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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.