Thursday, September 25, 2008

DIY METHOD OF HIVE REMOVAL (Without killing any bee)

The plan:

Over lunch a few days ago, I had a short discussion with my old pal, Peter Liang, about the various non-toxic ways of generating smoke to drive away the bees from my bathroom.

Peter suggested : "All those ways that you've listed on your blog to generate smoke are the foreigner's ways. Why don't you try something local? Try joss sticks instead.”

I laughed at his suggestion when I thought of those skinny, foot-long ones used by the Chinese at temples. It would take too many sticks and would require me to replace them throughout the day. Anyway, who knows if bees would react to incense smoke?

But when Peter pointed out that there are giant joss sticks used for traditional Chinese prayers, I figured he may be on to something.

Unlike mosquito coils, joss sticks do not contain poisonous chemicals that kills or dazes the bees. The giant joss sticks would also last longer than mosquito coils so I wont have the problem of going into the room to replace the source of smoke.

So I went to an incense shop at Block 24 Sin Ming Road and was pleasantly surprised that they sell joss sticks that are as long as baseball bats.

Each incense stick is about 1.2m long and has a diameter of 2cm. It is designed to smoulder for 12 hours continuously. Each pack of 10 sticks costs $8.50.

Those of you who live overseas should be able to get such incense sticks at your nearest Chinatown or just ask around at your nearest Chinese temple for help.

I figured that there ought to be enough smoke by burning 2 sticks each session. The pack of joss sticks will hence last 60 hours.

So let's see if those bees can bear being smoked continuously for 2 1/2 days.

Here is a picture of the hive at 10am this morning.

(Click on the picture to see a close-up view)

The procedure:

These are the steps that I took today:

1. Early this morning, I informed my immediate neighbours to close their windows and to refrain from going outdoors. I did not want to pass my bee problem to them.

2. At 10am, I took a brick from my garden and put it right below the beehive. The brick, which had several holes for the ends of the incense sticks to be poked in, is heavy enough to be a stable base.

3. In order for the smoke to have maximum effect, I closed all of the windows in my toilet except one so that the bees could escape through it.

4. After lighting the incense sticks, I quickly placed them into the holes in the brick and left the room.

The sticks were lighted before I went into the bathroom.

It really takes quite a few minutes to get the the tips of large incense sticks to start burning, so it wont be a good idea to be doing that in the same room as the bees.

Once the bees detect smoke, they'll begin to fly around in confusion. Do you really want them buzzing madly around you, as you are frantically trying get the other sticks lighted?

5. Then, I closed the door behind me to let the smoke to build up inside the bathroom.

The result:

When I returned home at 4.30pm, I was dismayed to find that one of the 3 sticks of incense had stopped smouldering. The remaining 2 incense sticks continued to produce fragrant sandalwood smoke.

So 6 ½ hours after the incense sticks were lit, half of the colony still remained at the hive. The bees had eaten up so much of the honey that the white honeycomb structure on the top right side of the hive was exposed. Refer to the picture (below) taken at 4.30pm.

(Click on the picture to see a close-up view)

So it is true that smoke does cause the bees to instinctively gorge themselves with honey once they get smoked. It is their natural response to the perceived threat that their hive is about to get burned. The bees would eat as much as they can before flying away to establish a hive elsewhere.

When I checked again at 6.30pm, all of the bees had left!

The entire colony of bees had completely vacated their honeycomb structure in less than 8 1/2 hours and they managed to migrate to their new hive before sunset of the same day.

Heck, the bees had left even before I could complete burning my 12 hours long joss sticks.

I had expected the process of chasing the bees away to take a few days and so I was jubilant that it was all over in less than half a day.

The remainder of the abandoned honeycomb structure is shown in the picture below. As you can see from the photo, my bathroom was completely devoid of bees by 6.30pm. WooHoo!

The bees left very little honey to waste. The tiny bits of honey, that remained at the bottom of the deep cells, showed up as the brown bits in the photo below. Note that the purse-shaped honeycomb structure is exceedingly light for its size.

Front view of the complete honeycomb structure

Top view of the honeycomb that connects with the ceiling board

Follow up:

- After chipping out the whole honeycomb structure from my ceiling board, I sprayed the rough patch on the ceiling board with lots of insecticide to prevent the bees from returning tomorrow.

- Will paint over that area tomorrow so that the bees will not be able to latch on to that rough surface to form a new nest at the same spot again.


I'm really happy with this solution because:

+ Not even a single bee was harmed or killed.

+ All of the bees left peacefully within the same day.

+ No one was injured.

+ The risk of a fire breaking out is very low with the use of large joss sticks.

+ I did not have to risk bodily harm by entering the room repeatedly to add burning materials in order to keep the smoke going continuously.

+ I spent S$ 8.50 to resolve a problem that would otherwise have cost me hundreds of dollars to engage the services of pest exterminators.

+ This is truly a win-win outcome for the bees and I.

+ This is a very simple method - Just light up the incense before you go to work and when you come home, the bees would be gone.

+ If I were to do it again, I'd start smoking the bees earlier at around 8.30am so that they have more time to complete their evacuation, ie. before the sun sets.

But, if you start the smoking process too late into the morning or afternoon, the bees may not be able to complete their migration by sundown. That might result in the colony being split or the bees might have to suffer a night in the smoky environment.


Hmmmm, now that the bees are gone, what shall I do with the remaining 7 giant sticks of unused incense sticks?

Do share, with as many people as possible, this method of chasing away newly formed beehives.

Currently, the de-facto method of beehive removal in Singapore is by chemical extermination. And the pest exterminators will tell you, as a matter of fact, that there is no other choice but to spray deadly chemicals onto those bees while they are back at their hive.

That is not true now that we know of a more humane way to deal with the bees.

Help to save thousands of honey bees from unnecessary death.

Bees do have an important role in our ecosystem.

Disclaimer : There is always an inherent danger when dealing with wild insects like bees. Readers who choose to use the above method shall do so at their own risk. The author will not be liable for any damages or injury resulting from the use or abuse of the above methodology.


YC said...

Innovative. Good not to kill the bees.

Forest said...

Thank you for your interesting story and workable method. Glad the bees survive.

Anonymous said...

Good job, James.

It is a thoughtful and responsible deed.


Pig said...

Nice read. Glad to see your thoughtful decision. Did you keep the beehive structure for memory? haha, what is it make of?

Rat said...

any idea how the bees invaded your bathroom? keke~

earl-ku said...

u can actually also use kemenyan blocks... the ones which u can find cheaply also in those jossstick shops ...

and u can also get those real kemenyan those kemenyan resin blocks add those to the ones u bought ... this will create a huge amount of smoke but doesnt last as long as the long jossstick but will create defintiely more smoke ...

Anonymous said...

nice blog! you are a very humane and considerate guy, and have a very good writing style! well done!!

incense vs bees = win/win!!


John said...


I stumbled across this blog while searching Google for news of beehives and hornet nests in Singapore. First I'd just like to say that you are really kind and it is heartening to know that there are still people in this urban age who would rather resort to a method of bee removal which does not involve killing them. This method indeed works well for small beehives, but will not usually not work as well for hornets which will get agitated in the process.

I am a trained pest control technician but have been dedicating these few years to researching bees and wasps in Hong Kong, where I'm based. Still, if you ever encounter any other problems with bees, wasps or hornets in your premise, you can contact me and I'll be glad to help with any questions you might have. Also, I return to Singapore quite regularly and if I happen to be around I can remove and relocate nests of bees and hornets in domestic environments without killing them or using insecticides. Feel free to visit my website for more info on these fascinating and often misunderstood creatures.

Best regards,

kim said...

did this to get bees out of my room. instead of those joss sticks i just used a bunch of cone incense on a dish....but i only had a small nest with like 6 bees on it.

anyway thanks a lot for the post! i didn't want to use pesticides in my room so the smoke did the trick.

Anonymous said...

Hi... That was a nice read. I came across ur blog while trying to find a solution to my own bee/wasp/hornet (i am not sure what it is)problem.I have a huge nest- like a horse head, hanging from the ceiling of my balcony. It's out in the open, don't know what to do. Don't wanna kill 'em :((

hotline said...

Can't find the big "joss" sticks. Can you recommend some place online I can purchase them? I'm trying your method with 4 jesus candles, but I don't think they're giving off enough smoke. Thank you in advance.

Patricia said...

Hi James, i loved your blog because its been two days that i am trying to find something useful on how and who to remove my beehive on my balcony here in the UAE and i was not able to find anything other than pest control companies using killing chemicals!
my problem is that the hive is outside in the balcony and its much bigger than yours and i have to open the french door to be able to access it. so if i put incense it might not have the same effect? what do u think?

James Heng said...

Hi Patricia,

Hope you try this incense method. It really doesnt cost very much.

Light a few more incense and let it smoke the bees.

Do let us know if the method works for balconies. I'm sure other readers will find your input useful.

Cheers :)

Aaron said...

Thank you for this article.

We had literally thousands of bee's in our attic, we could hear them buzzing around and some would escape into the house via small holes. In the afternoons there would be this massive swarm outside the house, we couldn't go into the backyard at all. Neighbors were also complaining about "our" swarms.

We called called a local Bee "Friendly" exterminator that specialized in "safe" Bee removal. All they did was come out and sprayed this chem junk all over, which killed hundreds but a day later they were back and week later it seemed there were more.

The exterminator came back out and did the same thing, with the same result and we lived with this swarm for several weeks and seemingly spent $300 for nothing.

We were then told they would need to rip apart the attic for another $600-900.

Eventually I found your article. We went to China town, and bought several huge incense sticks. I kept them lit in the attic for two days.

It worked... they were absolutely gone after two days, and they took all their honey out of the combs with them.

We complained to the Bee removal place and got out money back. $10 in incense and we didn't have to rip out anything.

Wish I would have found out about this method sooner, and saved ourselves weeks of grief (and would have saved several hundred bees).

James Heng said...

Hi Aaron,

Thanks for sharing your experience.

I'm sure readers will benefit from your input.

Yeah, it's puzzling how bee "friendly" and "safe" = chemical extermination to some bee exterminators. It pays to clarify with those terms means to them and also what methods they will use.

In fact, I'm quite impressed that you managed to get a refund from that bee exterminating company. It may have been quite a hassle, but at least you've scored a win for consumer rights!

I'm glad that this simple technique works for you.

FYI, the beehive in my bathroom was removed about 2 years ago and since then, they've never returned.


Anonymous said...

Hey, I wish I had such success. I found this blog a while back. My problem was a hive in a metal barrel door. I tried the smoking them out, but because it was outside the smoke strayed. I had to have the bees killed three times. They were blocked from getting in and found another way. And I emailed bee people all over the country there was no way inside this large metal tube the were in. If I didn't have tenants I would have left them, but they were a liability for me. I cried when they were killed. Wish I tried harder to smoke them out - maybe should have done it for several days. Glad this blog is here for those who can do the smoking trick. And yeah, cost me a pretty penny, too.

James Heng said...

Hi Anonymous (August 20, 2010 8:50 PM),

Yeah, I recognise that this method is tricky to use for outdoor situations where there are more variables like wind and space.

Here's a suggestion, if it is not too windy at your location.

Perhaps you could make some sort of cone/funnel to channel the rising smoke from your giant incense sticks directly to your desired spot?

Tony Lamb said...

Really nice post. You did not kill any bees that's really good.