Its September 2015 and a previous client (I caught a snake out of his house) calls and says his apartment complex has honey bees above a window and can I come remove them. I knew my dad had removed honey bees with his dad years ago so I told him sure I can do that. I didn't know how or what all was involved but I was eager to learn and add this valuable service to my repertoire.
Aside: Honey bees are used commercially to pollinate a vast amount of fruits and crops that we need. They also suffer severe loses most seasons because of this kind of traveling. So when you read about the vast loses that honey bees are suffering remember that it is a subset of the people that work with and use honey bees. Here in Oklahoma there are many beekeepers who keep small numbers (less than 100) that do not lose the percentage that the commercial guys do.
In my opinion most 'wild hives' are probably swarms or absconds from a bee keeper's hives. An abscond is when (for a number of reasons) all the bees leave a colony and move locations, these could end up in your soffit, wall or chimney. Here is a great article on absconding! A swarm is when half the hive leaves with the old queen just before a new queen hatches, these also could end up in your house or a tree in your yard.
Back to the story, my dad agrees to bring a vacuum and the necessary equipment to remove them. It was definitely a learning experience. We started one evening in October and it ended up taking that evening and the next evening to finish the job. After taking off the foam board and first layer of sheathing that's is what we saw.
We did a lot of things ineffectively but we got the job done. As you can see in the pictures my dad has a bee helmet and I have a makeshift hat and veil. Mine was compromised and I ended up getting stung about 15 times in the neck and chin. Later that evening I definitely felt woozy but a few antihistamines and sleep and I was fine the next day.
This cut out was late in the season but there was still a large amount of brood that we tied into frames and placed into the box. We cut the honey comb off and placed it in an ice chest so that the honey bees could 'rob' it and place it back in the comb we banded in.
The cavity they were in was between the first and second floor of the apartment and you could see the heat signature with a thermal image. This was my first time using it and have since used it on almost every job.
We came back the second day and I vacuumed a large amount of bees that had flew and anyran and hid inside the building but they were clustered back into the original cavity. Usually the queen runs when you open up the hive so if you don't physically see her OR start seeing the bees starting to congregate by your vacuum its a good idea to come back the nest day and get any stragglers which might include the queen. This particular complex had their own handy man to rebuild the wall so I left some insulation batting there for them to fill the cavity with. A couple days later the few bees that were left over had dispersed and they were able to seal up the wall and they didn't have a new colony move in in 2016. Success!
We are much better now after doing over 30 removals in the 2016 year. Hoping to do more rescues and removals this year.