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Author Topic: Cinder Block Colonies  (Read 1964 times)
Nathen
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« on: June 07, 2009, 06:31:52 PM »

What a wonderful forum!  I was directed here by Google yesterday while searching for information on methods of removing honeybees from a cinder block wall without destroying the colony.  I ended up spending the better part of a day reading through interesting threads and looking at awesome pictures.  Not good at all for my productivity as I had intended to catch up on some work this weekend, but there is so much interesting information here.

I work in an industrial building in east central New Jersey with walls constructed from cinder blocks.  Right around this time last summer, I noticed (with mixed emotions) honeybees entering and exiting the wall about two and a half yards from one of the office entraces through a hole in the cinder block that lets a pipe into the interior of the building.  With mixed emotions because I was thrilled to find a feral hive that seemed to be doing well with all the problems that honeybee colonies have had lately, but I also suspected that removing them from the cinder blocks without destroying the colony would most likely be near impossible.  Fortunately, this particular hive appears to have a very easy-going temperament.  Despite the office entryway so close to their nest entrance and frequent outdoor activity in the area of their nest, I have yet to hear of anybody complaining that they were stung.  (It is a small company of approximately 30 people, so word would get around.)  The only complaint of a sting that I have heard was from a stray bee that found its way inside the building.  This happens from time to time, so I know there is a way for them to get inside from their nest.  They just don't follow that path often.

I have kept an eye on the hive just because I enjoy watching them and to try to prevent a panic reaction from coworkers should they ever decide to swarm.  I was skeptical that this would happen anytime soon.  I figure they are probably building their comb in the lattice of the cinder blocks, and that lattice should provide plenty of room for expansion.  Being a relatively new colony, I figured it would probably be a couple years before they swarmed.  I don't know for sure what the lattice structure is like inside the wall, though, so I kept an eye on them and looked for signs that they might be preparing to swarm.  I never saw anything unusual.  Yesterday afternoon I took a break from work to take a lap around the parking lot and watch the bees for a bit.  They were a little more active than usual, but I didn't think much of it.  What perplexed me, though, was that I heard a faint buzzing sound, and I've never heard buzzing from this hive.  There has never been enough activity.  It was faint, but it was audible.  I could just barely hear it.  I kept looking at the bees flying in and out and thinking to myself, "What I'm hearing doesn't make sense based on what I'm seeing.  The activity that I see should not cause this sound."  Then I dismissed it and walked around to the side of the building to see if they were working the clover in the grass and the ornamental flowers around the side of the building.  That was when I noticed that the sound was getting louder as I walked away.  I looked up, and I think my mouth fell open.  There is another colony entering at a light fixture in the same wall about thirty feet over and thirty feet up from the colony near the office entrance.  Either that or this is the biggest colony I have ever seen, and they have two hive entrances.  I had never noticed the second colony because they are hidden behind a tree unless you walk over to that portion of the lawn.  I don't know how long it has been there, but it got me thinking about the events of the past month or so and wondering.

About two months ago, I started getting sent to Wichita for a week at a time every other week for work, so I am away often for extended periods of time.  The last time I returned was two weeks ago.  I came into work on Sunday afternoon to get caught up for the coming week because I had been away.  It was a beautiful bright sunny day with big white puffy clouds and I remember thinking, "Boy, I bet those bees are really going to town today."  As I pulled into the parking lot, though, I didn't see any bees flying into the shrubs that lead to the hole in the wall.  As I got closer, I could see that there was no activity at all.  They weren't doing anything, and there was a dead bee on what looked like a cobweb hanging from the pipe that leads into the hole in the wall.  I thought for a while that maybe they had gassed them while I was gone.  I watched for a while, and every now and then you would see one return, but I wasn't seeing any going out.  I thought maybe the hive was dead.  Then sometime over the next week, hive activity resumed.  I'm not sure exactly when.

I'm wondering if maybe the hive near the ground didn't swarm while I was gone and take up residence up in the light fixture.  Is it normal for hive activity to slow to a crawl directly after a swarm leaves because all of the remaining bees are caring for the brood and the new queen and not out foraging?  What I find interesting is the stark contrast in activity between the two hives.  The hive near the ground looks like it always did now.  Bees going in and out but not real heavy activity.  No bees hanging around outside the entryway on the wall or the pipe.  The "new" hive (I say "new" because maybe I just didn't notice it for a long time) up near the top of the building is literally buzzing with activity.  To the point that I can hear it on the ground thirty feet away.  You can see by looking at them that there is much more activity into and out of the hive.  There are also many bees that hang around outside the hive.  Not clustering outside the hive, but just sitting individually on the cinder block wall and the light fixture.  I also noticed much more drone activity around this hive than I believe is normal.  I noticed at least two drones that landed on tree leaves close to where I was standing and a few more that I thought might be drones but were difficult to identify for sure from a distance.

So what do you guys think?  Is the high hive a newly established colony that swarmed from the low hive?  Is the high hive actually an older colony that I never noticed before that is preparing to swarm?  Is it two hives or one big hive?  If it is two hives and they eventually meet somewhere in the middle, what happens then?  High hive vs. low hive in a fight to the death?

And finally, the time is unfortunately going to come eventually when these bees will no longer be tolerated where they are.  I read through iddee's threads on trapouts.  Do you think these gals are potential candidates for a trapouts?  I would think it would be difficult to get the cone on the entryway with the pipe sticking through the hole.  The light fixture might be more doable, but it is pretty high up there.  It has not yet come to that, but I'm not a beekeeper and I want to be armed with information when the time comes so that I can hopefully prevent the building owners from doing something stupid like sparying, sealing the hole, and driving them all inside.  Then the real panic ensues.
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-Nathen
JP
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« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2009, 12:10:44 AM »

Call the department of Agriculture and see if they have a list of bee removal specialists in your area.

Of course there will undoubtedly be a charge to trap these bees out, when the building owner is ready to go that route.

Of course y'all could always fly Iddee in and pay all of his expenses for him to remove them for you. shocked

Best of luck, until then, enjoy the bees.


...JP
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iddee
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« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2009, 12:29:54 AM »

Bees fly. Iddee drives. It's only 500 miles, an easy one day drive.
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« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2009, 02:16:00 AM »

wow, you read all of that information, you seem very interested and tolerant of the bees. props to you.
I wouldn't push you to take up beekeeping, but you sound like a prime candidate.
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Natalie
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« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2009, 11:20:53 AM »

Reading your post I was surprised to see at the end that you are not a beekeeper.
You seem very in tune with the bees, maybe you should consider a new hobby. Smiley
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Rebel Rose Apiary
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« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2009, 11:58:00 AM »

Bee warned....beekeeping is an ADDICTION! Once you get started....well, the rest is history!  grin

Brenda
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« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2009, 04:37:10 PM »

If you really don't want to take it up, a beekeeper may  charge, but I'm sure you'll find one who would happily give them a safe and prosperous home. it's already been said, but look up honey bee removal online or in the phone book.
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Nathen
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« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2009, 09:08:54 PM »

My grandfather kept bees when I was a kid, so I've been around them off and on my entire life.  Reading through these posts has surprisingly planted a little bit of a desire in me, but I have at least three things that I can think of standing in my way.

1)  I don't have the time or space to do it properly and responsibly, and if I'm not going to do it responsibly then I shouldn't do it at all.  I live in an apartment so I have no land.  I have nowhere to store the equipment.  There are actually a couple places on our company property that would be almost ideal, but I can just see trying to pitch that to management.  As if my ideas aren't crazy enough as it is.  Electric generators, power converters, and apiary?  It fits right into the company mission!

2)  Heights are not my friend.  We don't get along.  We don't play well together.  It's best if heights just stay in high places while I stay in low places.  We coexist better that way.

3)  I'm a complete pansy when it comes to pain.  I'm not allergic to bee stings; I just don't like them.  It took me over five years to work up the guts to start donating blood regularly after my first attempt, and that's just a quick jab in the arm.  You guys that go in and do these cutouts regularly amaze me.  It's awesome that you do it, though.  So much better than the potential alternatives.

So anyway, I probably know more than the average Joe on the street, but I am far from an expert.  I know enough to not panic at the sight of bees but also to respect the threat enough to not take rash action without educating myself.  (That way I can take educated rash action?  Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.)  A lot of the general behavior stuff I knew at one point, but it is trapped deep back in the dark recesses of my mind where senility lies in wait.  The removal techniques are completely new to me, though.  I only witnessed my grandfather doing one cutout, and that was one of his hives that had swarmed and found a crack in the wall of his house.  I wouldn't even have thought that a trapout was possible before visiting this forum.  Now I'm thinking it may be the best solution.  I don't know how else you would get them out of a cinder block wall and not leave the honey to rot and attract other pests.

The more I watch the high hive, the more I think that it is not a new colony as I had first suspected.  There is so much activity.  There are always bees in the air around it and a good number hanging around outside.  I'm glad that hive is the one that is up high and away from everybody and not right next to the door.  I'm sure that amount of activity right next to the door would have everybody on edge.  The differences between the two hives still strikes me.  It's like night and day.  With the lower hive, the only activity you see is bees coming out of the hole and going into the hole.  Sometimes they hover or land on the pipe if there are a lot of bees trying to enter and exit at once.  With the high hive, I noticed that the area around their entrance hole where the bees sit outside usually appears to be damp.  I wonder if they are putting down water and fanning to try to blow cool air into the hive.  The low hive is in perpetual shade due to its location, but the high hive is partially in the sun at times.  Maybe the difference in ambient temperature somewhat accounts for the difference in activity.  I'm going to keep a close eye on the high hive to see if they swarm.
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-Nathen
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