Smoking Honey Bees Out
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.
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 smokey 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.
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 also 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 that is worn when members attend the apiary and smokers are used.
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.
Problems with using smoke
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 you have tried this method on a newly arrived swarm and not had success I would suggest getting in touch with us and enquiring about our new Swarm Eviction Service as a fast response to the arrival of the bee swarm is critical.
Alternatives to smoking honey bee colonies 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.
Ideally the honey bees need to be moved on within the first day or two, by the third day it will be getting quite difficult to move them with quick success, for those that have been in the wall for anything more than 7 days other methods will need to be used.
Even after only a day or two it can be very difficult to get honey bees that are in a in wall cavity out.
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 EXPERTS and investigate out Tag cloud too.
Don’t forget a general overview on honey bee removals which can be found at ‘Live honey bee removal‘.