Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tree Bee Trapout

Hello all of you friendly to bees!

I wanted to write a quick post about my first trap-out since I decided to start increasing the apiary size by looking for swarms, doing colony cut-outs out of houses, and now tree trap-outs as well. I have some pics I will post below, and if I can get my videos all spliced together I might even post a movie.

First things first though, an explanation of what a trap-out is. A trap-out is where there are bees in something that cannot be damaged, and it will take coaxing and coercion to get them out without resorting to killing them. In this case I have been tasked to remove wild bees from a really old oak. Me and 4 other people could prolly hug around it. Well if it didn't have angry stingy bees living in it that is.

Anyway, the tree is huge, and the bees have chosen to live in it. Their entrance is about 6-7 feet off the ground in a big knot hole. Not bad, and hurray for me, I won't be on a ladder! The owner of the property did not want to cut the tree down, which is one of the ways bees are removed, but I agreed to find some other way. Trapping the bees out was going to be method here.

First, the coaxing part is to have a hive setting very closely to the entrance of the wild colony. Inside of this hive box will contain frames, and a special frame that is filled with eggs. I understand it has to be eggs or the trapout will fail. So the morning I set the trap up I stole a frame of eggs out of one of my hives destined to be the lure in the hive box. The theory is that the bees will smell the eggs, and the smell of bees on the frame of comb, and move in to start taking care of the eggs. At that point if they do move in they will realize they have no queen, and begin developing a queen out of a few of the eggs. After 3 weeks a queen will emerge and take over the hive. At this point the hive has become home to the colony and it can be removed to some other place.

The coercion part of this trapping-out is the escape cone, or trap-out cone. It is number 8 hardware cloth (#8 means 8 squares per inch, or approximately 1/8 squares) and it is fashioned into a cone shape. A piece of plywood is used to hold the cone in place. A hole is drilled in the plywood, the cone inserted with some of it folded over on the back of the plywood, and for mine stapled in place. It should look something like this:

Behind the cone during installation I have fashioned a tinfoil muff of sorts about 5 inches across and wider than the bee knot hole. This will be squished when I push down against the plywood holding the cone. It should provide a tight seal against the uneven surface of the tree and all without caulking or other messy things. The plywood is them secured in place by deck screws. Here's a pic of it attached to the tree:

The magical thing about this cone is that the bees can exit, but because of the way their eyes work they cannot discern that the tip of the cone is the way to get back in, so bees leave, but cannot get back in to the hive showing up instead at the base of the cone where they can smell bees but can't get to them. Since there is a hive sitting closely that smells like home the bees will investigate, locate the eggs and begin caring for them. Other bees will join them (meaning any bee that leaves the original colony in the tree) until a point where a dearth is perceived on the part of the wild hive still inside the tree ("Why isn't anyone coming back from outside with food?"), and at that point the queen and those last bees able to fly will leave the tree looking for a better place to locate food. So they might be seen making a swarm swarm from the bee tree to signify that we are close to the end. The time it takes to get to this point is about 6 weeks total.

At this point once all bees have left and no one is coming out of the tree that the cone can be removed. What!! You might be saying. But it is ok, the colony has moved into the hive box, the tree Queen has flown off and all that remains in the tree is honey, and pollen. Since the box is home, has a queen they love dearly, and there are no guard bees around the tree entrance, the hive box bees will go into the tree and burgle all of the honey in the tree and bring it back to the box. Yoink! Finder's keeper's and all.

Once the robbing has ended, I will sneak up on the hive in the dead of night and plug the exits, then transport the hive back to it's new home in my apiary. Ta-dah, free bees. The next morning they will fly out, do some circles to orient themselves and head off looking for food.

And that's it, no pesticides, free bees, and only a little time to invest as the bees do all the moving.

I like it.

I will be making a handful of trips over there to check on them and will update the blog with their progress.

Thanks for stopping by!

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