For swarm and honeybee hive removals
So you want to remove bees do
It is a labor intensive, time consuming, and
difficult operation in most cases.
Removing bees requires specialized tools and
These tools, and the techniques of their use,
can reduce some of the labor and time
involved in the extraction of honeybees from a
Basic equipment needed for ALL
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – when dealing with
unknown bees, recommend full suit and veil with gloves. An
inspector’s jacket can suffice if the pants are loose fitting
around the legs and the cuffs are bound to prevent crawling
bees from going up the pant leg.
Standard beekeeping gear – smoker, hive tools, scrapers,
Spray bottle of 1/1 sugar water.
Spray bottle of soapy water (in case they are too nasty and
Hive or nucleus hive to put the bees in.
Water for clean-up (and drinking – beekeeping is a hot and
Not all PPE the same
Some suits and veils are better suited to removal operations than
The best veils are attached to the suit with a zipper.
Veils that provide limited
Some veils are not attached to the suit and
have openings which could expose you to
Rubber “dishwashing” gloves can be worn but expose you to possible
Leather gloves protect from stings but reduce dexterity.
Gauntlet style gloves are best.
All gloves will become slick and covered with honey during a colony
Different types of removals…
There are three basic types of removals, these
have a bearing on the type of equipment needed.
Swarm Removal – where a local hive has issued
a swarm and you have been called to retrieve
them. Typically this is the easiest type.
Trap-out – Where a bait hive is set up near a one
way cone, and the bees are basically forced to
move into a new hive. Can be difficult to start and
time consuming; takes months in some cases.
Cut-out – The feral hive is physically cut-out from
the structure and removed, then placed in a new
Hives swarm for reproductive purposes – they
split and half the bees fly off with the old queen in
search of a new home, leaving the other half to
raise a new queen.
They are most commonly seen hanging from a
tree limb as a large mass of bees with a queen in
the center. They can hang this way for a few
minutes to a few days - until their scouts locate a
new home and they fly away.
They have no hive to defend, so they are at their
least defensive when in this state. Typically very
Equipment needed for swarm
Basic beekeeping equipment and PPE, and
something to place the bees in.
A small swarm can be shaken into something
as simple as a cardboard box or burlap bag.
You may have to get creative for a larger
swarm. Hive boxes work best.
Buckets mounted on poles can be made prior
to the season or purchased from beekeeping
supply houses. These work fairly well.
Smokers are NOT NEEDED for swarm
Cut-outs are where the bees have moved in and
have formed a hive in a structure.
The most common place for a hive to be found is
in the walls or roof soffit of a house, but they can
be found almost anywhere.
These removals require the structure to be cut
away and the hive exposed for access. They are
the most technical type of removal.
Bees with high African traits commonly nest in
smaller more exposed areas, such as water meter
boxes, buckets, etc.
Equipment for a cut-out
A large amount of tools and equipment are needed for cut-out operations.
In addition to the basic tools (smoker, PPE, etc) for beekeeping, you will
need saws (Sawz-all), hammers, crow bars, sealable food grade buckets,
water and buckets for cleaning, extension cords, drinking water, chopping
block, ladder, long sharp knives, saw-horses, queen cage, queen catcher,
rubber bands or string, foundationless frames or top bars, and bee vacuum
I have found an ice chest with a hinged lid to be invaluable, as you can
place removed honeycomb in it and close it to prevent robbing. It will also
contain honey that drips off the comb for later filtering or feeding back to the
bees (most of the time you don’t want to eat honey from a cut-out – it
usually has sheetrock, etc. in it)
Another indispensible item for me is a large wooden chopping block to
carve comb on.
Plastic sheeting is needed to keep honey and smeared comb off the floor
Medical stethoscopes work well for locating bees in walls.
More items may be needed depending upon the particular hive location.
The above items are simply suggestions, and each beekeeper must figure
out what works best for their operation.
Simple bee vacuum
A simple bee vacuum can be constructed from
a shop vac.
Heat stress and emergencies
Cut-out’s are a hot and dirty operation.
Always have plenty of drinking water on hand.
Take plenty of breaks and have snacks
available to stave off fatigue.
If you plan on doing lot’s of removals, get a
prescription for an Epi-pen in case of allergic
reaction to bee stings. Carry it with you!
Always have a phone or someone available to
call for help. Working totally alone is very, very
After the cut-out
The area where the feral hive was located
must be cleaned and sealed or other bees will
move in after you leave.
They are attracted by the smell of the old hive
When a hive is removed, it is like a “Vacancy”
light turns on for the local honeybees.
The site of the removed colony must be
scrubbed clean and sealed to prevent entry.
Sometimes the feral hive is in a location that
cannot be accessed or the owner does not
want the structure damaged.
In this case a trap-out is the only option short
A wire cone is placed on the feral hive
entrance and a hive baited with brood is set-up
near the cone.
Trap-outs are a long term operation, and the
trap hive can become very heavy with bees
Equipment needed for Trap-out
Traps outs are very unique.
A bait hive or nucleus box is needed.
Framework and wood for supports are needed.
Caulk, wire screen, and landscape mesh are needed.
Landscape mesh works great for sealing the feral hive
Wire cone escapes work very well to seal the feral hive
entrance. Brushy Mountain Bee Farm sells these for
approximately $1.00 each.
Colored flagging or caution tape may be needed to cordon off
the hive in a populated area.
All equipment or hive boxes must be weather resistant, as the
bait hive must remain in place for over a month to be
Not every tool needed for removals is metal.
We also need a few paper tools too.
You should have some sort of written
agreement in place with the homeowner prior
to performing work, even if it is being done for
This agreement should outline what you will be
doing, what you are not responsible for, and
any other requirements, such as who pays for
additional equipment needed.
Sometimes “Free Bees” are not
We must consider that our time and effort is worth
On average a trap-out takes a minimum of three
trips for the beekeeper and at least two hours of
set-up time. This normally works out to be much
more in reality.
It is not uncommon for a simple trap-out to take 6-
8 hours to set-up, as supports for the hive must be
built, the feral hive must be sealed, and all
openings leading to the feral hive must be located
This process can take up to two weeks.
This involves more trips to the feral hive site by
the beekeeper, which costs money in time and
For a cut-out or trap-out for free bees, it is very
easy to cross the line of zero-profit.
One can purchase a package of bees for $150
A simple trap out can cost much more than
that in gasoline and materials – not to mention
the time involved.
Do not be afraid to charge for your services.
Do not be afraid to say no.
Not all bees should be removed. If you find a tree
in the woods with bees – it is best they are left
alone if not causing problems.
The wild bees need their space too. We get our
valuable survivor genetics from their continued
Domestic bees are not evolving. Their traits are
selected by man. These traits do not have survival
Only bees that are in close proximity to man or
causing problems should be removed.
Be prepared. It is tough when you start a removal
and get halfway into it only to realize a key piece
of equipment is missing.
Proper equipment makes the removal easier.
Shortcuts tend to snowball and make things more
difficult later on.
Safety first! Never take PPE for granted. Always
wear your gear when dealing with feral bees of
Keep heat stress in mind. Cut-outs and removals
are a hot and dirty business.
You can contact me at email@example.com
I am also on Facebook: Black Mesa
Paul McCarty 575-682-2858