Trapping Out A Bee Swarm
A lady contacted the county agent in our area about a swarm of bees that set up a colony in her father's window sill. The agent posted her story on a local beekeeping Facebook page, and I got her contact information from there.
She had talked with a few beekeepers in the area, and because of the lateness of the season and the small size of the hive, they all declined to help her.
Most of the time, when a colony establishes in a house, the best method to remove them is by opening up the cavity they inhabit. Once exposed you can cut out the comb and attach it to frames. If you're lucky, you can catch the queen and establish the bees in a new home.
I don't mind trying to rescue a colony if they face extermination.
The adage says, "A swarm in July let them fly!"
The reasoning here is that mid-summer is a time of shortage, with few flowering plants producing nectar. A new colony faces famine until the fall flowers begin to bloom. By then they may not have time to collect sufficient stores for the winter.
The winters are usually mild here in Central Louisiana, and if I can get these bees a new home, I don't mind feeding them or even combining them with another weak hive to give them a chance at survival.
After talking to the homeowner, she was reluctant to do demolition of the structure, so I suggested we try a trap out.
We negotiated a price, much cheaper than the cost of an exterminator, and she agreed, so this is what I did.
Using 1/8th-inch hardware cloth, I fashioned a cone with a hole at the small end only large enough for two bees to pass through.
I made a small box large enough to cover the opening at the bottom of the window sill and used a jigsaw to cut notches to fit tightly around the moldings.
I cut a square of 1/2 inch plywood to fit over this box and used my jigsaw to cut a hole in the center slightly smaller than the large end of the cone.
I pushed the cone through this hole, snipped a few ears around the funnel and folded the wire so I could staple it to the inside of the box. Then I attached this trap over their access hole and secured it to the house with screws. I plugged a few gaps with small strips of material from an old air conditioner filter. This stuff is fiberglass, and the bees can't chew through it.
As the bees left the hive through the funnel, they couldn't find their way back in, and soon I had a small swarm of foragers crawling around the base of the tube desperate to get back to their nest.
I hung a swarm box with an opening near their hive entrance and baited it with a frame of old drawn honeycomb and a few frames of waxed foundation. I also put a few drops of lemongrass oil inside as a lure.
Soon the foragers returning loaded with nectar and pollen started working the old comb in the bait hive. Once they discovered they couldn't return to their old home, this was the most likely spot to unload their burdens. After three days those bees that gathered around the old hive entrance had moved to the box with their sisters.
I placed a stick in the hole of the swarm trap and across the funnel for them to crawl over.
I'll leave the trap in place for 21 days (the life cycle of a bee from egg to a hatched worker) to capture any left in the old hive. I hope the queen starts to wonder where all the workers are and crawls out to join the party! I'll check every week to see if she did!
Once I'm sure they are out of the structure, I'll disassemble my trap and plug the entrance with silicon caulking.
Hopefully, these girls will survive and come home to live with me!