Photos & Video of How it Works
Step 1 - Gather equipment
Carpentry tools, drop cloths, bee-vac and chamber (modified shop-vac), suitcase frames, smoker and pine needles, extension cords, hive body, and ladder.
Step 2 - Prep the room
When a cut-out is done inside the house, furniture is removed or covered, drop cloths laid, and doorways closed off. This keeps the bees contained and furnishings protected.
Step 3 - Gain access
Chris uses a heat gun to establish where the bees are in the wall. This enables him to identify precisely where to cut to gain access to the colony's unwanted living arrangement.
Step 4 - Expose the colony
In this scenario, the bees and the wax comb are in a wall between two studs. The comb is attached at the top and on the far side. Chris will cut the panels of comb out with a hive tool.
Step 5 - Move comb to frames
Each panel of comb is cut from the structure and laid into a hinged "suitcase" or "comb capture" frame. The comb is cut to size and laid on one side of the frame. The other side is folded on top and the two side of the frame are banded together. The frame will hold the comb in place in the hive body.
Step 6 - Capture the queen
As Chris is cutting the comb and placing it into frames, he is checking each piece of comb for the queen. When he finds her, he places her in a "queen cage" to keep her secure in the new hive body. Queens can fly, but do so rarely, so they are usually found on the comb. If the queen is not removed, the colony will rebuild in the same place.
Step 7 - Vacuum remaining bees
While some bees will move to the new hive body with the comb, bees that remain in the space are captured using a bee-vac, a modified shop-vac with a special bee chamber.
Step 8 - Camouflage scent
All remaining hive material is removed and the exposed structure is spray painted. The spray paint camouflages any remaining scent of the hive. A new colony of bees will be attracted to the space if there is any scent or remains of wax and honey.
Step 9 - Cover the cavity
Once the bees and hive are removed, Chris covers the cavity, making it waterproof if outside. The property owner will generally have to hire a carpenter to finish repairs.
Step 10 - Moving in
Once in the bee yard, Chris opens the bee-vac chamber so that the bees can move in to their new home. When the bees smell their queen and sisters, they raise their abdomens to release a pheromone that alert the others that they are home.
Step 11 - Bees settle in
The first couple of weeks after a cut-out are particularly busy for a colony of bees as they rearrange the furniture (the comb) to their liking in the new space. Meanwhile, the foragers orient themselves to the surrounding area.
Step 12 - Manage the hive
Once a colony of bees is established in a bee yard, Chris checks back in on it on a regular basis. He is looking to see if the population is strong, the pollen and nectar are sufficient, the queen is laying, and that there are no diseases or pests in the hive.
Bees in a roof
Bees had lived in this roof, on the banks of Bolin Creek, on and off for over 20 years. If wax and hive materials are not properly removed and the entrance sealed off, a new colony of bees will return.
Can you spot the queen?
The queen's abdomen is longer than that of her workers.
Three different types of hive tools used to manage the hive and do cut-outs.
Swarm moving in
When a homeless colony, or swarm, identifies a new home, they will march in to the hive en masse. It can take some convincing to get the bees to decide that this is indeed their new home, but once they do, it is fascinating to watch them march in.
Laying out the suitcase frames
Suitcase frames are used in cut-outs to move comb from the original location and fit it into the hive. In the days following the cut-out, the bees will rework the comb into a single piece.
Honeybees release pheromones to communicate. The bees lift their abdomens and fan to broadcast the Nasonov pheromone, which communicates that this is the entrance to the hive. When bees exhibit this behavior while being moved, it is a sign that they have accepted the new hive.
New colony in the bee yard
A colony of bees, fresh from a cut-out and the bee-vac chamber, are getting established in their hive body in one of Chris' bee yards.
Honey comb in suitcase frame
A huge chunk of honey comb from a cut-out, laid in a suitcase frame. This was delicious honey!
Defending their hive
Bees will defend their hive against unwanted intruders. Here is a bald-faced hornet that was killed by the bees on the entrance ramp to the hive.
Bees in a basement
A small colony of bees have made themselves comfortable in a cubby of someone's basement. They were unwelcome house guests, so Chris came to remove them.
Bees on honey comb
The capped comb on the top left holds honey. Can you spot the queen? She is right on the edge of the honey. Her torso is longer and paler than that of the nurse bees around her.
Lighting the smoker
Smoke calms bees, so it can make working a hive much easier for a beekeeper. While doing cut-outs, Chris rarely uses smoke as it causes the queen, which he needs to find and capture, to retreat and hide.
A frame of pollen
The cells of this frame contain pollen, which varies in color based on the flower it came from. Bees pack each cell with pollen from only one type of flower. Pollen is a protein source and needed to raise brood.
Step by step process for a cut-out
More about bees, beekeeping, and bee removal
Pleasant Green Cut-out - Entrance
Bees need only 3/16th of an inch to enter a space. They often find gaps of sufficient size where siding and brick meet. (1 of 6)
Pleasant Green Cut-out - Location
The colony is exposed in the first floor ceiling of this split level home. Honey bees will fill all available space as they grow. Once they have filled the space, the colony will split by swarming. (2 of 6)
Pleasant Green Cut-out -Comb Removed
All of the comb has been neatly removed and the bees vacuumed away. (3 of 6)
Pleasant Green Cut-out - Painted
Spray paint masks the smell of wax that may linger after a colony has been removed. Lingering odors can otherwise attract a new colony of bees. (4 of 6)
Pleasant Green Cut-out - Almost done
The colony and its comb are set to be re-assembled into their new hive body in the bee yard. (5 of 6)
Pleasant Green Cut-out - Bee Yard
The bees are getting settled at the end of a long day, for them and for Chris. (6 of 6)
Removing bees from split-level home
Videos explaining the cut-out process
More videos on the Swarmhunter YouTube Channel
Reaching bees in a roof, eaves, and other high spots
Removing bees from a tree
Governer's Club - Lift & equipment
For this cut-out, the only way to safely reach the bees was to use a lift. Here the lift is loaded with gear that Chris will use to remove the bees. (1 of 6)
Governer's Club - Accessing the bees
Here Chris, up in lift, removes the soffit to access the space where the bees have made a home. (2 of 6)
Governer's Club - The colony
Chris uses a heat sensor to know exactly where the bees are in the house. Here is the colony that was behind the soffit. (3 of 6)
Governer's Club - Masking
After Chris removes the bees and wax comb, he spray paints the space to mask any lingering odor. (4 of 6)
Governer's Club - Soffit replaced
Chris was able to quickly replace this soffit before taking the bees to their new home. The house now has only a single family occupancy! (5 of 6)
Governer's Club - New home
The bees are coming and going from their new home. (6 of 6)
In some cases, scaffolding is the safest option to reach the bees. Here the bees had moved into the eaves.
Treyburn Removal - Equipment
A colony of bees was in the eaves of a 2-story house. A lift was needed to safely execute the cut-out. The bee-vac and chamber are hooked to the lift. (1 of 5)
Treyburn Removal - Getting started
The honeybees are bursting out at the seams! Chris will have to remove the shingles and plywood to access them. (2 of 5)
Treyburn Removal - Colony Exposed
The dark comb and size of this colony indicate that it has been here for a number of years. This comb is oozing with honey. (3 of 5)
Treyburn Removal - Nearly Finished
The bees and comb have been removed, and the space cleaned and painted to mask any remaining hive odors. Chris will tarp the space and a carpenter will come the next day to finish repairs. (4 of 5)
Treyburn Removal - New home
Still in abundance, the bees move into their new home. (5 of 5)
Bee Gum - Cutting into the trunk
A tree has come down and there is a colony of honey bees established in the trunk. Chris transported sections of the trunk to a different location to do the removal. He starts by cutting into the trunk. (1 of 8)
Bee Gum - Cracking it open
Chris has made two lengthwise cuts and is now opening the section of tree trunk. The screening material was stapled on to the trunk to keep the bees contained while the bee gum was moved. (2 of 8)
Bee Gum - Colony Exposed
This was a five foot long section of trunk, filled with comb and bees. (3 of 8)
Bee Gum - Cutting into more
There was a second section of trunk that had honey bees in it. This tree was clearly dying and needed to come down. (4 of 8)
Bee Gum - Taking it Apart
Chris takes apart the second section to expose more bees and comb. (5 of 8)
Bee Gum - Moving the Comb to Frames
Once the colony is exposed within the trunk, a bee gum is just like a cut-out. The comb is removed and put into suitcase frames, which fit in the hive box. (6 of 8)
Bee Gum - Nearly Finished
All of the comb has been removed from the trunk, put into suitcase frames, and then in the hive. The queen was caught and caged and the remaining bees will move into the hive on their own. No need for the bee vac on this job. (7 of 8)
Bee Gum - New home
The next day, Chris settled the colony into a new space. Lucky bees - their new hive is in a field of buckwheat, a favorite nectar source. (8 of 8)