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My first cutout. The Saga of a 6 week Bee Veteran continues


Well the fireworks started a day early this year. On the 3rd of July to be exact. I was given permission by a homeless lady to do a cutout on a large hive of bee’s living in a couch covered with trash, under a tree. But with strong instructions and stipulations. And because I really wanted to try a cutout, and she really didn’t care whether or not the bee’s stayed or not, a cash payment was expected LOL. I figured why not, I’m not homeless, she was, and I could almost afford the $40, for my first (self taught lesson).
I was anxious and wish I’d taken pictures but didn’t, except for a poor one (attached). The couch was covered in trash and trash bags full of clothing which I wasn’t to touch and I was under no circumstance to move the couch an inch. That should have sent up so many signals to not attempt the cutout, that I should have run- ‘not walked’. But I’m the adventurous, throw caution to the wind kind of guy and the back of the couch was exposed and I was given permission to cut the fabric out and work from the outside in. Oh foolish man that I am. Well, after she left, I assembled my equipment and tools, donned my bee suit and lit the smoker, and lit the smoker, and lit the smoker… Next time I’m bringing a propane bottle torch to light that damned smoker, and set to smoking the entrance. It helped a lot, but after that I couldn’t get the smoker to work again (common newbee mistakes).
I did have brave help with me (Ed) who had never had bee experience. BTWwhoever said two heads are better than one, wasn’t thinking bee’s and large targets sitting on shoulders. Well I got on my hands and knees in the dirt and cut the fabric from the back of the couch and yes there it was in ‘living techno-color’ (yes I’m that old) rows of comb and thousands upon thousands of angry bee’s in the air, angry bee’s on the ground, angry bee’s in the comb. But of course, I was in for a full 12 round boxing match and with 2-5 gallon pails next to me, and started cutting out the honey comb first which was MESSY and STICKY and with comb drawn almost down to the dirt DIRTY! (I’ll be talking more about dirt and honey) Honey comb was stuck to couch straps and white batting and dripping in a constant flow all over the ground and with it hundred and hundreds of bee’s drowning in dirt and honey (so so very sad). Now mind you absent my glasses and adequate light, I could barely see out of my hood and I mean barely. I’m almost on my stomach and in dark shadows of the low hanging tree and deep recesses of a damned couch (that I’ve promised I wouldn’t move an inch).
Well at some point the honey comb, morphed into a mix of honey and brood comb (I’m a newbee so when I see brood comb, I really don’t have a clue what I’m looking at, only ‘what I think’ I’m looking at. So I start cutting it into rectangles, white brood juice leaking out with every pass (again, so sad), and so I calling Ed for empty brood comb and rubber bands (rookie me didn’t know what size rubber bands to bring so most were too small, or too old and brittle most of them snapping as we try and fill the frames with honey and dirt all over our gloves and bee’s bouncing off our hoods from every direction as of course we had no smoke. Adrenalin is such a great motivator, and as the Adrenalin is now coursing like the Mississippi through our veins we just kept at it. It was a was a war zone, to say the least. Oh did I mention that I had brought a new bee vac with a fancy cordless vacuum that kept stopping and finally gave out? So I’m not getting all the bee’s that cover every surface now but do have at least a nuc’s worth. All my tools, clothes everything is covered in honey and dirt and using my hands to keep lighting matches to get the smoker going was comical (in the darkest sense). By this time there are thousands of bee’s stuck in dirt and honey on the ground and more stuck solid to leaking combs which kept going into the buckets (I wanted to cry- a manly- single tear and short sniffle kind of cry), but it couldn’t be helped, and I had no time to sing “Danny Boy” for those fallen in combat.
So as it came to a close my helper put the tools in the back of the truck and I secured the bee vac in the back of the truck. We then shoveled dirt over honey that was on the ground and threw more dirt over the area’s where we’d cut out the comb, and placed an old mattress that was sitting there across the back of the couch. Then we placed a super full of brood frames where the opening to the couch was, for the left over bee’s to find and planned to come back that night to move to move it and the holdouts to a new location. Thankfully many bee’s were already moving up the face of it, but I’m sure, that the queen was not a survivor. It was over 100 degree’s outside and we both needed a cold drink and headed out to a convenience store with plans to drive to a friends back yard with a bee vac filled with bee’s ready to add to a 2nd super of brood we’d collected from that hive.
Tools and two Bee stung Men with swollen faces and body parts (8-stings on me- I still don’t know how they got into my suit), and Clothes covered in honey/dirt received more than just a few quizzical looks as we set our Icy Cherry Slurpee’s down on the counter and headed out to finish the many tasks left to do- and there were many. But with most of the work behind us, we drew down on the straws containing icy cherry Slurpee nectar, congratulating ourselves on not getting stung to death and a job (if not well done) was done, with some lessons learned (which I will comment on later) and which thankfully will never be forgotten.


Wow, Dusty, what an epic tale! A wise boss once said to me that there are two things that can happen to you in life. Good times, and good stories. This was certainly the latter! :blush:

Thank you for sharing. I don’t do many cutouts because they are so danged unpredictable from so many points of view. However, I do admire those who do them and share the experience. I hope the homeless lady was grateful! :wink:


LOL she wasn’t really, but that’s o.k. Now, what do I do? Should they make a queen on their own? That said, I’m picking up a third small box tonight that I left with comb only that I poured a little honey over in case there were other hold outs (no brood in it) and my friend walked by and said there was activity there, so my second question is, what should I do with this broodless 3rd box as well? BTW thanks for saying it was a good story. It was an adventure to say the least.


If you gave them comb with eggs in it, they can make their own queen. However, I would consider providing a commercial queen given the prevalence of Africanization in our area. I just bought one from these guys:
They currently have queens available for 12th July delivery. Your bees should be fine until then. There is a nice little video on installing the queen here, the key being to inspect for queen cells before you try to put the caged queen into the hive:

I would go through all of the boxes and count up the frames of brood and frames of honey. I would keep all of the brood, and keep one frame of honey/pollen for every brood frame. If you had 5 frames of brood, I would put that in the center of a 10 frame deep brood box, and put the honey/pollen on the outside. If 6 of brood, I would put in 4 of honey. I would extract the rest, unless it is dark brood comb which is now being used for honey. Dark comb has brood cocoons and feces in it, so crushing and straining contaminates the honey. You might be willing to eat that, but you probably shouldn’t sell it as “pure” honey. :blush: If you don’t want to eat it, you can always feed it back to the bees as they get established.

One final thought. If you moved the frames to less than 2 miles from where you did the cutout, a lot of field bees and even some nurse bees may try to find their way back home. You might want to revisit the cutout site for a few days to collect any stragglers or absconders until you know that your new location has an accepted, laying queen. :wink:


Thanks Dawn. If they’ll make their own queen, I think I’ll let them try. Penny wise-Pound foolish? I hope not. I think I’ll take the third and final box over to the yard tonight after dark and maybe steal a frame of brood from one of the other hives. It’s one of those heavy cardboard transport boxes with a place for a few frames. Night time is o.k. isn’t it? Thanks for all the help. Dusty Oh, should I just dump the 3rd. box into one of the two already there?

As Moses said- “We are but dust”. And the fact is? I don’t care if it’s but dust.


For moving, it is the best time. For opening hives, it is the worst. :blush: Not sure quite what your intentions are, but don’t open a hive at night unless you really have to. There are at least 10,000 warrior princesses in there who are determined to scare you off, or preferably kill you! :smile: Oh no, of course not, I don’t have any personal experience of that. :blush:

You could certainly do that if the bees you are dumping into are also from the couch. If they are not, you are going to need to do a standard “newspaper merge”, so that the dumped bees have time to mix nicely and in a genteel manner with the new hive.


I agree with @Dawn_SD, that IS an epic tale. Lots of lessons learned there.

With your smoker, start out with an empty smoker, make a fire in the base with smalls sticks & cardboard, get it really hot before adding the smoker fuel. I found wood shavings to be the best smoker fuel.

You can see why I recommended to move the couch away & elevate it. One lesson learned would be: I wouldn’t have parted with the $40 unless I was able to move the couch away & elevate it.


Amen brother. I could have moved the entire couch to the tail gate of my truck, removed all the parts that needed removing and had little or no dirt to deal with. Yes it would have gone much much smoother and wish I’d been able to. Thanks for the smoker advice.


You are welcome Dusty:) my wife was reading your story & agrees with me that you’re a great writer. You must be an author or something:) cheers

PS if you are in a high temp/humidity area, watch out for SHB damage. A freshly hived cutout can be very vulnerable to shb damage. Pay particular attention to where the frames of brood touch each other as well as any debris on the hive floor, dead bees etc. Get rid of any debris & dead bees.


Hi @JeffH, @Dusty is in one of the driest areas in California. Banning Pass is desert climate with low humidity and very high winds. They have a huge wind farm out there for electricity generation. Believe me, as a private pilot I am familiar with all of the hazards of Banning! If SHB can survive there, we should be afraid, very afraid. :smile:

My local mentor tells me that SHB doesn’t do well in desert climates. So maybe Dusty just has to deal with cutouts and homeless fortresses, without worrying about SHB. :rofl:


Thank you Dawn, I got this story confused with another story where someone had high heat combined with high humidity. I haven’t woken up properly yet, & it’s past 10am.


what a great story… you had me hooked at “I was given permission by a homeless lady to do a cutout on a large hive of bee’s living in a couch covered with trash, under a tree”…:rofl:

you really should have filmed it all…

so let me get this straight: the homeless lady lives on the couch? And she had a large bee colony living there with her? Hmmm.

should this situation arise again: perhaps you could find a replacement upgrade couch and do a straight swap?

I Know it’s unlikely- but perhaps bees will move into the couch again? Who’s to say? Next time you could offer $20 and an old decrepit couch?


Lol. No, she didn’t sleep on the couch, she has a dome tent hidden under a low branched tree. The couch was a device helping to conceal her tent as well as a landing pad for the precious ‘what-evers’ she brings home. It was funny during my first interaction with her she said that she’d been protecting the bee’s for a couple of years. It struck me as both funny and salient at the same time. She’s lived there for 3 years and said there have always been bee’s there. I offered to find her a couch and she refused. The homeless as I’m sure you’re aware have their own way of doing things and often find change difficult. She’s a nice lady but very set in her ways. It was quite the experience and I made some other very bad rookie mistakes once I got the honey and comb home. The greatest of which was processing my honey at night 20 feet from one of my hives. The next morning there was an explosion of bee’s and anyplace there had been a drip (and there were numerous) the bee’s just covered them as well as ants. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Oh well, I’ll try not and relearn that lesson anytime soon. The bee’s wouldn’t let me out my back door until today. I was stung twice just trying to clean the mess up, at which time of course I put my bee suit on. Well, onward and upward. Blessings to you.


Funny you should say, but yes I do write ‘some fiction’ for pleasure only, but this was the real thing and I didn’t get time to proof this one much (now that I’ve read it I wish I’d had-lol). But In my spare time, I’m working on a series that I will be putting on the net, hopefully by some time this fall. I’ll send you a link once my site goes up. Thanks again for your cheery and helpful attitude. So many great people on this site.


Thank you Dusty, I look forward to it. It was “and as the Adrenalin is now coursing like the Mississippi through our veins”, that gave it away:).

I hope your bees are going well.

You’ll laugh at this one. Yesterday a bloke who ordered a flow hive phoned me. He told me that he wants to only have one hive, that is funny in itself. The funny thing was: he told me that a few years ago, while living in Perth, they had an old couch on an upstairs balcony. They dropped it down to the ground to put onto the kerb for cleanup week. Unbeknown to them, there was an established beehive in the couch. It mustn’t have been a very strong colony to go unnoticed. Unless they didn’t use that balcony very much.


@Dusty, I am so full of admiration for you sharing all of this so openly, positively and with such good humor. I really like your style. I am certain that your generosity with describing your experience can help many other beekeepers who are considering a similar adventure. Please keep us posted with how your various colonies progress, and any further lessons that your bees decide to teach you. It is a true delight to read your tales. :smile:


Rookies doing an awkward first cut out, mistakes combined with multiple stings? Sounds familiar…
Well done. I’m sure the next cut out will be much easier, perhaps even enjoyable and now you have your first colony you can also be a bit pickier with the cut out jobs.
Thanks for sharing.


C’mon, Jeff - his name is Dusty :smile:

Awesome story @Dusty - great lessons in strategic planning for how to approach any being who’s made a couch their only home :hushed:


Hi Dusty. Night time and bees. Yep, been there. It is an experience to say the least. BTW they do not like torches shining at them. Of course, the only other option is peering closely at the hive in the dark. Either way, prepare for incoming bees :smile:.