Drumming out the bees

I visited a house today that has housed a huge colony of bees (apparently) for several years in a small flat roof which for various reasons is fairly impossible to access.  Some of the ceiling of this flat roof has caved in, inside the property due to rain water getting in somewhere….possibly the same place as the bees!  It’s on what we call the height of a two storey house (approx 30′ high) , so a ladder is out of the question if survival is of any importance!  Scaffolding can’t be put up as the scaffolders take one look at the bees & scarper.

One could get onto the flat roof but it isn’t stable enough (again, apparently, but I didn’t try it!!) to access the bees from above, cut the comb etc & collect bees, after cutting into the lead & glass fibre roof material.  This seemed dangerous to me & I certainly didn’t want to try it. 

The best way seemed to be from below but it was very difficult to close off the area from the rest of the house.  There are several young children in the house that the mum was concerned about being stung etc. The bees were obviously getting into the house via the hole in the ceiling anyway as there were several dead ones lying around in various parts of the house. The hole is presently covered with a bit of flimsy black plastic that was bulging with water so I couldn’t have a look at what we were up against.  

I had to admit defeat which means the death of the bees as the owners have called the local guy licensed to kill…007 bee killer!

As I was leaving , I suddenly remembered an old video that showed bees being drummed out of their hive into a skep placed above. I didn’t mention it as I had already left their place & wasn’t sure of its efficacy…it sounds very whacky as a method! After the long preamble, my question is has anyone ever seen this done with any success? Could this be a way to save the bees from 007? 

It would be possible to get onto the roof for a while to cut a hole in the roof even though it would still be dodgy, place a skep on top, or similar & drum them out….if it worked.  It would be a far more simple way of removing the bees without all the drama of trying to stop them from accessing the house while trying to get them into a different receptacle, while trying to balance on a wooden structure also balanced on 2 step ladders & so on.

They can’t be left as the roof is having to be renovated. 

Does anyone have any ideas before they are poisoned? It seems such a shame after being so successful as a colony for so many years.

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6 Responses to Drumming out the bees

  1. peter lead says:

    I have been approached by someone with a similar problem and so I would be interested to hear of any possible solutions

  2. solarbeez says:

    These aren’t the one(s) I was looking for, but it’s a start.


  3. johnmkubwa says:

    As the ceiling is damaged and needs repair, I would enlarge the hole and remove the nest from inside the room. The nest is usually between two ceiling joists with the brood nest near the entrance.
    You will need to be fully suited and to have a pee, before isolating yourself in the room, with open windows.
    Start by removing honeycomb and putting it into a large container with a lid – I use a 50 litre plastic box; sometimes a second is necessary!. It helps to have an assistant to whom to pass comb…
    Next remove brood combs and place them in improvised frames – I use National or purpose built Warré frames with elastic bands stretched over them.. Rebuild the nest in a suitable box with combs in the same as original alignment (or as close to it as possible). It is worth having a queen clip to hand in case you see the queen and can catch her. The bees will return to the brood but the queen may hide during the nest dismantling mayhem.
    Leave the brood nest box on or close to the original nest site overnight so the colony can settle down before removal..
    Think through the whole operation and make sure you have necessary equipment to hand. A cut-out is messy but extremely satisfying when successful. This time of year gives the bees the best chance of recovery, post-op. I wish you well. John H Stockbridge Hants

  4. Jim says:

    The “Drumming” video posted above is a bit of a scam, as the bees are leaving the honey super taken from the top of the same hive, and are returning to the hive proper, in reaction to the fanning of the bees at the entrance of the main hive. The workers go where the queen is, and the queen ain’t in the honey super! This sort of thing is much easier toward the end of the day. In fall, when the evenings get cool, it is even easier, but one must take care to not get robbing started with this trick. The drumming is only putting the drummer at risk of being randomly stung, as she is standing in the flight path of the bees. Notice the shirtless fellow in the background – what is he trying to prove, and to who?

    To remove the bees from a cavity where they have set up housekeeping, you MUST remove both the queen and the open brood, as the bees are loathe to abandon either. If the home-owner will not allow cutting into the ceiling from below, then one can fabricate a one-way cone, and do a “trap-out” of the colony over a period of weeks, but this requires that all other entrances be sealed, often a difficult task for a decrepit structure.

    Removing and replacing a small section of roof, say a single 4×8 sheet of plywood and the shingles that cover it, is NOT a terribly expensive or complicated job. The problem is that removing that sheet of plywood will be difficult, as the comb is going to be attached to it. Combs between rafters tend to be firmly attached at the top and sides (just like in Warre hives!), another reason to do removals from the bottom.

  5. salp111 says:

    That sounds all very well for a cut out where you can actually reach them from the side. That would be eminently do-able.
    The hole in the ceiling is big already as part of their ceiling fell in due to water ingress. The hole is above a stair well which has open access to the rest of the house, so once you go through the flimsy plastic, all hell breaks loose….they say. They aren’t willing to have that happen with their small children in the house. Can’t think why!! There are no joists that the comb will be suspended from & I wonder if the comb is from top to bottom & well propolised, as the colony has been there for some years. There’s an added complication that the whole space is small so no painters tower of scaffolding will fit in the stairwell which you would need to get safe access to the nest…..unless you went in from the roof & now we’re back to my original question .
    Would drumming them out of their nest & into a skep or other receptacle work?
    It somehow seems unlikely to me as I can’t see why they would leave their nest, but as I have said, I’ve seen it done by some old fellows on a u-tube video where they were drummed out of their nest of brood & honey into a skep above.
    Has anyone else seen it done? Is it worth a go?

  6. Paul says:

    I have seen a demo with a skep but again, the bees moved UP into a receptacle placed above the orignial skep (which was turned upside down). Drumming does not seem overly practical here.

    I have heard some beekeepers have modified vacuum cleaners with a mesh which they use to recover bees from inside wall cavities. These are notoriously difficult to get working without killing some bees and generally enraging the colony. Therefore once someone in the local BKA has tuned such a system so it actually works and recovers living bees, they become the go-to guy for the entire county’s beekeepers for these tricky operations. So, contact the conventional BKA for your county, their swarm officer may know such a person. Otherwise, it’s likely 007 for this colony.

    Ummm… one other possibility. Try putting peppermint oil in the nest. I discovered recently that bees hate the smell and move rapidly away. I described this to John H who explained it was pretty aggressive and inappropriate for the purpose I used it for, i.e. masking queen pheromone which was stopping a swarm moving into a hive like I wanted it to; but in this particular case, it may be what’s needed to drive them out of the cavity they’re in. So, here’s a POSSIBLE strategy to debate:
    1. Test peppermint oil for pungency. Get a feel for how smelly it is by putting one drop on a piece of wood, outside your house, because you are going to use it inside someone’s house and the smell will linger for days after you’ve gone. Hold this lump of wood near one of your hives and observe the bees’ behaviour, can you use it to herd them?
    2. Prepare a nice smelling box like a nucleus hive with propolis, wax and perhaps a tiny bit of lemongrass.
    3. Place it under the nest, near their egress hole. So you may want it to be on a table or something. It needs to be positioned somehow so that the queen can get to it or fall into it – remember, she can’t fly unless she is slimmed down for swarming.
    4. Cut into the ceiling, spray DILUTE peppermint oil NEAR the comb, but not on it because you want to save the comb so they do not lose their stores, brood etc. Or maybe use a wand with one drop on the end?
    5. The bees will be horrified not just at this invasion but the pong. The peppermint smell will make them want to find somewhere that does not make their antennae feel on fire. Like that nice box. But they want to guard their young too.

    I dunno… it’s not a fully thought out idea. Unlike smoke, which calms them, peppermint is likely to enrage them.

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