Honey Bees in a Chimney
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Late October 2016 I get a message from another honey bee keeper saying she received a call from someone who has honey bees coming into the living area from the fireplace. I call and find out that another beekeeper has already been out and taken a look at the chimney. They want another look so I agree to come out and look. I call the other guy just to be professional and he says its okay if I go take a look.
I go a few days later and find a couple dead bees inside the home and nothing in either chimney flue but the bees are coming and going through a chink in the mortar about 5 feet from the top of the chimney. The other beekeeper says to go ahead and take the job so I let the homeowner what its likely to cost to remove the bees BUT i warn her that a mason is going to have to be hired to take the chimney bricks apart and put them back together!
Fast forward a few weeks and we have found a mason that is willing to do the work so he spends a morning setting up scaffolding then I met
him out there that after noon. I brought an extra jacket for him to wear so we put them on and start cutting bricks. Its pretty chilly mid 40s or so and bees are pretty docile even as we cut and jackhammer the brick apart. I have my honey bee vacuum running as he is cutting and I get most of the aggressive guard bees contained quickly. We started lower than the entry hole to ensure we didn't cut any comb and cause it to fall down the chimney! I did not get a thermal reading with my FLIR as it turns out because there wasn't many honey bees and they were only at the top.
At this point there are quite a few honey bees flying around so the mason heads down the scaffolding as I cut the comb out and continue to vac up the honey bees. This colony would not have survived the winter as there was maybe a cup of honey in the entire hive. This was most likely a small swarm or a late swarm and there just wasn't enough food available for them to build up before winter. This happens quite regularly in fact some research says that up to 90% of first year wild honey bee hives die out over winter because of the resources needed to build the brand new comb. This comb provides a great jump start to the next swarm that moves in though and that hive will often survive. This is why all the comb needs to be removed from a cavity and if possible the cavity filled to prevent future colonies from moving in.
That evening I combined these bees with a weak colony of my own using the vanilla sugar water combine method. I went back the next day to make sure there weren't any stragglers in the chimney and a few days later the mason put new brick back up! You can't even tell there was ever a hole!