Palo Alto Lincoln Bee Removal Site Check 7/7/2010

The other day I received an email from a very experienced beekeeper/bee remover named Lothar who’s a long time member of the Santa Clara Bee Guild, San Mateo Bee Guild, and a few others. He has been doing cutouts and bee removal for years and he asked me if I would like to receive referrals from him as he’s often quite busy with other removal jobs. I quickly accepted his offer and here’s the first referral from a fellow beekeeper.

I visited Karen this afternoon with my dad and 2 year old son who was asleep in the minivan while we checked out the bee colony. Karen has a wonderful property in Palo Alto and what’s more incredible is her yard. It’s like Karen planted everything for the bees, a perfect apiary as she has many citrus trees, apricot, and other fruit trees that honey bees just love. Near her front door as I walked up, I noticed a long row of very healthy and blooming lavender plants and it was covered with honey bees. These lavender plants were about 10-15 feet away from where the wild colony lives. What a short trip for them to collect nectar and pollen, all from Karen’s own yard.

Anyways, back to the feral colony of honey bees. There’s a Yucca tree along the pathway from the driveway to the front door. The tree is in great position but the bad part is the bees’ flight path is ground level and up, and if you were to walk to the front door, you’ll walk right into the flight path perpendicular to the bees. Not an ideal position at all for the bees or the family and visitors. From what Karen told me there used to be a hive inside the hollowed trunk, but at that time the hole was much smaller and a beekeeper removed that one fairly easily. I can see cement covering the old hole. Now, it’s a whole different story. The trunk has split open and as you can see from the picture it’s wide open. The bees are now below ground and into the root system of the Yucca tree. I can see one large hole going right under my feet but didn’t notice any bees moving in and out from there. Maybe that hole was dug up by skunks or squirrels at some point. Into the trunk and to the lower right, that’s where the bees are living. I brought a stick with me and poked into the hole and it was at least 2 feet deep, and not knowing if it turned or not and how far it spreads.

So this bee removal is not going to be a simple one at all. Trapout is not an option as the hole is way too large and even if you were to trap out, you would have to find a nice way to seal it up so no further swarms would move in.

So here’s how I would tackle this bee removal and still save as many bees as possible. Day 1 I would start by vacuuming as many bees as possible. Or actually… the night before Day 1 I would try to vacuum the bees because  evening I can probably suck up more bees as they are all home. Good thing is my dad lives just a few exit away off of 101 from Karen, and I live in Los Altos which is still close enough to make multiple site visits to get the job done right. Ok, pre-Day 1 get as many bees as possible. Then Day 1 I would again start vacuuming as many bees as possible during morning. Then start cutting the Yucca tree from top down. Hopefully I can reach ground level on Day 1. Day 2 will require careful cutting of the base of the tree to gain access to the bee colony. Again while this is happening the bee vac will be on and my dad would be collecting the bees. Cutting and digging would be involved with this bee removal, all manual labor and it’s July and in a full bee suit temperatures are going to be reaching 90-100F inside the suit, not an ideal situation being in full sun without shade.  We will remove as many bees as possible and hopefully reach the combs. Probably won’t be able to save any brood and might not even catch the queen in this cutout but the bees we vacuum into the bee vac we will combine them with existing hives that I have in Mountain View and Los Altos. This bee removal will take at least two days, and like any cutouts or bee removals, there’s still a lot of unknowns until you start the job and get deeper into the structure.

Anyways, if I do get this job you can be sure I’ll be taking a lot of photos during this cutout to share with everyone. Stay tuned!

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