Capturing Cut-Outs

What is a cut-out?

A cut-out of bees is a swam that has found a suitable place to live and has begun their colony there. They could be living in a wall in your home, in a hollow tree in the yard, in the soffit of your roof, and even in your attic. Anywhere there is a small hole leading to a cavity that is suitable can be called home for the swarm.

Prepare to go

If you get a cut-out call what is your next step? What do you need to bring? How will you get it? Remember each cut-out and beekeeper is different and each situation will require different tools and techniques but this will teach a general outline of how to get a cut-out.

Your first step is to access the situation. Look where the bees are located and what it will take to get them. Talk to the homeowner and see how they want you to get them. You may need to do some carpentry work to take apart and repair the area the bees are located. Next, you need to figure what tools you will need. You will need your standard bee keeping equipment like your suit, a smoker, smoker fuel, hive tool, 1:1 sugar water, a fillet knife (this allows you to cut the comb out, the bend of the fillet knife will allow you to cut at the angles you need to), as well as any specialty carpentry tools you will need to access the bees and repair the thing you take them out of. You will also need to bring a box suitable for the size of the cutout you are doing, as well as foundationless frames and rubber bands to collect comb that you cut out.  

Getting the cut-out

When you arrive at the location where the bees are with your needed equipment, give the bees a little smoke, like you would a normal hive. Make sure you have a good plan of where and how you will access the hive, especially if the home owner wants you to put the wall/area back together. Begin to cut and remove the exterior carefully to get good exposure of the bees. When you have the bees and comb exposed mist the bees with your sugar, to keep the bees happy and reduce their flying. Look for the queen and in an ideal world, you will find her and be able to get her in a queen clip, but that’s in an, ideal world.

Prepare your box and take out about 3/5 of the frames. Spray the box with sugar water. Begin to cut and remove the comb that doesn’t have a lot of bees on it. If the comb can fit nicely in a frame cut it to fit and rubber band it and place it in the box. If the comb won’t fit well, toss it into a bucket to save for later. Comb that doesn’t fit well will make for a messy situation in your hive later. You can put this unused comb to good use later, to melt down, or use it to help make a good swarm lure. As you begin to put the comb in the box, you may need to begin scooping the bees and dumping them in your box as you get better exposure to them. If at any point you see the queen try to put her in a queen clip and put her in your box. Continue to cut the comb out and put it in frames or save it for later use and scoop the bees into your box. Watch carefully the behavior of the bees if you are not sure if you have the queen. Where are they fanning? Are they going in your box? Are they clustering in places? Get all the comb out of the area and scoop as many bees as you can into the box.

Once you have done so and you feel confident you have the queen, you can finish filling the box with frames if it’s not already full. Put the top cover on once you have gotten all the comb out of the wall, scooped all the bees you can get, and your confident you have the queen. As you can imagine there will be lots of bees flying around and probably some going to the wall where the bees were because the queen’s pheromone has been there. Leave your boxes entrance completely open and if possible, wait till it gets dark to move the bees because most of the bees in the air will have flown in the box by then and have found their queen. If needed, once all the bees are in the box, repair the area the bees were in. Seal your box and bring them to your bee yard.

Post Catch

After the bees are settled in, get in them to check and make sure you have the queen if you already had not seen her. Also, check the comb you cut and placed in frames that the bees aren’t building in an unwanted way. You may have to cut some and reinforce some with rubber bands. Ultimately, you want to eventually not use the cut-out comb as it can lead to structural issues in the hive in the future.  Slowly replace it with organized foundation as to keep an organized, happy, healthy, hive.

Author: Elijah Prach