Saturday, November 13, 2010

Feral Bees in a Tree

At times honey bees and people conflict when living close together. Ron has a colony of feral honey bees living in a cavity in a tree along his driveway. The bees are alerted when he works in the area, and he would like to remove the bees. Recognizing the importance of honey bees, Ron would like to remove the bees without killing the colony. Some have told him that the only way to remove the bees is to cut down the tree. Ron asks if the method of removing bees from a structure using a funnel is effective. I have removed bees from trees in this manner on a number of occasions. The funnel method allows a beekeeper to transfer the bees into a modern bee hive without killing the colony. Other bee removal techniques often require cutting the tree or using chemicals to drive the bees from their cavity.

I prefer to attempt a colony transfer in the spring when queen bees are available in newly established hives. A tree suitable for a funnel transfer has an entrance close to the ground. Easy access to the opening in the tree is important. The beekeeper must fashion a stand for the hive to receive the bees. It needs to be near the point where the bees enter the tree. The hive stand must be substantial, because the expanding hive can easily weigh several hundred pounds. The beekeeper places a queen-right hive with a small population of bees near the tree’s opening. Next, he closes all tree openings except one which he covers with a screen funnel. This allows the bees to exit, but not reenter the tree. Foraging bees returning to the tree overpower the guard bees of the close-by hive. The receiving hive’s population expands rapidly. The transfer requires six to 12 weeks to complete. Today’s picture shows feral bees fighting with guard bees moments after I placed a funnel over the opening to their tree.

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