Honey bee trap-outs
An alternative way to get rid of honey bees is to utilise a trap-out, this is not such a common form of honey bee removal in the UK but can be very effective when used in appropriate scenarios.
We don’t tend to utilise this method these days as they can be very time consuming and are not particularly practical to implement, and the season in which they can be used for best success is quite limited.
What is a honey bee trap-out?
A honey bee trap-out is not one specific thing, it is a combination of parts and methodology.
Simply put the bees are trapped out of the void that the honey bees have colonised and are collected in a nuc box over an extended period of time.
The nuc box (new home) is placed as close to the original bee entrance as is possible, and is made more attractive by the addition of brood frames from other colonies.
How does a honey bee trap-out work?
A honey bee trap-out depends on the use of a long cone made of a rigid mesh. The length of the cone draws the bees away from the original entrance, this is part of the reason for designing cones with a gentle upward rise, as honey bees have a natural instinct to climb upwards, so follow the line of the cone to the exit point.
Because the exit point is some distance from the original bee entrance it is not easily found by the returning bees.
The returning honey bees use there sense of smell to locate the bee entrance once they get close to it: because of the mesh cone barrier they can’t get to the entrance, so mill around the perimeter of the cone during daylight hours attempting to do so.
As dusk closes in they then succumb to the need for shelter and are attracted into the trap-out box, whose entrance has been located as close to the original bee entrance as is possible.
Theoretically a new queen for the nuc box is created from one of the young eggs supplied in the brood frame (or from a provided queen cell).
Meanwhile numbers dwindle within the original colony, and the queen stops laying as she realises food stores are not being replenished, and prepares herself to swarm with the whole of the colony once all the brood has emerged.
All of which does generally happen, however there is far more to it than just this, and a good knowledge about bee husbandry is required to have good success.
There are however some big BUTS involved as well and things may not be quite as smooth as they sound.
That’s great you may say – others will be saying what about all the material left behind and they are right to be concerned.
The final part of a trap-out is to remove the one way cone and to place some new honey bee colonies within the vicinity so that they may rob the old colony out.
The theory here is that all the honey stores will be cleared out by the new bee colonies, unfortunately this is only theory and does not usually reflect reality.
This is the main reason that we don’t use the honey bee trap out as a method for honey bee removal.
How to make successful Honey bee trap-outs
If you are performing honey bee trap-outs from places that it is unimportant for all honey & nest contents to be remove, then the key to success is preparation and an attention to detail.
You can’t take shortcuts.
You will find it is a very time consuming exercise, and it is critical that a queen cell be developed early on.
If a queen cell is not started then new brood frames or queen cells need to be added early on, to control the temperament of the colony. Without the Queen cells the colony can become very nasty and very aggressive. This is something that should be considered when carrying out a risk assessment before starting honey bee trap-outs.
Honey bee trap-outs takes a lot of time as they are based on the life cycle of the honey bees and the brood.
On the completion of successful honey bee trap-outs
On the completion of a successful honey bee trap-out, the old queen will have left the void along with the last of the bees looking after her and the newly emerged bees, to set up shop a long, long way away (usually far from where she currently is: as this location appears unsafe as all bees sent to forage have not returned).
The nuc box will have collected all the other bees and have produced their own queen from good stock (provided from a healthy productive colony).
These bees in the nuc box are then allowed to enter thru the old colony entrance to theoretically clean out the honey stores, on completion of this the nuc box is taken to the apiary and the old entrance sealed off.
If only it were that straightforward – it isn’t.
As beekeepers we have achieved a 100% success record on our trap-outs if one only considers the need to remove the bees and to create a 2nd nucleus utilising the trapped out bees, although some have taken a lot longer to achieve than initially expected.
But this 100% achievement is for the successful removal of the bees and for the survival of the nuc box, it does not include 100% removal of the honey stores in the original bee nest. These stores may well be diminished but experience has shown that there is still a good probability that honey remains after the completion of the trap out.
The difficulties of honey bee trap-outs
There are four main hurdles to overcome when carrying out honey bee trap-outs. The first three are within your control the fourth however is not and is the main reason we don’t tend to use honey bee trap-outs to remove bees
Honey bee trap-outs are something that we did quite a lot of in our early days.
It appeared to be the least intrusive or destructive method for removing honey bees in walls. BUT as time went by we started to realise that they were not in fact as good as we had initially believed.
Certainly there may be a place for honey bee trap-outs but I have to say we have not seen it as being a good solution for any scenario that we have come across in recent years.
Why honey bee trap-outs should not be used
There are so many reasons for not using honey bee trap-outs
Honey bee trap-outs take too long
Honey bee trap-outs are not a quick & instant method for the removal of the bees. In ideal conditions it takes 6 weeks, but with British weather we find it actually takes longer than this for a variety of reasons.
This does not include for the amount of time to clean out any honey stores.
Honey bee trap-outs are difficult and expensive
Honey bee trap-outs are deemed as a difficult and expensive form of removal, with many not gaining a successful result.
We have not had a failure yet, but it does take great care to detail (which is very time consuming, and therefore expensive) and is not straight forward.
Generally trap-outs need to be carried out any time during the late spring and the summer months.
We tended not to do this too late into summer so that the final swarm leaving with the old queen a chance of survival. it may be better that they don’t survive and cause a problem for someone else
Honey bee trap-outs produce an uncontrolled swarm
In theory (and it does appear to be correct) t.
There are various variations on how a trap-out can be carried out dependent upon the circumstances and the desired outcome, and “The Hogan Trap-out” prevents this from happening, by encouraging the queen from the original colony into the nuc box colony threw a special one way valve designed to prevent her from returning but allowing worker bees to pass through it.
In the past we spent a fair bit of time discussing Hogan’s trap-out and pushing its limitations.
Honey bee trap-outs can be life threatening
If something goes wrong while carrying out honey bee trap-outs, the consequences can be life threatening.
If the queen cell is either not created or is damaged in some way and the honey bee trap-out is not monitored sufficiently regularly, the colony can become exceedingly nasty & aggressive attacking without provocation or as a result of the slightest bit of disturbance.
Honey bee trap-outs cause leaking honey
These days we don’t use Honey bee trap-outs as a viable solution mostly because we have proven that it does not do everything it says it does: often large stores of honey can be found left in situ unused, and this is very bad news for the long-term.
In recent years our summers have unquestionably been getting hotter & hotter. As a consequence of this we have had more and more call outs for colonies that have been previously poisoned and there contents left in place (often without the bee entrances having been sealed – which is part of the process of poisoning as written on the label of all insecticides that can still currently be used to poison honey bee colonies).
The reason for these call outs has been the collapse of the comb and the consequent release of large quantities of honey.
So where this has occurred in chimneys we have seen the honey pour down the chimney onto carpets where the chimney has been left open, but worse still in the case of blocked of flues, the honey has then gone onto spread across the plaster ceilings damaging them and creating honey leaks into the rooms below. Bear in mind that the honey is runniest when warm and like water takes the path of least resistance.
This is not just a problem for old colonies in chimneys but for flat roofed rooms and dormer structures in general.
Its far more common in previously treated colonies but has also been a problem for newly arrived swarms that have been very productive collecting a lot of wet runny honey and storing it in new recently made wax comb, that by its nature is not as strong as older comb.
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If you are looking for information on removing bees from a chimney check out our article ‘Honey bees in chimney‘, or if you repeatedly have bee swarms take up home in your chimney you may want to look at our page ‘Why honey bees like chimneys‘ & ‘Everything you need to consider when removing bees in a chimney‘ which is a fairly extensive overview.
For examples on removals of honey bees from these and other more unusual places check thru our blog page Honey Bee Removal Blog and investigate our Tag cloud too.
Don’t forget a general overview on honey bee removals which can be found at ‘Live honey bee removal‘.