Trap Outs: As the swarm season dies down, bee removal season picks up when unwitting homeowners notice bees that have taken up residence in their walls, trees, mailboxes or any other cavities they find suitable. Much like swarm removal, one must discerning about trap out selection.
For those who are unaware, a trap out is a method for removing honey bees from a cavity (usually a wall). Rather than cutting the wall open and removing all of the bees and combs, the beekeeper uses a trickery to get the bees out. By sealing up all of the bees entrances but one, and then placing a screen funnel over the last entrance (point facing outward), the bees can move out of the wall but can’t find their way back in.
Once the funnel is in place, the beekeeper hangs or rests a small honey bee colony (ideally queenless with eggs from another colony) next to the funnel. As the bees give up hope on moving back into their wall, they join forces with the colony that has suddenly appeared. After a month or two, all of the bees should be out of the cavity and in your nucleus box.
Here I am doing a trap out in Portland, OR:
Do note that the first couple weeks the bees will almost certainly find new entrances, making it vitally important that you check up on them weekly to ensure the rogue entrances get sealed and the one way exit continues to function properly. Otherwise the process is fruitless.
Once the bees are out of the wall the funnel can be removed and the colony outside now gets the opportunity to go back into the wall to rob out as much honey as possible. If this is during fall, you can bet that the bees will be ravenous for an easy honey source. After a week or two of robbing the hole can be sealed up and you can take your bees home.
This is a time consuming process that can easily go beyond the scope of work that you anticipated. Be sure to consider all of the factors involved with the trap out, such as: access to the property; height of the entrance; number of entrances; methods of sealing the entrances (duct tape, foam, screen, etc.). More than once have I quickly looked at a trap out site, figured it looked easy enough, only to find that it took me 4-5 hours to get the entrances sealed! If it’s high up or difficult to access, be doubly sure that a cut out isn’t a better option for you and the customer.