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What is a trap-out?

A trap-out is a not-very-satisfactory way of removing a colony of bees from a structure, a tree, or a wall.

Basically, it works like this:

  • The beekeeper studies the space where the bees are living and tries to find all the entrances and exits. Once all the openings are found, the beekeeper seals them off, except for one.
  • Over the remaining opening, the beekeeper installs a one-way bee escape. This allows the bees to leave the nest but prevents them from returning.
  • Very close to the one-way opening, the beekeeper sets up a regular hive, complete with brood, honey, pollen, a queen, and just enough workers to care for the brood and the queen.
  • With any luck, the returning foragers that are unable to enter their old hive will eventually take up residence in the new one.

The system is less than perfect for a number of reasons.

  • The process is glacially slow. Only foragers and drones are caught by the one-way trap. The nurse bees won’t be caught until they become foragers. The brood won’t be caught until it hatches and goes through all the stages that precede foraging. Many home and business owners with a bee nest don’t want to wait this long to get rid of it.
  • The queen usually dies within the structure along with any unattended brood. Rotting brood may smell bad.
  • Honey stores, if any, are left inside. These have been known to leak and drip down inside walls.
  • Combs and honey left inside my attract vermin.

Although the technique provides a bunch of “free” bees for the beekeeper, it has many drawbacks.

  • The beekeeper must already have a queenright hive to use for the trapped bees.
  • The bees the beekeeper collects are at the end of their lives (i.e. they are foragers, not nurses or comb-builders).
  • The owner of the structure is left with a mess.
  • The entire unsatisfactory process takes the better part of a month.

Trap-outs seem to wax and wane in popularity and tend to be more common in southern areas. In northern areas with very short honey seasons, the length of time required for a trap-out is more of an issue.

Rusty

Comments

Gary N
Reply

My sister in-law has an old colony living inside her old barn. I am thinking about trying to expand my bee yard by catching a portion of this colony . . . any thoughts, we live up in NY state. Thanks.

Rusty
Reply

Gary,

If the colony is readily accessible (in other words, it’s not buried between an inner wall and an outer wall) I think you could just cut out the combs, tie them into frames, and carry them away. If you get the queen, all the better. You can use string or rubber bands to connect the combs to the frames–the bees will remove either within a few weeks.

If you don’t know if you have the queen, just be sure you have some eggs and you should be good to go. The bees will soon connect their combs to the frames (or top bars), they will raise a new queen if necessary, and you will have a new colony.

If the colony is hard to reach–or buried between two walls–you will probably have to cut out a section of barn to get to them. Better check with your sister-in-law first!

Gary N
Reply

Thank you for the advice.
I will probably wait until early next spring and then try this.

Thanks again, great site.

Gary

Alice
Reply

Hello
Is there a better way to tempt bees out of a wall? We have a well established hive (with one entrance) in an old stone barn wall. Would love to attract them out to start keeping bees and don’t want to hurt them.
Any ideas? Or shall I just leave them bee?
Yours gratefully
Alice in rural France

Rusty
Reply

Alice,

I don’t have a good answer for you, especially if you don’t want to destroy the wall. You could set up a bait hive in the vicinity. That way, if they swarm, you may be able to catch the swarm and leave the original colony in place. There are no guarantees, however. A swarm may ignore the bait hive and go elsewhere.

If it is a well-established colony, as you say, it will probably swarm at least once a year. With a swarm, you get a queen–which is what you need to establish a new colony. If you saw them swarm, you might be able to catch them–and maybe not.

Perhaps, you should leave them where they are and start beekeeping in another way. Then, after you have hives and other equipment, you might have better luck at luring some of those bees out of the wall.

Barney Klimeck
Reply

Can I put a nuc box with two entrances one with a one way bee trap installed over the entrance of a wild hive established in the walls of a building and trap the bees to form a hive? How do I get the queen or will the bees make a new one?

Rusty
Reply

Barney,

You can trap them that way, but you will have to rip into the wall to get the queen or buy a queen somewhere. Your bees cannot raise a queen without fertilized eggs from the current queen, and those eggs won’t fly out by themselves. Like I said in the post, it’s not a very good system.

Nancy
Reply

I relocate bees professionally. I do trapouts all the time. I was taught this method by a beekeeper who is a removal expert. He taught me when I started my career. I use this method when there are no other options ie: concrete block wall or tree cavity. If you do this properly at the right time of the year it is successful. I have not had any colonies die inside of the wall or honey dripping. I get the queen almost all the time. It is a process but with a bit of time and education the clients can handle the schedule and are proud to be saving a colony.

Karen
Reply

Nancy I would love to hear from you as I have honey bee’s flying into my cavity wall, they also done this last year. I would really like them removed. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Simon
Reply

I’ve had bees behind cladding on the edge of a flat roof in my house for two years now and have kind of left them to it, as there weren’t that many of them and I thought they might just die off some winter. But not. In the last month the number of bees is now massive and they seem to be getting into the house. I can’t easily remove cladding or get at them so have decided to go for a trap out with a nuc hive at its base. What do you think the likelihood of getting the queen out also is, or should I accept (if they move into the hive) I buy one immediately. Shame about the honey.

Rusty
Reply

Simon,

If you have brood from another hive (I know, big “if”) you can put some brood in the trap and the queen will often come out to see what’s going on. Other than that, it’s hard to get the queen.

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