There is a common misconception about bee removals. A lot of people believe beekeepers will remove beehives for free. It turns out that to do the job properly and humanely, there is a bit more to it than that.
For the sake of hardworking beekeepers and concerned customers alike, we would like to offer some information about the implications of hive removal, as well as voice some of the frustrations that beekeepers hold surrounding the non-intentional yet ill-informed opinion of many members of the public.
We hold the belief that:
Asking a beekeeper to remove a hive for free is like asking a plumber to remove an old rusty sink and expecting him to keep the sink as payment.
Let it be known, we harbour no harsh thoughts toward those who hold the belief that beekeepers should remove hives without pay.
This is just a point of frustration which we would like to amend.
The following information will be for the benefit of both the beekeeper and those encumbered with the burden of a rogue hive having established itself amongst one’s dwelling.
We believe the common misconception that beekeepers should remove hives for free stems from three key points:
1. Beekeepers can and do remove swarms for free
Yes, a lot of beekeepers will remove swarms of bees for free. This is because the time and effort taken to relocate a swarm of bees are significantly less than that of removing an established hive.
A freshly clustered swarm of bees is very easy to work with and an entire colony can be removed with minimal effort and at most two visits to the location for the beekeeper.
We dare say that most beekeepers will find it hard to walk past a swarm of bees. In fact, it is generally easy to rally beekeepers to your aid if there’s a nice big clump of bees just prime for the taking.
There are literally beekeepers poised and at the ready checking the Facebook notifications of their fave beekeeping groups, just waiting for that opportunity to land a swarm. As amusing as it sounds, we’ve seen beekeepers squabble and fight like small children over who gets to take a swarm of bees.
The point here being, a swarm of bees is something that beekeepers will gladly remove for free, while an established beehive colony is a lot more work to remove and tends to be something that any beekeeper worth more than his smoker won’t want to touch without some kind of reward.
2. The beekeeper gets to keep the bees, that’s payment enough
While it may be true that the beekeeper will take the bees away, how much value these bees have varies from a little to none. During the removal process, the colony will lose most of if not all of its resources (brood, honey, pollen) and must essentially start again from scratch.
There is even the risk that the queen bee becomes injured or killed and therefore the colony can really struggle to ever get going again if it can at all. For most hives, it will take them 12 to 18 months to begin producing harvestable amounts of honey.
Free-bees? Perhaps, but for most serious beekeepers, the costs tend to outweigh the value of the bees.
3. No beekeeper wants to see the bees die.
Occasionally a client unwilling to pay for removal services will say, ‘oh well, the bees will have to die then’. They do this as some kind of guilt trip to the beekeeper. Often a threat by someone too cheap to pay a person for their time. What tends to happen is they find out how much a pest controller costs, then the beekeeper’s price doesn’t seem so bad…
While no beekeeper wants to see bees get put to death, most beekeepers understand that not all colonies can be saved. Any guilt of a hive being killed off because of not working for free will soon be offset in a beekeepers mind by their knowledge of the many hives they have saved previously and the hives that they continue to nurture, grow and repopulate the environment with.
Yes, by all means, #savethebees, but the half a day the beekeeper spends in rescuing a handful of bees from underneath someones poorly kept outdoor furniture, one could argue they’d have been hours better spent in an apiary doing more productive work.
Well managed hives can actually regenerate more bees than those that would be lost by a rogue hive having to be gassed.
This is because a strong healthy hive can be split into two, three or even four individual colonies. These individual colonies then create their own queen and go on to grow into large strong colonies themselves within a matter of months if managed properly.
Applying a cost-benefit analysis to this, there is a strong argument in favour of beekeepers just focussing on established hives if one wants to ensure the sustainability of bee populations.
Don’t get us wrong, we hate hearing of bees getting killed and would prefer they didn’t have to suffer a cruel death, but on the whole, the survivability of the species will depend more on managed colonies, as opposed to the bees that have built their nest in Robbo’s back shed, and required rescuing by a beekeeper who was bullied into removing them for half a six-pack of the cheapest piss available.
Beekeepers who won’t remove bees for free should not be seen as a villain when it comes to caring for bees. They certainly are not the bad guys here. By breeding, raising and sustaining bee colonies of supreme health and vigour, they are ensuring the continued existence of these super important beings.
In the same vein, we entirely support beekeepers who will remove hives for free. Some beekeepers do it purely for the love of the bees. This is great, and we support their endeavours. For them, removing bees is something they enjoy and they have the time, resources and energy to devote to saving individual colonies from certain destruction.
What we would like to get across though, is that beekeepers should not feel pressured into removing bees for free, as a good beekeeper is already doing more than their fair share of saving bees.
Cost of beehive removal
It is clear that a lot of people do not understand the costs involved for a beekeeper when removing established beehives. These costs go further than what most people may be aware of (even many beekeepers may not be aware of these themselves). The following passage seeks to address some of the costs beekeepers face when tasked with removing a beehive.
Beekeepers invest a lot in quality beekeeping equipment. For a hive removal, this will include at a minimum:
– Beekeeping suit and gloves to ensure adequate protection.
Established beehives are rarely happy about being removed. This poses an increased risk to the beekeeper, so they need to wear more gear during a hive removal than they normally would when gathering a swarm or even working with the managed hives in their apiary.
At a minimum, a beekeeper will need to bring a smoker and a hive tool. This can extend to requiring all sorts of implements to assist in removal, ranging from basic brushes and scooping implements, through to custom made tools to reach tight spaces or bee vacuums which again, are generally a custom made item. Each job is different, so beekeepers are often found having to race off and buy or make a new tool to achieve a job.
– Access gear.
This can include anything from a ladder for reaching hives in elevated positions, through to power tools for manual entry into certain areas of people’s homes or equipment. Not all beekeepers are tradesmen, but they are often required to purchase and use gear that one would normally associate with that of a home handyman.
– Something to put the bees in.
While most beekeepers will already have beekeeping equipment to house the bees in, for many they will have to be continually purchasing, assembling and preparing homes for the bees to move into.
This is a cost that is often overlooked by the public and beekeepers themselves. Due to the risk of various diseases, bees that are recovered from removal jobs should be isolated from other hives. The reason this is required is so that the relatively unknown population of bees do not transfer any pests or diseases to a beekeepers existing hives.
In order to do this, a beekeeper has to find a location that allows adequate physical separation from other hives. This means they may have to find a new bee yard. Finding a new bee yard may not always be easy for beekeepers, and will come with costs of its own. Beekeepers will want to keep their new bees in quarantine for a month or so in order to ensure they can confirm the new colony is free of problems before finally moving the bees to one of their existing apiary sites.
Should a beekeeper fail to quarantine a new bunch of bees, the diseases the bees could potentially carry can wipe out their other hives.
This has the potential to cost them thousands of dollars and far outweigh any benefit gained from the new colony.
Not only does a beekeeper have to ensure the new hive is quarantined. Any equipment used by the beekeeper in the removal process must also be sanitised. Failure to do this can then spread disease among a beekeeper’s hives, and again, cost them dearly. Having to wash all their gear and clothing can add hours to a removal job, but it is an essential part of the job.
Again, this is something that is often overlooked by customers and beekeepers alike. If a beekeeper is working with bees in public they really should be insured. The risk of a passerby getting stung is not insignificant and can ultimately land the beekeeper in a world of legal and financial trouble.
Furthermore, if a beekeeper is doing a hive removal on someone’s property and the landowners home or possessions get damaged, this could result in a very awkward situation.
The awkwardness of who pays for damage can be somewhat relieved by a beekeeper having insurance and acting within what they are insured for.
Often beekeeping insurance won’t cover a beekeeper doing removals for payment, so a prudent beekeeper will want to make sure they are covered, and if unsure, they won’t attempt the job.
The cost of beekeeping insurance may lead to some beekeepers not having insurance. While a beekeeper without insurance has (knowingly or mistakenly) taken this risk on themselves, as a customer, you should be inquiring as to what the beekeeper’s insurance covers and/or accept the risks of them undertaking the removal. While the risk of something going wrong is slim, it can happen and can lead to more of the awkies
Travel, time, other costs
We could go on and on about what costs are involved with doing a hive removal. At the end of the day, the costs will vary depending on how far the beekeeper has to travel, how many times the beekeeper has to attend, and how long the actual job takes.
It is important to remember that for a hive removal to be done properly, it will generally require more than one visit to ensure all of the bees are removed. The back and forth travel and time spent doing this all add up and cost the beekeeper significantly.
Also, what can initially seem like a simple job can blow out and take much longer than anticipated.
What’s in it for the beekeeper?
Yes, with most hive removal jobs, the beekeeper will leave with thousands of bees. That said though…
When it comes to established hive removals, the term ‘freebies’ does not apply!
If you haven’t already figured it out, these bees are not acquired free. Still, it is not all doom and gloom. Most of the time the bees that are taken do become an asset for the beekeeper.
How much of an asset varies a lot though, and will depend on a number of factors.
The most obvious of these factors is the number of bees. A large colony with tens of thousands of bees will be more useful to a beekeeper than one with only a few hundred bees.
Next most important will be the time of year that the bees are taken. A colony that is taken in early Spring can get going fairly quickly, while a colony acquired just before Winter is going to require special treatment to get it through the colder months. This will cost the beekeeper money to keep the bees alive if they even survive at all.
It will generally take 12 to 18 months for rescued bees to produce a harvestable honey crop.
Finally, the quality of the bees will vary. Not all bees are equal, and typically the bees that are removed from unwanted places are of poor genetic makeup and will not perform as well as commercially bred bees. These colonies will either never do well, or will require a beekeeper to buy or raise a new queen for the colony.
While some established bee colonies may have accumulated years of honey and can contain many kilograms of honey, this honey is not always of value to a beekeeper.
Opinions will vary, but we are hesitant to sell honey that was taken from a wild hive. While honey removed from a hive in a tree should be fine, honey taken from a roof space or from Robbo’s shed may not be all that great.
Honeycomb taken from manmade structures may have been subject to exposure to unsafe material such as lead paint, asbestos or any other number of toxic material and dust. If unsure, then we’re of the opinion that a beekeeper should not be selling that honey.
That said, the honey taken from hive removals will often be okay. We often use it to make mead and give it away to family and friends. Even better, we like to offer the customer a fair amount of the honeycomb. After all, they’ve been dealt a raw deal by having the bees invade their property, so it’s only fair that they get something back for it!
As for the honey recovered from a removal covering the entire cost of the job? This is rare, and should not amount to a ‘payment’ for the job.
A bonus? Yep, sure, but with most wild hives not having a great deal of honey anyway, it doesn’t come close to covering our time or other overheads.
How much does it cost to have established beehives removed?
We are hesitant to list a price here as the costs can vary so much. This will vary between regions and between individual beekeepers. We can only advise what we’ve charged in the past and what other beekeepers we’ve spoken to have advised that they have charged.
For a simple removal of an established hive in a very easy to get to position, in a location close to us, we’ve charged as little as $50. For hives in difficult positions that require multiple visits and a fair amount of equipment we’ve seen beekeepers charge up to and even over $300.
There are plenty of jobs that we’ve looked at and had to walk away from. The time, effort and destruction to property the job would have incurred has simply not been worth ours or the customers while. Sad as it is, not all bees can be removed.
Who should we get to remove a beehive?
Like in any industry, there are winners that are a credit to their craft, and there are those who let the others down.
There are beekeepers who will say they’ll be there at such and such time, then never show. Whatsmore, they may attend and do a terrible job, leaving you with more of a mess to clean up.
What happens at times is a beekeeper will come along, rob as many bees and as much honey as they can from the hive, then bugger off. This leaves the customer with a bunch of sticky wax and dead bees to clean up. Whatsmore, the bee problem won’t have gone away.
There will still be hoards of bees left behind, as well as wild bees coming in to steal the honey left behind. If a beekeeper says they can remove an established colony in a short amount of time, with only one visit, then they don’t know what they are doing. Foraging bees will return to the hive location. The problem will remain. Further, if there is still wax left behind and the entrance isn’t blocked off, then it is more than likely that another colony will move into the same spot.
Sometimes the free option is not free.
Only choose beekeepers who come recommended and are experienced. We hear too many bad stories about people getting screwed over by dodgy bee removalists, and it is frustrating.
To aid you in finding someone reliable to remove an established beehive, we have compiled a checklist of questions that you should ask the beekeeper.
Bee removalist checklist
How long have they been removing hives for, and how many hives have they removed before? While you should not discount the capacity of a new beekeeper to do the job, after all, we all had to start somewhere, it should be something that is discussed. Many novice beekeepers will attempt removal jobs for free and while this can result in a cheap solution for the customer, it can also end very badly.
– Similar jobs?
Not all bee removals are the same, but many are similar. Ask the beekeeper if they’ve done similar removals before. If they’ve never removed a colony from a chimney before, do you really want them up on your roof removing bricks?
Is the beekeeper insured? What happens if they accidentally break something of yours? No removal comes without some risk of damage, so it best to discuss what happens if the beekeeper breaks something during the removal. As a customer it is generally only fair that you accept some of the risk to your property, after all, sometimes a bit of damage will happen regardless of how skilled and attentive the removalist is. That said though, a pre-removal discussion can remove some of the resulting awkwardness if something goes wrong. Even better, just stick to insured beekeepers.
– End result?
Ask the beekeeper to clarify what state they will leave your property in. Will they just be taking some bees and leaving most of the mess, or will they clean up the hive-site and sweep away anything bee-related?
It is unfair to expect a beekeeper to do things like neatly re-sew the outdoor couch that they had to cut open to remove bees, or to dry clean the clothes in a draw that was occupied by bees. It is however only reasonable that a beekeeper removes all accessible honeycomb, sweeps up as many dead bees as possible, and does their best to make sure there is no honey left behind which other bees will be attracted to.
For a paid job, in our opinion it is unacceptable for a beekeeper to leave bees or comb behind.
The beekeeper should get rid of the vast majority of the mess, especially that which other bees will be attracted to. Sure, you may be happy with tidying up afterwards, but you should not have to do so among a cloud of bees.
Ask the beekeeper what they will do to prevent more bees moving into the same spot. Sometimes it may be very difficult for a beekeeper to do this, but they should at least put some thought and effort into ensuring bees don’t move back in.
Unfortunately, this is something that some beekeepers either don’t think of, accidentally overlook or simply don’t have any intention of helping you with.
A good bee removalist will be able to provide you some references from previous jobs they have completed. This is a good way to confirm that they are up to the job.
What kind of timeframe can the beekeeper do the job in? If bees have only just moved in, then the longer it takes for a beekeeper to start removing them, the harder and more costly it will become. A lot of beekeepers will offer to do the job, only to keep you waiting or not show up at all. Do take into consideration that most are probably hobbyists and have other commitments, but still, you should be able to get an accurate timeline from them as to when they can do the job.
Likewise, ask the beekeeper how long the job is expected to take. A good beekeeper will know how long it takes to remove bees from all sorts of different locations. They will be able to advise you of a timeline for the removal, and how many visits may be required.
If a beekeeper says they can come and remove a beehive in a few hours in the middle of the day without returning, then they aren’t going to be of much assistance to you. To be done properly, a beekeeper has to ensure that all foraging bees are recovered, and this generally involves a repeat visit.
What if I offend them?
If they are offended by you asking these questions, they probably aren’t the beekeeper for you.
There’s a lot to be said about going with your ‘gut feel’. After all, you are entrusting the safety of your family and property to their ‘expertise’.
At the end of the day, the more you can discuss with the beekeeper about what is to happen prior to the job commencing, the more likely it is that you’ll end up having a favourable interaction with the beekeeper.
Remember, the more you can tell the beekeeper about the hive that needs removing, the better. Be honest with them about how long the bees have been in location. They’ll be able to tell if they’ve been there more than ‘just a week or two’, so don’t lie to them about it to try to get a cheaper quote, as it helps no one.
Pictures and videos can help a lot too. It is better that a beekeeper advise you over the phone or via email whether they can do the job, rather than after they’ve driven out to your property only to realise they can’t do the removal or that it will cost a lot more than previously advised.
Q: What is humane honey bee relocation?
A: Humane honey bee relocation is a process of safely and carefully removing honey bees from a location and relocating them to a new environment where they can thrive.
Q: Why do beekeepers charge for honey bee removal and relocation?
A: Beekeepers charge for honey bee removal and relocation because it involves specialized skills, equipment, and time. Additionally, they may need to invest in transportation, hive setup, and the necessary tools to ensure the successful relocation of the bees.
Q: What are the common terms associated with bee removal?
A: Some common terms associated with bee removal include bee control, swarm, nest, and honey bee removal. These terms are often used when discussing the process of removing and relocating bees.
Q: How does honey bee removal help with bee population conservation?
A: Honey bee removal helps in conserving bee population by relocating the bees instead of exterminating them. This ensures that the bees can continue their vital role in pollination, which is crucial for maintaining a healthy ecosystem.
Q: Can honey bees be relocated without professional assistance?
A: It is not advisable to relocate honey bees without professional assistance. Bee removal specialists have the necessary experience, equipment, and knowledge to safely handle and relocate bees without causing harm to the bees or the humans involved in the process.
Q: Are there any risks associated with bee removal?
A: Bee removal does come with certain risks, especially if attempted by individuals without proper training and equipment. Bees can become aggressive and sting when they feel threatened. Professional beekeepers take all necessary precautions to minimize risks and ensure a safe removal and relocation process.
Q: How can I contact bee removal services?
A: You can easily contact bee removal services by searching online or looking in your local directory. Many professional beekeepers and pest control companies offer live bee removal and relocation services. It is advised to contact them as soon as possible if you have a bee infestation or need honey bees removed from your property.
Q: Why are honey bees so important?
A: Honey bees are very important for both the environment and the economy. They are key pollinators, helping in the reproduction of various plants and crops. In fact, one-third of all food consumed by humans is the result of honey bee pollination. Bees also produce honey, beeswax, and other valuable resources.
Q: How do bees locate and build their hives?
A: Bees have built-in navigation systems that allow them to locate suitable places to build their hives. They use the position of the sun, landmarks, and even odors to find their way. Once a suitable location is found, worker bees work together to construct the hive using beeswax.
Q: How long does it take to remove and relocate honey bees?
A: The time it takes to remove and relocate honey bees can vary depending on the size and complexity of the nest. It can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Professional beekeepers assess each situation individually and provide an estimated timeline for the removal and relocation process.
We hope this post has given you a bit of an insight into what is involved in humane bee removals, and why beekeepers charge for the removal of established beehives. Likewise, if you ever find yourself in need of bee removal, hopefully, the above information helps you find a beekeeper that will do the job properly.
With cooperation and understanding between beekeepers and those who need bees removed, there is no reason why anyone should be disappointed about paying for bees to be removed. While not all bees can be saved, if beekeepers and the community work together we can ensure that more and more bees are appropriately rehomed and go on to prosper!