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.