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Removing a Honey Bee Hive From a Tree!

Bee Tree

The Calm Before the Storm

Wow, what a busy weekend. Between Friday and Saturday, I received 3 calls about possible feral hive removal. One turned out to be a nest of bumble bees, but the second was quite a whopper. A gentleman a bit to the south of me had a tree in his front yard get hit by lightning. It cracked the tree and made it a bit of a hazard to his neighbors and him, so they had a tree removal service come out on Friday to deal with it. Once that big boy hit the ground, bees erupted everywhere!

Unfortunately, the tree service decided to spray the bees and pour gasoline on them. They then left and decided to wait for Monday, when they figured the bees might be gone. Having been sprayed, these bees were not ideal, but I am game for trying to help any bee along, so I took the job on. What a job it was.

On Day 1, I arrived with all of my gear and immediately realized that I needed a bigger saw (I needed Pop’s Bow Saw, but it was in Charles City, and I was not up for that trip.) So, here was a section of tree about 20 feet long with bees coming out of two holes, some 5 feet apart. This tree was every bit of 3′ in diameter and more when you included the occasional knot. Finally, the thing was living just a few weeks ago and not a bit of it was rotten.

Bee Exit in Tree

A New Bee Exit

At this point, I was still expecting a young hive. I sort of figured that no hive could survive a lightning strike and these bees must have taken up residence after the tree split. I expected to find a lot of white comb, but not a lot of bees. Of course, I was way wrong.

To begin with, these bees had comb running a good 6′ in the tree, in a center cavity about a foot to 14 inches wide. There was a TON of comb. But, I am getting ahead of myself. I had thought to slowly cut away sections of the tree until I got to the bees. But, this tree was too big. Cutting away one section was a serious nightmare. Just rolling a section was a back breaker. So, I decided to go right at them. I was putting the queen at risk, but I had no option. The tree removal service would be back on Monday and try to kill them again. I aimed the saw between the two exit holes (about 3′ to either side) and cut her in half.

Bees were flying everywhere. Somewhere along the line, some homeless guy showed up on a bike and proceeded to give me advice, claiming bees didn’t sting him. A few minutes after I cut the tree open and started getting comb, he hit the road, cursing about the stings….

I methodically removed comb, placing it (with rubber bands) in my empty frames and into a hive. I filled up about 6 frames with brood comb and pulled a lot of honey comb and left it off  to the side (I advised the home owner not to eat the stuff, as who knows what the tree service sprayed down there and what was contaminated.) I never saw the queen, but got a lot of it with nurse bees and left it beside one of the split logs.

A few hours later, I came back to find the bees still in the two sections of the log and also in my hive. The queen was not in my hive to be sure. So, I pulled out the bee vac. I was able to get 3 or 4 pounds of bees and left with my hive, setting them up at home when I returned.

The Hive Exposed

The Hive Exposed

The next day, the hive (I will start calling this one Southside) was pretty cranky. I cannot be sure, but I do not thing they had a queen. So, back to the site I went, sharpened saw in hand.

This time, I cut the two original sections in half again (much easier now that my slack rear end had finally sharpened the saw). One section had the most bees and they were clumped up a lot. Out come the bee vac and once again, I sucked up another few pounds of bees. This time, I got a ton of them and I may have even gotten the queen. Upon returning home, I dropped them in the Southside hive.

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