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Bees forming colony behind a picture.

Bees forming colony behind a picture.

Not long ago I was presented with an opportunity to gather some bees. As usual, until you go look at it, you have to form a picture in your head with the questions you ask and the answers you get. My wife’s friends mother called about bees in her roof – way up at the apex. Based on what she described – and what I saw subsequently of where they were – I was not looking forward to cutting those out. Very high up, very difficult location. But, inexplicably, something happened to change all that.

Interestingly the next day or two, I get informed that those bees moved to the neighboring daughter’s garage – apparently they were in swarm or absconsion mode and didn’t like the eve of that roof. The garage is a framed structure with no inner sheeting over the studs. Where the bees ended up there was a big ol’ picture leaning against the wall and the bees took up residence behind the picture. I could only see the top of the swarm. Yeah – little thing by appearances. I’m thinking – ooh, another tiny swarm. Oh well – better a few than none, right? I was in for quite a surprise when I removed the picture. There was a mess of bees going from face high at about 5.5′ almost all the way to the bottom of the cavity. I didn’t get a picture of that, sadly, as I became pre-occupied with getting them in the bucket once I had removed the picture.

Bees hanging around the entrance to the swarm bucket.

Bees hanging around the entrance to the swarm bucket.

I pulled the picture away from the wall and found a huge mass of bees covering the cavity behind it and a little 4″ bit of white comb sticking out from the wall. They had just barely started making themselves at home. THAT was my cutout. This was larger than any swarm I’d obtained and more akin to the number of bees I get from my regular cutouts. I got lazy tho and didn’t cut that little comb. I just swept the bees into the swarm bucket and closed it up and put the bucket near the cavity. The bucket has a PVC joint near the bottom with a piece of plastic queen-excluder in it acting as an “entrance” to allow flying bees to enter in but to keep the queen from escaping. Before long bees started coalescing around the entrance of the swarm bucket and kept coming and coming and coming until there was an appreciable mass of bees by the entrance, as well as inside the bucket.

Stragglers crawling from bucket into hive.

Stragglers crawling from bucket into hive.

After sitting there looking at the bucket wondering how I was going to put that in the car for the trip home, I decided that now that I have the queen, and was in a garage out of the sun and with a bit of leasure time at hand, I may as well take advantage of that and get one of my boxes and pour the bees in it before night-fall. After all – while there were a LOT of bees in the bucket, there were as many hanging on the entrance and on the wall next to the entrance. There was no way they’d all retreat into the bucket that evening. With a regular hive, the returning foragers would have a proper hive to go into and I wouldn’t have to mess around with a mass of bees hanging from the entrance and crawling all over the car on the trip back.

Bees scent-fanning at hive entrance.

Bees scent-fanning at hive entrance.

I went home, got my hive and trusty queen-excluder which I use as a queen-includer, set it up next to the wall in the garage, pulled some frames out and unceremoniously poured the bucketed bees in. Since it was still light out and I wasn’t desperately tired from cutting out bees, I was able to manipulate the mass of bees sitting on the queen excluder and blocking re-placing the frames I removed and I put those back in, hoping against hope that I didn’t hurt the queen. The next time I pour bees into a hive like that, I’ll have an entrance queen-includer so the bees would have their bee-space back and I’d have less problems putting the frames back in. Then I took a square box and scooped/brushed  bees into it from the wall and dumped those into the hive too and closed it up.

Comb left behind.

Comb left behind.

So far, so good. Bees fanned at the entrance, indicating to their flying sisters that their new home and their queen was in that white box. I let the hive sit there until the next night to give me time to level out another spot for it since I haven’t poured my concrete pads yet. Moving it was a simple matter of cinching the strap tight around the hive, plopping some duct tape across the entrance – the drive was only a couple of minutes – and putting it in the back seat of my Focus. It now sits proudly on bricks in my budding apiary and the bees are now busy bringing in pollen and making a home.

Hive back at apiary and happy.

Hive back at apiary and happy.

For a cutout – that one beats anything I’ve ever done before as far as ease and simplicity is concerned. No hours out in the hot sun, no ripping off siding and cutting out lotsa messy comb and only a few minutes of work rather than hours. Hope I get many more of these easy cutouts.

Michael Vanecek

I've been keeping bees with no treatments whatsoever for several years. I've followed a basic philosophy of if the bees don't bring it into the hive then it doesn't get put into the hive with good success. After a life-time of naturalism, this was simply the logical course to take with honeybee husbrandry and proof is out there buzzing and making honey right now.

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