In the Summer of 2018, I had one hive, and it had overwintered and then died. Sad about this end to a successful overwintering (it's really not successful if it doesn't survive the Spring, is it?), I was not interested in spending the money on a nuc. With only one hive, I was unsure if I wanted to keep beekeeping at all.
I looked for other resources, and there were plenty. In a single week, my wife spotted a swarm across the street from our house and a friend beek offered to help me with a cut-out.
A cut-out is when bees are living inside someone's walls, and their colony has to be literally cut out of the walls.
A beekeeper takes on a cut-out for three reasons:
- To save bees
- To strengthen existing colonies
- To get paid/help a neighbor
Doing the Job
You may find a need for a bee vacuum for many reasons. I think a cut-out is the best reason to use a vacuum. I found this Bee Hacker instructional for making a $22 bee vacuum. There's very little to it. Its included advice is good.
- The job is much bigger than you have eyes to see.
- Tap on the walls to get an idea of where the mass of bees is. This will let you assume a much smaller area than is actually there, which will encourage you to do the job despite the required effort.
- Put down tarps, cardboard, or disposable covers everywhere in the room, and if you have the opportunity, for the whole path to exterior door.
- Bring numerous buckets with covers (we used blankets/rags). You'll put bees in your vacuum boxes/buckets, and you'll want to separate brood, nectar, and honey.
- Prepare the homeowner for walls to be cut out, a mess to be made, and more. It could take multiple days if it gets out of hand.
When I did this cut-out, it took us 7-8 hours, and we didn't fully secure the alcove. We removed all the comb we could reach, and left it open in the hope that the bees and others would take the dripping honey and resources left in it.
The landowner was glad for us to tear out whatever we needed, but it ended up being our energy that was limited. We told him that they were likely farther into the siding of his wall, near the roof, but both of us suspected he was going to bug bomb them after we left.
We agreed, if we ever do a cut-out again, we will charge a hefty sum of money to do it!