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Crazy colony exposed in a tree

Just got a swarm call- for what looks like a kind of crazy established hive in a tree. I don’t need any more bees just now but I might take this one on just for the sake of the bees and the sheer fun of it. The homeowners plan to remove the tree in a few weeks so the colony is in trouble as is and needs to go:

I haven’t done a job quite like this- it looks quite tricky- apparently the bees are around 3 meters off the ground… Hive looks large- but what comb I can see is completely crazy with many leaves built into it. Doesn’t look like it will cut out easily. Any tips on how to go about this one? @JeffH - I WILL Use a frame of brood :wink:

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Hi Jack, this would not be the time for a frame of brood at the start. It looks big & heavy, but it might not be as heavy as it looks, on account of the bees using most of their honey to keep the brood warm. If it was wrapped around one branch, you could tie a rope around it before cutting the branch, then lower it down, like I did with the bees in the banana tree. Then start pulling it apart in the same manner. It will be easy because the flying bees will go back to where the hive used to be.

This is how we tackled the bees in the banana tree.


If you can get some of their own good brood into frames, then get them into a box with a lot of bees, the bees that are up where the hive used to be will come down.

I hope you charge a reasonable fee Jack.
cheers

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great video jeff. How long did you leave the box there? Do you know if you did get the queen or not?

Considering that the tree that my colony is in is slated for destruction- hopefully I will be able to cut off some branches and lower the colony like you did. Hopefully it won’t just fall apart… Maybe I will try and hang it in a cardboard box before I lower it. I might be able to use my bee vacuum to suck up most of the bees before I start.

Yeah, the bee vac would be a good idea. I forget whether I got the queen or not. That part never bothers me.

If you get some of their brood into a box, then shake the bees from the vac into it before putting the lid on, the bees high up will come down the same day. Then you can take it away that night.

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How do you go wiring the cut out comb into the frames like that Jeff?
I did it once and it all fell out when I shifted it, so now I use chicken wire stapled to one side of the frames and folded around and "latched/hooked to some panel pin nails on the other side. Seems to work.

Hi Chris, wiring comb to frames like I did is less than ideal, that’s for sure. For me it’s just a means to an end. I never keep comb like that if frames for very long because the bees fill the gaps with drone comb. I cycle them out very quickly & replace with fresh foundation.

I guess if you shift the box quickly, wiring the comb like I did in the frames is not ideal because, as you say, it falls out when shifted. The bees quickly bridge gaps with comb, stabilizing it, therefore if the hive is not moved for a few days, it works out fine.

Chris- I strongly recommend the use of rubber bands- I’ve never tried chicken wire but I imagine rubber bands have to be easier- and you don’t need to go back in and remove them- the bees do it all by themselves throwing the bands out the front door… In addition- if you use the brilliant method shown in the video below you can use extra bands to push the comb pieces up onto the top of the frame- so the bees end up building perfect frames. If they fall slightly to one side everything gets messed up- this method ensures no such problems. This is the key if you ask me.

the important bit is around 1:25 minute mark.

So, did you finish up tackling and taming this beast @Semaphore?

Not yet- we are going to do it early next week. I have enlisted a friend- as it turns out the colony is absolutely huge- maybe 3 feet long. and 6 meters up. we are fine tuning our bee vacuum and preparing our plan of attack… Luckily the home owner is willing to pay as she wants to save the bees. I’ll see if I can take some photos when we do it.

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Jack, any updates on this one?

actually yes- we went one day to do it with multiple ladders and a lot of equipment. Standing on top of a 6 meter ladder I could just reach the bottom of the monster colony. I looked down at the precarious and dangerous situation below- looked up at a truly massive bee hive- a bee came and stung me right through my leather glove… and I made an executive decision: NO I would not even try. I could see too many things that could go wrong- and badly wrong. So I called in another mad keen swarm catcher and bee removalist. He actually built a scaffold all the way around the tree and cut out the colony up there 7 meters off the ground. Took him an entire day with one helper. The cut brood comb alone filled two ten frame brood boxes. The bees were saved and the home owner very happy.

The colony was actually around 5 feet long and two feet wide- single combs hung up to three feet- with branches moving all though it. The combs were so long they swayed in the breeze. Amazing to see how the bees had managed to live completely exposed liek that for what must have been 3 or 4 years at a guess.

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Not just live, but from the sound of it thrive very well in a monstrous hive.

I come from Malta, in the mediterranean, where honey bees are native. I’ve seen a few hives exposed like that in trees, but never one that big.

It sort of throws a spanner in the works when it is argued that bees don’t need ventilation. They can cope with just about anything (apart pests & diseases), and are very adaptable.

one thing I did note- much of the comb at the edges was empty- I think that colony didn’t have much in the way of honey stores- as they would likely need to eat a lot more honey to stay warm at night and in winter. But yes- it does proves that bees can live in a wide variety of situations. I believe the leaf litter that fell on top of the colony created a kind of natural roof to keep rain out of the central brood combs. There was comb all intertwined with it holding the leaves in place.

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Was it anything like this?

Now that’s crazy!

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Lol- yes watching that makes me feel like I totally wimped out. But then again- those people are CRAZY. Amazing how huge the combs are- those are some impressive gigantic bees.