A trap out is a term used when you are trying to coax a colony of honey bees out of a space they have decided to live in. This can happen when a swarm of bees takes up residence in a building or tree. Sometimes these bees can be left alone but more often than not the homeowner wishes them gone! Rather than calling in pest destruction a much better alternative is for a beekeeper to attempt a trap out. For this to be successful you need the consent and patience of the landowner or home owner as you will be required to visit often and the process can take between 4-6 weeks.
This year I have been doing many trap outs. It is really enjoyable to know I can save bees from being killed and each situation is always different so I love the challenge and need to improvise. From bees in walls, ceilings, roof spaces and trees no two situations are the same. You do not require any specialised or expensive equipment just a little bit of Kiwi ingenuity.
An alternative to a trap out is a cut out which entails removing boards or wall linings or roofing material to cut out the comb and collect the bees. I enjoy a bit of DIY but am not prepared to semi-demolish somebodies home so much prefer the less invasive method of a trap out!
As with everything in beekeeping there are several ways but I will share how I do a trap out.
- Find out how long the bees have been there? If it is a recent swarm then the queen may not be laying yet as the colony will be busy comb building. If the colony has been there for months there is probably a large brood nest so it will take a longer time to move the colony out.
- Observe where the bees are coming and going from. Look carefully as there can often be more than one entrance and exit hole. Block up all but the main one or the one which is easiest for you to reach.
- using a black pipe, or plastic drink bottle with the bottom removed to form a funnel, secure this over the exit hole to force the bees to travel through this to exit. I use sand paper to make the drink bottles inside rough so the bees can climb up inside it. Once the pipe or bottle is in place ensure that the bees are exiting the hole.
- I use expandable spray foam in a can to secure the piping and block the entrance. This material dries quickly and forms a weather proof seal. It is easy to remove at the end of the trap out. You can buy at any hardware store.
- on the end of the pipe or bottle use some metal insect mesh or similar to form a funnel. Create a bee space gap at the end, large enough for a drone bee to crawl through.
- I find a black pipe works best as the bees will keep moving towards the light at the end. Use gaffer tape to cover the plastic bottle is you use this.
- Place a nuc box with its entrance right next to the exit funnel.
- Return the next day and place a comb of honey, a comb of capped and uncapped brood in the nuc box. By this time there should be some bees in the box to look after the brood.
- check the funnel to ensure that the bees can not get back in. Pinch the end if the gap is too large.
- The bees will make a new queen if you provide eggs or very young larvae or the queen may leave the space and travel to the nuc box.
- After 4-6 weeks most of the brood should have hatched and be leaving the wall space and moving into the nuc box.
- you should not see any bees exiting the one way hole
- at night remove the nuc box to a new location
- remove all the piping and cut away and tidy the expanded foam. It pays to leave the hole blocked with some material so further swarms are not attracted to the area.