I got a call from one of my beekeeping friends, who was looking for some help with a cutout. He had received a call from a homeowner who had been seeing a lot of bees in their basement for a couple of years and they wanted the bees removed.
We noticed that the bees were coming in and out of a small gap underneath the bay window at the front of the house, and could see that they were flying in through the hole, and then walking upward.
We did some more exploring, and took a look from the inside of the house as well. We could see that there was a cluster of bees inside the floor joists underneath the bay window in the basement. There was a small gap between the floorboards and the joists, and the bees had a crawl space that they chould come and go from. There was no comb in the basement, so we knew that they were not living in there. WOuld not be that simple.
We went back outside and disassembled the bottom of the bay window, removing the trim and the plywood on the bottom...
Lo and behold, we found the hive in the space beneath the bay, where they had removed some of the insulation.
If you've never seen a cutout being done, the process is basically to cut out sections of the comb, pulling them out of whatever their current home is, and then securing the comb to empty wooden frames. Most of the younger bees will stay on the comb, and the foragers will generally fly around, making their opinion of the situation known.
One approach to minimize the amount of flying upset bees is to use a bee vac to gently suck the bees off of the comb while you are cutting the combs loose. This helps out in a few ways:
- it clears the bees off of the comb so you can see where you are cutting, which causes less damage to bees and brood
- is makes for less flying bees in the air, which makes any non-beekeeper around the cutout pretty happy
- ideally, it gets bees out of the way so you can more easily locate the queen, who you want to capture and transfer into their new home
We used the Bushkill Bee Vac [https://beevac.com], which is pretty nice to work with, because it integrates with hive bodies, so while you are sucking them in, they are ending up directly in their new home.
As we clear a piece of comb, we reach up and cut that piece loose, and secure the comb into the frames.
As comb is cut out, it makes it easier to get to the larger pieces, and the cutout starts moving a bit quicker.
When we get all of the comb removed and relocated into frames and a body, we add this to the top of the stack on the bee vac. After the majority of the bees are recovered, we will remove a divider, and the bees will move up to take care of the brood in the combs.
We then took the vac into the basement to capture the cluster in the joists, and John sealed up the gaps between the floor boards and the joists. This allowed us to capture more of the bees, because they could no longer drift into the basement.
When we closed up the bay window, we replaced the insulation that was missing, made sure there were no voids, and replaced the trim with a longer piece, to ensure that the old opening was securely covered.
When we were doing this cutout, we did not locate the queen. We really just wanted to get this one done, since the homeowner was reactive to stings and we did not want anything to happen to him. We knew that, if we did not find her, she almost positively got picked up by the vac, and was already in with the colony.
We cleaned up and I took the colony home.
After setting the bees in their new home and opening up the front door (the vac's input hole, at least temporarily) we let them bee for a few days. After they had had a chance to settle in, we removed the extra body, as well as the bee vac parts, replacing them with a standard bottom board and top cover.
In inspecting the colony, it turns out that we either missed the queen, or more likely, she did not make the transition. The colony has created about 6 queen cells.