees.
I had to remove some of the top comb as I could tell that the sheer weight of honey would compress down and may squash the queen.
I used a long blade and cut the comb from the brickwork
View attachment 1870

Carefully transferring the cut comb my box.View attachment 1871

There were still many bees on the inside brick flue face. I waited until they gathered into clumps and reaching down inside the flue I gently brushed them down into a small box and quickly added them to my swarm box.

Swarm box now tied securely to the adjacent chimney pot until duskView attachment 1872

Here you can see obvious bee activity confirming that I may be lucky and have the queenView attachment 1873[/QUOTE]
 

Chris Luck 

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I agree with dudley.

What I do in that situation is to get as much clear access as possible, forget trying to save any comb even with brood - there should be some already but so what? You only set them back 14 days which shouldn't matter at this time of year.

I carefully remove the outer comb with the honey wearing rubber gloves over my bee gloves and put this into plastic boxes with some chicken wire in the bottom, inevitably a fair number of bees get stuck up in this and they will immediately start to retrieve it from the boxes. As you remove the comb, trying to get all the comb with nutrition in out of the way first, you eventually end up with a small section or perhaps just a piece of wax at the top where the Queen will be with a cluster forming round her. Obvious maybe, but what you want to avoid is damaging the Queen or getting her caught up in the sticky mess.

Usual story after that, put Queen in hive , box or whatever your choice is and bingo. Leave box of comb with honey a couple of feet away and they will take it in as they draw new comb.

Chris
 

drumgerry 

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Thanks for the replies and and advice guys.

As it turned out it was fairly problematic. I found out that what the bees had swarmed into was an old abandoned nest. Opened up the cavity to reveal combs a full metre in width by maybe 75cm in depth. The biggest I've seen by a long way. The amount of honey in the combs made life pretty impossible. Dread to think how many bees got squashed even though I tried hard to avoid it.

There was some brood but none capped and I didn't try to save it. Got as many bees into the brood box as I could - the brood box already contained a frame of unsealed brood from my own hives. Put the hive as far into the cavity as I could so that the entrance lined up with their old entrance through the cladding. I left at that point as the stinging was reaching frenzied levels. About 20 stings got through my gloves and the worst was one to my knee as I was kneeling down on the scaffolding. As I type my hands are like balloons!!

Went back for a look this morning and it still hasn't settled down properly. Plenty of bees on the wing and around the gable end of the building - I suspect they're maybe robbing out the remnants of the honey. Took a quick glance inside the hive and there's about 3 frames of bees there. They have sealed a fair bit of the brood I gave them and haven't started any queen cells so far and drawn some comb. This over a period of about 18 hours since I left them yesterday.

I'm assuming there would be the start of queen cells visible even at this early stage if she wasn't present?? Or do they take longer to realise they're queenless and start building queen cells?

In any case I'm leaving them in situ for a few days and I'll go back and see what the score is over the weekend.

Cheers

Gerry
 

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