Palo Alto Bee Relocation – External Honey Bee Colony

After inspecting the Mountain View and Hayward Hives on Saturday my dad and I went to check out the feral bee hives in Palo Alto (see the blog before this). One was an external colony that have been there for over one year and last year half of the comb sections fell to the ground when Summer temperatures reached into the 100s. We thought it was time to give these bees a better home, relocate the bees to my yard in Los Altos and hive them in a well protected box, keeping them from the elements (This colony is hardy, they survived the freezing temperatures we’ve had in November and December, plus all the rain!)

Today, Sunday, we arrived shortly after 1 PM and got set up. We knew my 12 feet ladder wasn’t tall enough to reach the external honey bee colony. So we already planned on how to get the bees down to hive them.  Plan A: 12 feet ladder plus 3 feet when placed on the truck plus an additional 5 feet or more when we stood near the top of the ladder. Still that was not tall enough! But we had plan B and brought the necessary equipment for it. Using a large pot, secure a long metal rod onto it. One person fit the pot around the combs while holding onto the rod, making sure the rim of the pot was touching the main branch the combs were built on. The second person would use an extending tree trimmer to cut. That worked beautifully and we were able to bring the colony to the ground where we could hive them without endangering ourselves or the honey bees from a nasty fall.

Below is a picture of the ladder secured to the truck bed. My dad is at the top of the ladder checking out the bees before we started.

Unfortunately we didn’t get pictures of the cutting process. Next time I’ll bring my Flip Video to record it. We took the colony out of the pot and put it into a box so we can start cutting the combs to frame. But after some time the weight and the shaking from the cutting made the combs to fall apart but not completely, so the bees did not get smashed. We worked quickly after seeing this and rescued all the bees.

And of course, we rescued the Queen bee as well. I caught her fairly quick. It was about the third comb section I pulled up and I looked on the reverse side and there she was. Grabbed my Mann Lake Queen Catcher and caught her on the first try. Here she is and the workers are already attending to her.

Here’s a closer picture of the Queen. Notice her large and longer lower section.

Because we caught the Queen, and I was very confident that we would as there aren’t many places she can hide unless she flew off, we placed her inside along with some bees we shook in, and strapped the hive box at the top of the ladder. We waited until almost dark to close the entrance and drove off with all the bees.

After a few minutes up there the foragers returning came straight to the hive as many of the bees near the entrance started fanning, spreading the queen pheromone and telling the others where the queen is located.

Oh, I forgot to mention up above that Sunday’s forecast was PM rains. We had very light off and on sprinkles all day but near 6 PM the heavier stuff started to move in. Below my dad tries to sweet talk the bees to enter the hive so we can close up the entrance and take the bees to their new home. It didn’t work so we had to wait longer.

We got back to Los Altos and it started to pour, what good timing. We opened up the entrance and put an entrance reducer there. The queen is still in the queen cage and we’ll let her out on Tuesday when it’s not raining anymore.

It was nice talking to all the neighbors while we waited and glad to also be able to help Ethan with his science project on the very subject, bee removal and rescue. Thanks Bill and Sandy for calling about the bees, allowing us to rescue and relocate them before the City of Palo Alto came out to kill them.

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6 Responses to Palo Alto Bee Relocation – External Honey Bee Colony

  1. Todd says:

    I found your site somehow, but love it. Keep up all the posting. I live in Redwood City, and just started a new colony myself. Had a friend give me an established hive, and they are off to the races! I am already looking forward to another colony.


  2. That’s awesome Todd! Welcome to the world of beekeeping. You’re going to have a blast especially starting from an already established colony which will make things much easier for someone new.

    Feel free to shoot me an email if you’d like to share any pictures or stories of your beekeeping or hive(s) to be posted on my blog to share with the rest of the community.

    • Todd says:

      Will do. Looks like you guys are busy capturing and starting new hives all over the place! I actually have an extra super with frames and comb ready to go. I have the old super out on my roof hoping to lure a swarm. Any ideas to grant me better success? I’ve read that lemongrass essential oil can have a marked effect.

  3. An old super that used to have bees in it is probably one of the best. Lemongrass oil can help but not necessary in a hive that once had bees.

  4. Pingback: Honey Bee Science Fair Project – Ethan @ Palo Alto, CA | Los Altos Honey Bees

  5. George Romer says:

    Thanks for being such good neighbors and taking care of the bees and our grandchildren, Ethan & Max.
    Regards, George Romer

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