A gardener was stung by bees when cutting grass near a stone wall in which there was a nest of bees. I was asked to remove the bees and the owner hoped that I would be able to do so without harming them. On inspection it was apparent that the nest was in an inaccessible cavity inside the wall which was 600 mm thick and built of large stones and mortar. The bees were using small holes in the mortar on both sides of the wall as entrances. To remove the colony I decided to use a method which I had read about but I had not tried before.
The first thing to do was to obtain a short length of flexible plastic pipe about 50 mm in diameter and 1500 mm long. An old piece of pipe from a suction cleaner served the purpose very well. A hole to receive one end of the pipe was made in a piece of wood. This was then fitted over the bee escape hole in the inner cover of a Langstroth movable-frame hive. The hive so prepared, complete with a full set of frames with foundation wax, was then taken to the site early one evening. As soon as all the foragers had returned to the hive some gentle puffs of smoke were applied to the flight holes and the flight hole selected for the transfer was enlarged, using a hammer and chisel. When the hole was sufficiently large, the free end of the pipe was inserted into it and sealed on the outside with mud. Similarly the other end of the pipe, where it entered the hive, was sealed around the outside to prevent bees escaping. Bees which had been disturbed by the hammering and had emerged through the other flight holes were driven back with smoke and these holes were then sealed off with mud. To protect the hive from rain a roof was placed over it, supported on bricks at the corners so as to be above the incoming pipe.
The following day bees began to emerge from the hive entrance, having passed through the pipe and down through the hive. The bees were left undisturbed for five days and then a good frame of sealed worker brood was taken from another colony, brushed free of bees, and transferred into the hive by the wall, where it replaced one of the frames of foundation wax. At this point it was observed that there was already a small cluster of bees in the hive, but there was no sign of the queen. It was hoped that the presence of the imported brood would encourage the queen to move over in due course. After some two to three weeks of anxious waiting there was jubilation when, on inspecting the hive, the queen was observed and it seemed that most of the colony had moved from the old nest to the hive. A bee escape device was then inserted in the inner cover under the incoming end of the pipe and was left in place for three weeks to allow any remaining brood in the old nest to hatch and come through to the hive, whilst at the same time preventing any bees from returning to the old nest. To encourage brood rearing in the new hive several feeds of sugar syrup were given using a feeder fitted into the entrance of the hive.
Eventually the hive was moved to a bee house and I am glad to say that it is progressing well. The gardener at the colony's original home is very happy that he can cut the grass without worrying about the bees.
The method has also been used to remove bees from an old 200 litre drum. Near the top of the drum was a hole being used by bees. The hole was enlarged using a pair of tin snips and the combs of a well-established nest could be seen inside. The "pipe method" was used again and proved successful with complete recovery of the colony and queen.
First published in Bees for Development Journal 29