Friday, May 14, 2010

Bee Transfer by Funnel

When honey bees swarm, they regularly move into houses and buildings and build a nest in an empty cavity between the inner and outer walls. These spaces provide an opening very similar to the honey bee’s natural home in a rock crevice or a hollow tree. The colony that I removed from a concrete office building was housed as if in a rock cave; the colony that I removed from a woodworking shop in a cypress garage filled a wall cavity similar to a hollow tree. When the conditions are suitable and time is not an issue, a beekeeper can use a screen funnel method to transfer feral honey bees from a structure such as hollow tree or a building to a bee hive. This procedure works exceptionally well in the spring.

The first step in moving the bees out of a structure is to close all of its entrances except one. This can be done by stapling screen or any flexible fabric over any extra entrance holes. Next, the beekeeper brings in a weak, but queen-right hive to accept the bees. I like to use a small colony from my mating nucleus bee yard. I set up a hive with a young queen that is starting to lay a good pattern of eggs. This hive is placed close to the feral bees’ hive entrance. To make the colony transfer, you fashion a funnel from screen wire and attach it to cover the feral bees’ entrance. Foraging bees leaving their hive don’t find their way back inside the funnel. Their numbers overwhelm the guard bees of the close-by weak hive, and they enter this hive instead. The transfer of bees will begin immediately, but will take from six to 12 weeks to complete. Eggs laid in the feral nest won’t emerge for three weeks, and these bees won’t fly as foragers for another three weeks. After the feral bees have been transferred, wax moths will clean out the old nest.
--Richard

4 comments:

  1. I recently found a colony in a dead tree and removed that tree to our farm where my other two hives are located. It is a five foot half rotten oak log with a large colony in it, and each end is used as entrance/exit points. Do you think this method would work in this case? I do not have extra hives/queens to use. Any recommendations? Thanks so much and I'm enjoying your blog! My email is jstickler@wiregrassarchaeology.com

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  2. Finding a bee tree is always an interesting experience. Transferring the bees from a tree to a modern bee hive is possible, but challenging. However, it is often worth trying; you will certainly learn something about the bees. There is no one way to approach each transfer circumstance. One possible method for transferring the bees from the tree to a modern hive would be to fashion a plywood piece to cover each end of the log, and then stand the log upright. The plywood on the upper end should have a hole in the center and be shaped to support a modern bee hive. An entrance hole for the bees may be left anywhere on the tree. Above the bee tree, place a hive body containing frames of drawn comb and a frame of open brood borrowed from another hive. A regular hive cover goes on top. Attracted by pheromones, nurse bees will move from the tree to tend to the brood.

    Add frame-filled boxes above this hive body as needed. When the queen moves into the modern hive body and starts laying eggs, you can place a queen excluder below her. Wait three weeks for the brood in the tree to emerge, and then remove the tree when you feel like enough of the bees have migrated to the modern hive above. I wish you success.
    --Richard

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  3. I'm not a beekeeper. We have a hive that has been in a tree for many years. It's along our driveway and near other trees we need to work on. It agitates the bees when we are doing this and would like to remove them but not harm them. We've been told that the only way is to cut down the tree. What would happen if we put a screen funnel over the opening so they would go out but not back in. Would they find another hive or would they die?

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  4. Ron,
    A funnel can be used to transfer bees from a cavity in a tree to a modern hive. For the transfer to be successful, the hive needs to be placed within inches of the opening into the tree. Without a hive to catch the bees outside the tree, the now queen-less bees would die in a cluster on the surface of the tree.

    If you contact your local beekeepers association, someone will surely be glad to discuss handling your bee tree. Good luck.

    I posted a picture of a colony of honey bees that I removed from a large, hollow catalpa tree. The publishing company of the local newspaper built a new office and saved a beautiful shade tree in their parking lot. It contained a large colony of feral bees. The employees enjoyed watching the transfer of bees throughout the summer. The post is dated November 13, 2010.
    --Richard

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