Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Honey Bees in a Wall

Honey bees make a permanent nest. While wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets occupy their nest for only one year, a honey bee colony may exist for a number of years. Honey bee colonies are quite large as well. At Peace Bee Farm we try to maintain a population of 60 thousand bees in each hive for honey production. Feral bees, living in a cavity, may have even larger populations. With the natural home of the honey bee being a cavity in a hollow tree, a hollow space between the walls of a house makes an attractive cavity. A friend called me and said that she was having a problem with the honey bees living in her house. A year ago we discussed the bees which had been in the walls at the back of her house for several years. She and the bees shared the dwelling harmoniously. The house held two colonies in the walls; a third colony occupied a hollow tree in the lawn. She was content to leave the bees alone until someone offered to kill the bees with diesel fuel. A month later, thousands of bees covered the outside wall and honey began flowing inside the house. The homeowner’s helpful neighbor actually created quite a problem. By killing a large portion of one honey bee colony in the wall, he left its honey stores exposed to hive scavengers. Wax moth and small hive beetle larvae destroyed the beeswax honeycomb allowing the honey to flow into the house.

I am attempting to transfer the bees from the walls of the house into two hives containing colonies that I established this spring. The hive entrances are located inches away from the bees’ entrances at the house. A screen wire funnel allows the bees to leave the house, but not re-enter. Overwhelming the guard bees, the house bees will integrate with the colonies in the hives. The presence of large numbers of pollen foragers indicates the transfer is working well.

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