Everything you need to consider when removing bees in a chimney
We have written a post about why poisoning bees in a chimney or trying to enclose them is not a sensible approach to removing bees in a chimney. So here we are trying to explain more about whats happened, and the need to make smart decisions quickly.
We receive many calls to remove honey bees from a chimney being told that they have just arrived or have only been there a couple of days. But more often than not this is not actually the case. However if the honey bee swarm really has just arrived you really need to get on with getting them out ASAP – even if you are not able to catch them its probably better for you that they are gone.
Often the reality is that the honey bees in the chimney have only now been noticed and have been in situ for far longer time and you have seen a bearding of bees or a returning swarm.
Appraising the chimney as a new home for honey bees
A swarm of honey bees can colonise a chimney very quickly. Initially the chimney will have been found by a scout honey bee, she will go back to the swarm and report the location as being worthy for further investigation.
Additional scout bees will be sent out to make an appraisal which they do and then report back to the other bee scouts with their findings. A quorum is reached by the scout bees so deciding the best & most suitable location for them to start the new colony. Clever creatures are bees.
There are only a few bees scouting the chimney at this stage and it is very unlikely that during this scouting operation anyone will have noticed the honey bee’s interest in the chimney. It is possible that one or two honey bee scouts may have travelled to far down the chimney and then get themselves trapped inside the house.
Once trapped these honey bees would head straight for the light and if the window is open escape thru that, otherwise they will be found in the window buzzing about trying to get out until they drop with exhaustion.
If you are aware of the bees in a chimney at this point it would be beneficial to treat the chimney with an aerosol insecticide as that would either deter the new scout arrivals from entering or knock down those that had already entered so preventing them reporting back to the swarm just how suitable your chimney is for them.
The arrival of a honey bee swarm in a chimney
Once the honey bees have decided that your chimney is the best location on the market, they all head off to it on mass. The honey bees arrive in their thousands very quickly and soon set up shop. They will send back guides to ensure that any lost honey bees and any stragglers can find the new home. It will not take them long to become established with new comb ready for the queen to begin laying eggs.
Very quickly the queen bee will start to lay eggs at which point it becomes very difficult to persuade the bees to move on.
Remember that a dead bee can still sting.
On arrival of the bees in a chimney (most times but not all the time), a lot of bees will find their way down the chimney stack into the living area and be found dead & dying at the window or heading toward the window. These bees have run out of energy trying to find their way out of the room having been exploring the chimney flue.
These days not all chimneys have open fireplaces in a lot of instances the fireplaces are blocked in or plastered over, but in instances where the honey bees have arrived and the fireplace is open then these dead & dying bees in the window can be a very good sign that you have had a new swarm of honey bees arrive to take up occupancy in your chimney.
In an open fireplace that is used regularly and swept regularly one could try lighting a cool smoky fire, not a hot one. Before lighting this fire ensure you have a good updraft thru the chimney so that you don’t smoke out the room. This smoky fire can move the honey bees on, it maybe you have to persist with this fire for some time.
If the chimney has a flue liner then this is unlikely to be effective and things become a lot more complicated, but they can still be moved on if newly arrived.
A honey bee smoker as owned by all beekeepers is not usually effective, and probably should not be tried without running through a thorough risk assessment, not just because its a fire hazard but also because of the smoke.
There are many things that can go wrong at this point, for instance if the honey bees are not new arrivals but have instead been there for some time the heat from the fire could cause weakness in the comb leading it to collapsing into your fireplace along with 1000’s of live angry bees and the possibility of a chimney fire.
The best solution at this point in time is to have someone physically check the chimney.
If it is a new swarm of honey bees in the chimney then they can be removed relatively easily and quickly. If it is an established colony then the options of how to remove bees from a chimney can be discussed and the job for removing the bees from the chimney properly planned.
Best time of the year to remove these honey bees in a chimney is when they arrive, the longer you wait the more difficult and the more expensive the job becomes.
An established honey bee colony in the chimney
Often people become aware of the bees in a chimney for the first time when an established honey bee colony has a large new emergence of bees on one of our warmer days of the year.
People are out and about in the garden enjoying the weather when they catch a glimpse of honey bee activity around the chimney after a large new emergent of bees. Its probable that this honey bee chimney colony has been there since last year and its only now that the increased bee activity is more obvious.
During these large emergent of new honey bees some lose their way and head down the chimney, most probably because they have emerged at night and are heading to the light. In this instance it is best to have the extent of the honey bee colony in the chimney assessed.
Best way of doing this will be to directly access the top of the chimney provided there is reasonable access to assess the situation.
Once the investigation is made we can discuss the options of how to best remove bees from the chimney. Best time of the year to remove these honey bees in a chimney will be discussed as part of the options available for the removal of an established honey bee colony in a chimney.
Which chimney do honey bees prefer?
Honey bees take up residence in all chimneys; in open chimneys, capped chimneys, chimneys with air vents such as the pepper pots (elephants foot), chimneys with gas flues running thru them, and any other possible chimney type.
Bees in chimney flue of a covered in fireplace
They seem to particularly like chimneys with blocked in fireplaces. We love going to chimney bee removal jobs where the honey bees have just arrived in a chimney which has a blocked in fireplace and an open top: this is the one instance that we prefer to find a blocked in fireplace because there is no bee comb that might be dropped down the chimney.
Otherwise blocked in chimneys make a honey bee removal from a chimney more difficult; the hardest part of a chimney bee removal job is preventing the fall of any honey comb.
If honey comb is dropped it needs to be retrieved
Bees tend to prefer chimney flues with blocked in fireplaces.
A good situation for us to come across is a blocked off chimney that can be accessed by removing a register plate from across the lintel, but this is not often the case. Most blocked in fireplaces will have board or bricks across the front, hopefully with an air vent which more often than not will provide sufficient access once removed to clean out the debris.
Bees in chimney flues with open fireplaces
In situations where bees have been in residence for a period of time having an open fireplace can be very beneficial when removing a honey bee colony from a chimney.
Plus it allows for easier clean-up of nest debris and dead bees that have dropped down the flue – which can often be the source of long-term cloth moth infestations.
Capped Chimney Flues
Capped chimneys or chimneys with pots require extra work to allow access to be made to the honey bees in a chimney. The cap or pot will require removing, which will mean that the chimney flaunching (cement work that holds everything together at the top of the chimney and acts against the weather) will need taking back and reinstating properly.
The process of taking back the flaunching can lead to the cracking of old clay pots on occasion, often these cracks are there but become more evident because of the work being carried out, needing for them to be replaced.
Bees in Flues with liners
The worst case scenario chimney type is that of the gas fire or multifuel stove with a flue liner in the chimney. The bees in these situations are invariably located between the gas flue and the original chimney flue, allowing for very little room for us to work in when removing the honey bees from a chimney.
In these situations we advise you to have a registered gas engineer or multifuel stove installer disconnect the flue so it can be easily removed from the fireplace.
The flaunching at the top of the chimney will need removing and dependent upon the extent of the bee colony in the chimney the gas flue may need removing and even replacing.
All because of a small hole/crack in the flaunching.
Removing bees in a chimney for relocation
We absolutely specialise in the removal of honey bees from chimneys.
With us you can relax in the knowledge that you are in the hands of specialists that are experienced in carrying out bee removals from chimneys and other places that bees should not be.
Just call us on 01297 441272 and we will explain what we can do for you, or better still fill in the contact form and we can call you.
Post honey bee removal from a chimney
Honey bees are naturally attracted to environments with soot and charcoal as many beekeepers that lure swarms into old hive boxes will know.
They are also highly attracted to the scent of a hive, this scent is created from all the pheromones that a Queen bee will produce mixed in with the odours given off by the wax and propolis used in the hive.
We do our utmost to catch the queen, remove the bees and remove all the wax comb and propolis. However no matter what we do it is impossible to remove all the wax & propolis from the stone work, imagine rubbing a candle into a stone, its very similar.
These small remnants still create a highly attractive odour that will encourage other scout bees from swarming colonies to investigate. For this reason to prevent getting a repeat of the honey bees in a chimney it is very important to proof the chimney as best as is possible.
For a chimney with a gas flue inside the original flue or for a capped chimney this is very easy, it is just a question of ensuring that the flaunching and the brick joint work is all sound.
For chimneys with open fires in use there is not a lot that can be done.
For chimneys that are capped with vents and the original vents are to remain in place it is better to use stainless steel mesh as opposed to insect mesh.
For chimneys that were previously capped but would be better off with a vent it may be worth looking at adding a short pot with a c-cap.
There are several things to take into consideration when proofing a chimney against honey bees (or wasps); for example if considering the use of a c-cap you will want to take into consideration the use of the other chimney flues within the stack, and the quality and condition of the brickwork and jointing separating the various flues – it is possible to have a blockage in an open chimney (possibly a birds nest) that pushes the smoke and fumes into the other chimneys thru poor brickwork, and because the route of smoke flow has been altered and slowed it will cool and lead to the possible build-up of carbon monoxide (invisible and odourless) in the flue or even a room.
We are continuously experimenting with ideas to reduce/eliminate the long-term odours from a bee colony, these can be discussed along with all options.
Access to honeybees in chimneys
There are many things to take into account when arranging to remove honey bees from a chimney.
One of the most important aspects from our side is that of safe access.
We have carried out bee removal from chimneys using a straightforward ladder and CAT (roof) ladder combination, from a mobile tower, from a scaffold and from a mobile elevated working platform (MEWP more commonly referred to a cherry picker).
Each chimney bee removal job is different and each has different access requirements.
These requirements can be defined by the height of the chimney above the roof, the location of the chimney on the roof, is it central, or offset, and is it on a gable end.
It will depend upon the terrain around the property, whether there is a conservatory in-front of the chimney or adjacent to, a flat roof etc.,etc.
Often a site inspection allows us to ensure the work can be carried out in the most efficient & safe format possible. But more often than nor a few photos tell us everything we need to know.
Health & Safety
We have not discussed all aspects of safety and risk assessment, this is something that we look at on a case by case basis
Appropriate weather for a honey bee removal
In our climate weather can be a significant factor and can be cause for delaying the job for a period, this is something we will discuss in a post at some point.
There are many Health & Safety reasons for not carrying out a bee removal in wet or windy weather, if the removal is to be carried out from outside of the property, though these same weather conditions may in some ways be beneficial if carrying out a bee removal from within the property. So for bees in a chimney ideally we need dry calm weather.
Our honey bee relocation Specialist is waiting for you!
Swarmcatcher are the UK honey bee colony removal specialists that provide an ethical eco-friendly bee removal and relocation service across the UK.
For further information on bee removal and relocation please use the contact form in the side bar or message button below, or CALL 01297 441272 to speak to someone local who knows all about it.
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‘.