beesknees & Beth,
Thank you both for your replies. I have learned a lot from reading information here, and I agree, I would like to save the bees if at all possible. To answer your question Beth, unfortunately due to distance, I will not be able to keep the bees and start a hive of my own.
My Mom and Dad live 400 miles from me, and due to health and age, would not be able to keep bees themselves either. (My Dad tells me that as a boy they did keep bees on the farm, but he would not be able to do that now.)
I was just home for a visit, and the bee problem is more intense than on my last visit. I cleaned a gallon of dead bees out of the fluorescent light fixture this time, and the smell in the house is really bad until you get rid of them. The entry point (between the chimney and siding) is at the level of the windows on the second story. My guess is that is just too high-up to consider the cone method. I took your advice beesknees and assumed they were not too far from the entry point, and began going through the upstairs with my ear to the wall. The very small hall closet directly behind the chimney seems to be "bee central." Behind the back wall of that closet (paneling on top of insulation board on top of the ancient plaster board) you can hear continual crawling, even at night when the bees are not active outside. It is loud enough that you certainly don't need to have your ear to the wall in order to hear them, just open the closet. I'm thinking that may be our best approach.
The closet is too small to seal-off and have room to work in. I'm guessing I will have to plastic tent some of the hall just outside the closet, take down the paneling etc. and expose the bees. I assume this means two folks in bee suits, one to do the wall removal, and one to smoke the bees?
My next planned trip home will be 10 days around Thanksgiving. I will need to identify a local beekeeper who is willing to help, and have things in place to do the wall dismantling and bee extraction at once. (My Dad has talked to local beekeepers, but has not really approached a plan, since he didn't know then where in the house they were, nor did he have to ability to carryout a dismantling of the wall.) Before I begin to plan this, I have a bee keeping question. Is it possible to do live bee removal in late November when they are no longer active to re-establish themselves in a hive for winter? If the answer to this is absolutely NO, then would a Labor Day attempt be possible, and still give the bees enough recovery time?
I'm an avid gardener, both vegetables and flowers, so I agree with you Beth, I hate to see them die.
One curious new event is the clustering of lots of bees on the chimney and siding around the entry hole. It used to be that bees were only present near the hole on a rapid "land-enter" or "exit-fly" pattern. Now, many just hang out near the hole. Looking through binoculars, I can see that the active ones still move in and out quite rapidly and that the ones hanging out don't seem to go anywhere. What might this mean?
Once again, thanks for your help so far, and looking forward to any new guidance you can offer.