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.