Asbestos and Bees

Hi everyone. After some advice. I have been contacted by a chap in Albany who has had a swarm move into his wall cavity a few days ago. I went had had a look to see if I can either bee-trap them out or remove the wall panel and use my bee vac to suck them all up and re-home them. As the external cladding panel can be removed, the bee sucking seems the quickest and easiest way to get them sorted out… however the external cladding is asbestos based fiber cement sheeting.

Does anyone think this is safe to do / done this in the past? I have visions of toxic asbestos dust coated bees.

Hi Nick - leave it where it is I would say.

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Agreed with @Dan2. The potential risk to your own health isn’t worth it in my opinion.

(Remember, asbestos sheets undisturbed are not typically a health hazard. But if you damage the cladding and cause fibres to come loose than it puts your health at risk. The bees are probably fine)

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Hi Nick, I would leave the asbestos untouched. However I couldn’t see any problem with trapping them out with a “trap out”. The asbestos will be all intact & will stay that way as long as it’s not cut into. I’m sure that the bees you trap out will be fine.

Maybe I should add a disclaimer: This IS NOT ADVICE TO GO AHEAD & DO IT. This is only what I would do at my own risk.

I AM NOT AN ASBESTOS EXPERT. However I worked with asbestos sheeting in the 70’s & early 80’s. Plus I worked on building sites while asbestos roofing was being fitted above me.

Thanks everyone. I think I’ll leave the cladding alone then and just use a trap-out and see how it goes. The chap has a young lad who is bee allergic so he really wants them gone. Luckily their flight path is 3m above the ground on a ledge… so a bit of spray foam, some poly-pipe, flywire, some brood, a few frames and a nuc box should see them out after a week or so… although I suppose it depends on just how much comb they can build in a week inside that wall. Why couldn’t it have been a nice swarm hanging from a branch? That will make my second trap-out start in a week!

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Does anyone think this is safe to do

Probably not…

done this in the past?

Many times.

I have visions of toxic asbestos dust coated bees.

The bees will be fine. They only live six weeks anyway. No time to get lung cancer. You are the one who needs protecting. IF you do it, be sure to wear a face mask and try to create as little dust as possible. DO NOT CUT THE TILES WITH A SAW! I would just break them out or pull the nails

I personally would not do this. I am not an asbestos expert, but my husband is. He does research on cancer and cancer causation in humans. He is a beekeeper too. He would not touch this colony, I am sure.

The problem with asbestos is not the stuff you can see. It is the stuff you can’t see. Many fibers are way below human vision levels, and they don’t go away.

If you breathe it, it can cause mesothelioma in the chest (a suffocating chest wall tumor) or lung cancer, or other lung diseases (asbestosis, COPD, etc).

If you eat a lot of food containing it (I guess this might include honey), it can cause peritoneal mesothelioma. Asbestos workers who brought packed lunches and ate them on the job site were exposed to this kind of risk. The risk of getting a cancer (chest or abdomen) is fairly low, but they are very dangerous and mostly not treatable. The tumors generally grow around 10 to 30 years after exposure, but once you get a mesothelioma (chest or abdomen) average life expectancy is not much more than 2 years in most cases.

I don’t know of any studies directly on honey, but honestly, I just wouldn’t take the risk unless I could get a lab to do a fiber count on the hive after extraction. That would be expensive, and probably not worth the time and effort.

So don’t sue me, and don’t quote me, I am not an expert myself. But I really wouldn’t do this trap-out or extraction. Too much risk.