Smoking Bees Out
Whether you should attempt to try smoking honey bees out of a chimney, wall cavity or other place is going to depend on a number of factors. Generally speaking it is not something that should be done without seriously thinking it through and assessing all possible risks.
The chemistry of smoking honey bees
Beekeepers are often found using smoke to keep bees calm during hive inspections: the smoke is used to mask the smell of alarm pheromones produced by honey bees when they sense danger. The pheromones (isopentyl acetate & 2-heptanone) are released by a gland located near their stinger. The release of this pheromone puts the other bees on alert and causes them to also release pheromones, so preparing the honey bee colony to be ready to defend against attack.
Smoke masks the pheromone by reducing the electroantennograph response of the antennae.
Strong floral odours can have a similar effect.
The effect of the smoke and floral odours is reversible, and the responsiveness of the bees’ antennae gradually returns within 10-20 minutes.
History of calming honey bees with smoke
Smoke has been widely utilised for calming honey bees, you will have seen documentaries showing various tribes across the world climbing cliffs and tall trees to collect honey after lighting smoky fires beneath, to reduce the number of bees inclined to attack & sting.
Now in the 21st Century within the modern built up environment the use of smokers when working with bee hives in the apiary is being frowned upon; for good reason. When carrying out a risk assessment most people will see that the overall benefit does not outweigh the risks associated with using a bee smoker.
Now with the changing environment, drier ground conditions etc there is a greater potential for a fire incident.
Insurance for smoking bees out
For a honey bee removal & relocation business gaining insurance for the use of a smoker on or around a property is highly unlikely.
For many properties that we work on, we are required to carry out a 2 hour Fire Watch if we use a cordless tool for cutting roof timbers.
The dangers of a bee smoker are far greater than that of a cordless tool. The cause for concern is not only the use of the bee smoker, but the lighting of it and the need to push oxygen through the embers to keep it alight.
Beekeeping Association Apiaries have to be concerned about the flammability of the clothing worn by any members or guests that attend the apiary when bee smokers are in use.
The placement of the smoker needs to be constantly monitored, and how its dealt with on completion of the work because it will still be hot and contain embers.
Even if the insurance was not a problem one would expect to see a mandatory Fire Watch of the site for a minimum of 2 hours post use.
Should honey bees in walls be smoked out?
The simple answer to this is no – unless you are the one doing it and its your property and you fully understand the risks. You should not allow your local friendly beekeeper or anyone else to do it .
In the past we have reluctantly used smoke to push bees out of wall cavities, we were never particularly happy about doing it and in the back of our minds new we were not doing the right thing.
5 Problems with smoking bees out
It’s highly unlikely that anybody that really knows anything about live bee removals will be using a hot smoker, they may try using other forms of smoke such as liquid smoke in a hand sprayer, but a simple risk assessment will have knocked the use of a bee smoker of the list of viable tools.
Should honey bees in chimneys be smoked out?
If the bees have been in the flue for a while the largest risk to the property would be falling wax comb containing honey.
This is why we always say any fire lit to try to smoke out honey bees should be of a low heat.
As the temperature rises within the flue the wax softens and becomes weaker, especially that of new wax. The honey stores within the wax increases the weight pulling on the weakened wax and causes it to fall.
At this point the wax comes into contact with the flames and ignites and is then fuelled by the honey stores. Do you remember those science lab experiments at school establishing how much energy there is in a gram of sugar? A honey & wax fire creates very high temperatures and often spits.
If the bees have not been there for long (or been there historically) then one should be very wary of the possibility that the cluster of bees at the top of the chimney does not just drop down the flue to the fireplace causing them to swarm into the room.
7 factors to consider when smoking bees out of a chimney
Whether or not honey bees can be smoked out of a chimney will depend upon multiple factors.
8 considerations for smoking bees out of a chimney
Smoking bees out of chimneys needs to be thought about carefully.
There is no reason why a low burning smoky fire can not be lit in a fireplace to try to push out a newly arrived swarm, providing certain conditions are met.
As a minimum before attempting to smoke out bees please consider the below points before proceeding
If you have tried this method on a newly arrived swarm and not had success at smoking bees out of a chimney I would suggest getting in touch with us. Unfortunately by the time you realise you are not going to get the success you hoped for its often too late for our Swarm Eviction Service to be effective. The Swarm Eviction Service is only effective if we can get to bees before the queen starts laying eggs.
Alternatives to smoking bees out of walls & chimneys
Natural oils offer a great alternative to smoke, possibly not as immediately effective as smoke but when done with persistence just as successful in the right conditions and certainly better to live with and without the fire risk.
BUT whether using smoke or natural oils these two methods are really only effective if the bees haven’t been in situ for long.
There are no definitive time points that can be used to say whether smoking bees out will be effective or not, but ideally for success in smoking bees out it needs to be done within the first day or two, by the third day it will be getting quite difficult to move them with quick success.
For honey bees that have been in situ for anything more than 7 days other methods will most probably need to be used – but there is always the exception you never do know.
Even after only a day or two it can be very difficult to smoke honey bees out of a chimney, wall or some other cavity.
For a recently arrived swarm please see our page Urgent Swarm Eviction
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‘.