I participated in my first “cut-out” this weekend. A “cut-out” is beek slang for removing a colony of bees that have taken up housekeeping in an unwanted location, as in this case, the ceiling of someone’s front porch. Honeybees need dark and dry places to build a nest and make a new colony and the inside of our frame-stucco walls and ceilings are almost ideal for their needs. Scout bees are truly amazing in their ability to find the smallest cracks or unsealed holes to get inside walls and once they report their find to their home hive you can bet where the next swarm is going to go. Although I have collected a number of swarms, this weekend was my first “cut-out” experience.
Here’s a picture that will give you an idea of the circumstances on this colony which had set up housekeeping in the ceiling on the front porch of a frame stucco house owned by an older couple who had let maintenance slide a bit.
As you can see in this picture, these bees had been in place for three years. We took LOTS of comb and honey out of this ceiling! (picture)
The majority of the bees that were sitting on the comb were removed using a shop vacuum. During the day, of course, about half of the bees in a colony are in the filed foraging. (picture)
This was a great learning experience for me. It’s actually fairly straight forward, cut a hole in the wall/ceiling, smoke the bees to calm them (as much as they will calm when you’re tearing their house apart) and remove the bees, wax, honey, brood, etc. Close up the hole, fill it with sealing foam because the field bees WILL try to get back inside, and refinish the wall/ceiling. Sounds simple but it’s hot, dirty and guaranteed sticky work. If you’re lucky you solve the problem for the homeowner, end up with some hive products and maybe even save the colony, which is always a good feeling. (picture)