Honeybee Removal and Extraction Services

What's a Swarm?

Swarming is the process by which a new honey bee colony is formed when the queen bee leaves the colony with a large group of worker bees. In the prime swarm, about 60% of the worker bees leave the original hive location with the old queen. This swarm can contain thousands to tens of thousands of bees. Swarming is mainly a spring phenomenon, usually within a two- or three-week period depending on the locale, but occasional swarms can happen throughout the producing season.

Swarming is honey bee colonies' natural means of reproduction. In the process of swarming the original single colony reproduces to two and sometimes more colonies. Scout bees search for suitable cavities in which to construct the swarm’s home. Successful scouts will then come back and report the location of suitable nesting sites to the other bees.

Swarming happens naturally in the wild, however many swarms (especially those found in more developed areas) are derived from bee hives in the surrounding area that were not suitable for the hive.  Even though it may look scary, these bees are in their most docile state, and can easily be transferred to a container by a skilled beekeeper.  If the swarm is not caught, the scout bees will find a location suitable for the colony and the swarm will quickly disband and go to that location, even if that location is in your house, shed, or other undesirable location.  

There's Bees in my _______.

Bees take up residence in many natural and man-made items.  From trees to rafters, bees have inhabited some pretty interesting places.  It is their survival instinct, which has served them well for hundreds of years.  Bee removal from a pre-existing structure can be easy or it can be difficult.  Assessing this situation will require a on-site assessment and estimate.  Feel free to call, text, or contact us on our CONTACT US page.  To make sure you are dealing with honey bees and not a more aggressive insect, you may be asked to provide a photo of your concern.  We also have information on identifying bees on our FAQ Page.  

Removing Bees from Structures

Honeybee extraction from structures is accomplished by locating and gaining access to the cavity the bees are occupying.  This could be accomplished by an interior or exterior approach.  Interior approaches are often less expensive to repair, as drywall repairs are much cheaper than repairs to siding or masonry.  Interior approaches can introduce bees into the home, which may cause stress you and your family.

How it works

Regardless how we approach the removal, all extractions begin with a non-invasive inspection using state-of-the-art technology.  We utilize FLIR infrared technology to find heat signatures in walls and sub-flooring.  We have additional bore cameras that can be threaded through entrance holes and small inspection points to find colonies.  This allows us to accomplish two important tasks:

1. Confirm species/ genus of insect

2. Identify options for void access points

We use a specially built honeybee hive with a vacuum attachment which gently sucks the honeybees into the awaiting sealed hive.  The honeybees are not harmed during this removal.  Once removed, Comb is carefully cut out.  Comb containing bee eggs, larvae and pupa (known as brood) are removed and secured to bee hive frames for the bees to repopulate after they have been relocated.  Comb containing honey is originally placed in a sealed container.  The colony will be assessed for how much honey they require to stay well fed.  The remainder is harvested. 

The consultation is required for all extractions.  Often, with enough information from the property owner, we are able to offer the consultation on the same day as the extraction, though some scenarios require this to be done separately.  There are no additional fees assessed if we provide the consultation and extraction on different days.  A consultation fee of $150 is assessed on all extractions, regardless if the extraction occurs or not.  This protects our time and labor for scheduling the removal; since most removals are scheduled to take up to 5-8hrs of labor. 

Things you can do to get ready

  • Restrict Access.  Commonwealth Bee Company is not liable for any injuries on the removal site, including bee stings.  Ensure your family, pets, and neighbors stay clear of the area.  During the removal, it is possible for many bees to be disrupted and flying.  It may be courteous to notify close-in neighbors of the work timeline.

  • Remove Vehicles.  Place vehicles inside garages or on the street away from the removal site.  If you have plans to leave during the work timeframe, discuss this with us ahead of time so we can plan for it. 

  • Consider repairs.  Commonwealth Bee Company will not perform any repairs from damage during the removal.  There could be exterior voids exposed after the removal is completed.  It is recommended to plan to have these areas addressed by a contractor as soon as possible.  Commonwealth Bee attempts to block voids when possible with plastic sheeting.  

Other things to consider:

  • Pest removal companies WILL NOT remove honeybees

  • Honeybee extraction and removal fees range from $500-1000+ depending on labor, access, and needed rentals (such as lifts).  Your homeowners insurance may be able to provide coverage if needed.  

  • While NO REPAIRS are included in the extraction fees, we will seal the void entrance holes with expanding foam and cover any extraction openings with plastic wrapping while repairs are scheduled. 

Scheduling:

  • Timeline for extractions vary.  We try and prioritize emergent requests (having allergic family members, active bee access into living areas) with priority requests (pending sale of a home, in-progress home repairs delayed due to colony), and standard requests (bees have established a colony but pose no danger to the occupants).  

  • Honeybees reproduce slowly.  When a colony enters the home, they must first create honeycomb to put food and eggs into.  Honeybees need 6-8lbs of consumed nectar to create only 1lb of wax.  This can take a week or two to make any wax structure.  Once the queen begins laying, it takes 21 days for any new bees to emerge from the colony.  During that same period, 100s of honeybees die daily due to old age (of 6-8 weeks).  There is no concern about a massive increase in honeybee population during the first 30 days of establishment.  

Payment and Contract

Honeybee extractions require technical skill, specialized equipment, and expert understanding of honeybee colony biology.  There are numerous overhead costs involved in operating equipment, travel, personnel, and ongoing care of the extracted colonies.  Because of this, extractions are provided via a paid contract.  All extractions begin with a consultation using the technologies described above.  This often occurs on the same day of the planned removal.  A service fee is charged for all in-person visits.  Should the extraction move forward, a  removal fee is then charged and a contract releasing liability is then signed.  You can review our standard contract here.  

Clients who call in swarms (honeybee colonies without a home, found outside of a structure) are not charged for swarm removal as long as the swarm is donated to the company.  

Commonwealth Bee DOES NOT MAKE REPAIRS.  If possible, exterior voids will be covered to prevent re-entry.  

If you are interested in an extraction consult, please click here to register 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why did the honeybees make a home in my house?

 

Honeybees naturally live in voids, usually in trees.  When a colony swarms from their home, they take up residence on a tree or other exterior structure while scout bees look for a new home.  If the bees were able to find a large enough void, then they just moved right in. 

 

Why does removing the comb stop the bees from coming back?

 

Honeybees are social insects.  Each bee, based on his or her age, has a job.  Many of the bees in the colony act as nurse bees for brood, or foragers looking for nectar and pollen.  When we remove the comb, these bees have no job and will either go find other colonies or hug the outside of their box with the rest of the colony.  The queen emits pheromones that attracts her workers to her, so long as we are able to capture the queen, the rest of the colony will follow her. 

 

Why are there still bees around after the removal?

 

Many bees act as foragers who are out running from flower to flower collecting nectar and pollinating.  These bees will be coming back throughout the day of the removal and may hang around the void for a few days before leaving.  The queen’s pheromone is very strong, and there may be traces of it in the cavity they were living in.  Any grouping of bees larger than a softball should be reported to us after 3 days. 

 

Where will the bees go?

 

We populate public and private areas with honeybees around Virginia.  We consider ourselves a habitat development company reaching out to businesses and communities teaching the importance of pollinators.  We have several apiaries in the central and northern VA area and these bees, once inspected for quality and disease, will be moved into an apiary to continue their important work securing our food supply.  

 

Why do you not take other types of bees?

 

We do not hold an exterminator license, nor do we have the equipment or means to re-home other insects, including other bee species.  If we determine the bees are not honeybees we will discuss with you the best next steps and provide you with referrals as necessary.  

 

I've heard you could "trap" the bees by using a bee hive instead of cutting holes?

 

"Trap outs" are used when a beekeeper uses a metal mesh cone which acts as a one-way exit, forcing bees who leave the colony ​to seek other living arrangements.  The problem with trap outs are that you RARELY remove all the bees, including the queen, and you leave any and all comb in the void space.  Trap-outs work by starving honeybees to the point that they exit the void.  We do not find this to be the best way to remove colonies.  Additionally, the two things anchoring bees to a void space is the sent of a queen bee and the presence of brood (baby bees).  Removing the colony and comb as a whole unit is the best way to re-establish the colony safely.  

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