Stopping a Bee Infestation

Here's how the author captured a rogue colony one May morning and stopped a bee infestation in his home.

| May/June 1973

  • 021-036-01.jpg
    A rogue hive had found a gap and established a colony under the eaves of the author's home.
  • Matthews tends behive
    The author tending the hive after removing it from his roof.  
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    The author placed a prepared half-sized hive on his roof near the site of the infestation to attract the colony's workers.   
  • Matthews - Griswold removes a hive
    Beekeeper Edward Griswold captures another rogue swarm, one that had taken up residence in an orange bush near the offices of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Top Row, L to R: The hive in the bush; Lighting the smoker; Wafting smoke into the bush to stun the bees. Middle Row, L to R: Shaking the stunned bees into a hive; Checking to make sure the queen has been captured; Adding more smoke to the bush to discourage bees from returning. Bottom: The colony adjusts to its new home.

  • 021-036-01.jpg
  • Matthews tends behive
  • 021-036-01a
  • Matthews - Griswold removes a hive

Our first warning of the invasion came on a warm, clear morning about the middle of May. My wife and I noticed a dozen or more honeybees flying close to the front of our home where the porch roof is attached . . . then a long spell of cool, wet weather set in and we didn't see the insects for a week. I was busy with other matters and thought little of it . . . until the sun came out again and our visitors returned.

"Ethel," I said, "somebody's bees are getting ready to swarm. I'd better prepare the catch-hive, because if those scouts have found a hole or a crack in the siding of this old house they'll bring back the whole bunch and set up housekeeping."

Accordingly, I got out the homemade half-size hive with which I catch swarms and raise queens. I placed an old, strong-smelling brood comb in the hive, along with another comb that contained a royal cell nearly ready to hatch. (I'd anticipated the swarming season by arranging for some of my bees to start this queen more than a week beforehand, just in case I should need her.)

I then prepared to get the hive up on the porch roof next to where the migrating scouts were buzzing around. I also figured I'd better plug any small holes in the house's siding where bees might get into the wall. Too late! As I collected my tools, Ethel came running to the workshop with the cry, "The swarm is here!"

Sure enough, bees were already creeping through an opening at the end of the weatherboarding next to the cornice. I clambered up near them and put the catch-hive on the porch roof, but—due to the overhang of the molding—I could get it no closer than about 20 inches to their point of entry. That wasn't close enough and the bees continued to make their way in under the siding instead of into the hive.

"Well," I thought, "I can still put at least part of the swarm where I want it." Masses of eager insects were clustered around the hole in the wall awaiting their turn to enter, and—since bees that have just swarmed are full of honey and don't usually sting—I scooped up several double handfuls and dumped them in front of my catch-box. They smelled the combs inside and readily crawled in . . . but I was still left with the problem of capturing the bees that were already inside the wall of the house.

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