Skip to content

Chimney Bees

Take action quickly, You can DIY if its fresh

If the bees just landed this week

This information is presented as a rough process that has worked for other people in the past in removing bees from their chimneys.

It is provided as an experimental guide and in good faith. However, if you choose to continue you do so at your own risk.

It is expected that you make risk assessments of everything you do and make judgements if these steps are applicable to your situation and home, or not.

If you do not understand a lot about chimneys, or the history of your home, get someone in to help you immediately. 

Every precaution should be taken, and every step should be considered before doing it.
If something doesnt feel right, stop.



If the bees are in your chimney for less than 2 days:

– and the fire operates as it should,
– and uses solid fuel,
– and the stove\fire is not full of bees (dozens to hundreds),

Immediately prepare to light it. 
Open the windows.

Your goal is to create smoke, not heat. 

The bees can withstand a much higher tolerance to CO2 than humans,
as such it might take a few days for this to work. 

If this will work, smoking them out,
it usually takes between 2 and 5 days.
Sometimes a little longer.

Do not use coal or burn plastics to create the smoke.
If avoidable, do not use petroleum based firelighters. 

The windows should be open.

Smoke could blow back into the room initially,
if that persists for more than a few seconds,
its probably not safe to continue and the chimney is blocked somehow.

Use small pieces of briquettes, or kindling, or small pieces of turf.

The goal is a smoldering ember base,
that you will then add grass clippings or weeds on top of.

This will create a thick smoke.
We don’t want heat.

Do this now, get the fire started immediately if the bees have only just landed.

If you are not sure how long they are there, keep reading. 

Once its smoking, return and read the rest of this article.


Why does TIME matter in this working? 

When the swarm lands, the Queen was in flight mode. 

Before she left her previous colony, the workers stopped feeding her,
which stopped her laying, so she could fly. 

She cant fly when she’s actively laying eggs.

They wont leave if she cant fly.

So they starve her, and she can fly, or in this case, swarm. 

Once the swarm lands, they rapidly want to establish the colony.

That means getting brood started ASAP, otherwise, its curtains for the colony. 


So they’ve landed in your chimney, and they begin to feed the Queen like crazy.

This takes about two days to get her to lay weight. 

She produces up to 1000 eggs a day, so she needs a lot of food.

Which means you have to get that smoke going ASAP.  

Take time off work if you have to, it will be cheaper than not.
This is the best opportunity for this not to go horrible later when the smoke failed.

Bees wont fly at night, they cant,
so its more important to have the fire going in the day.

It is advantageous to have it going non stop where possible,
give no reprieve from the smoke if you can.


These cases nearly never go well later when extracted, and not at all cheaply. 

The quicker you get at it, the better the results. 

If you begin to smoke, and eventually, you see a big clump of bees
on the side of the chimney pot, DO NOT STOP THE FIRE!!!

This is a great sign you may succeed.

Keep at it.


You are telling them this is not a home by using the smoke
and they are starting to come to understand.

I have heard feedback from people in the same situation as you
that they had to smoke for 5 days or more. 

But it doesn’t always work. I’ll explain those reasons later. 

The goal of the smoke, is the evacuate the bees out of the chimney. 

Most ideally, the swarm makes its way down to a branch on a tree,
where it is easily recoverable. 

What sucks, is if they remain on the side of the pot for ages after coming out. 
 
Unless you want to drop 400 quid on a cherry lift,
no one wants to scale that on a ladder to collect them. 
Other than crazy people and we don’t endorse that behaviour here.

To potentially increase the chances of the bees moving from the chimney to a say a tree in the garden,
pick a tree branch that is out of human traffic, and if you have it,
rub a drop or two of lemongrass essential oil on the branch,
no more than 4 or 5 foot high, ideally with nothing under it. 

You can get that in a pharmacy or health food shop. 

If you had something made from pure beeswax, like a candle,
you could try rubbing a little at the same spot.

The oil would be better, but something is better than nothing.

You don’t need to use both, one or the other. 

(Do not use honey, and absolutely do not use honey that was 2 quid in the shop. 
That stuff is poison, stop buying it.
There used to be lead in that shit, for years.)

What we’d love to happen here, is the bees detach from chimney to the tree. 
If this actually happens, run! (But film it from a distance and inside!)

You just corralled bees, look at you cowboy!

So maybe consider an escape route before picking the tree and putting the lure on it. 

The movement of the bees might take only 5 minutes,
but for those 5 minutes, the environment will be hectic. 
Remove persons and pets, grandparents etc.
Inform neighbours of what is going on if you can
and to keep an eye out if they see them in their own gardens. 

Inform them to check their chimneys, the bees will want to go somewhere. 

Especially anyone with allergies or is allergic to stings,
they shouldn’t be outside here at all and fully informed.

Swarms tend not to sting when they first leave the original hive,
but their bellies were full of honey for the move. 

They have around 3 days worth of food with them when they leave. 
But that was a few days ago, if you have been smoking them since they landed,
they may be out of food currently,
so they may be more prone to stinging, than a fresher swarm would be.

So avoid them is what I am saying.

Even better than the tree to lure them into something attractive,
something like a dark bin or a wicker basket,
a few drops of lemon grass oil dropped inside the floor of the bin,
swirl around, then turn upside down.

Place a rock to open the bottom, up on one side, a place for them to get in. 
Place the whole thing in the corner of your garden area.

They prefer to be in dark spaces, so give them that.

The ideal size of bin (or bigger) is approx 30 litres.
A decent size laundry basket for comparison. 

If you have a half full compost bin, not damp though, they dont like that,
so half full, and dry, few drops of lemon oil inside,
and prop the top open with a twig,
you’ve just built yourself the Bee Hilton.
They love compost bins, so lets encourage them.

You are giving them a better option than your chimney for a place to live effectively.
You absolutely want this to happen in tandum with the smoking. 

Push and pull at the same time.

If you get them off the chimney, into the bin, or the tree,
You are an absolute legend!

Hands down fair play.

They are now extremely easy for a beekeeper to collect them safely,
and avoid the risk the bees go back to the chimney. 

If you get the bees off the chimney, email us immediately
and we will get someone down to relocate them ASAP. 

DO NOT PUT OUT THE FIRE

Once the beekeeper has left with the bees, you can stop with the fire. 

If the bees however went into the unknown spaces of your neighbourhood,
keep the fire going for two more days at least,
and keep your eyes peeled for a few days after around your property. 

Inform your neighbours to be on the look out immediately,
to check their chimneys and roofs for activity, 
and to actively look for the swarm from a distance. 

Swarms are usually obvious, nobody should be sticking their heads into bushes of anything like this. 


Reasons why the smoke fails


The main reason this wont work is the chimney is blocked up and cannot be lit.

No smoke = no options to DIY this unfortunately. 

Even if you have a working chimney,
there are other reasons that may make the smoking ineffective. 

If the chimney is very old, it is likely there is damage on the inside of the structure,
and there is a cavity within the flue.

There only has to be a small access point, the diameter of a permanent marker, 
and if there is a cavity in there, they will find it.

If the bees have found this space, they will be immune to your smoking efforts.

It is still worth trying to smoke them out for a number of days anyway. 

Similarly, if the flue has been relined, or a flue insert was installed,
it is likely the bees have found a way into the bigger space of the original flue.

Equally, the smoke is not likely to work but worth trying anyway for a few days. 


Chimneys

If the bees are there over a week

If the bees are in your chimney for over a week:

It is potentially dangerous to light the fire. 

If it is there for weeks to months or more, you could potentially burn down your house. 

The bees, if they are in the flue, can collect and produce
an astonishing amount of material in a short amount of time. 

Each year they inhabit the flue, they can be adding more and more honeycomb,
usually going vertically below.

I have taken about 40kgs of honey and wax out of a chimney before. 

If you light the fire, you might just light a 40kg candle. 

If you try to smoke them out after they have been there a long time, weeks or longer, you risk deforming the honeycomb, and potentially causing it to drop entirely. 

This could be no crack. 

Firstly, you just dropped a shit tonne of bees, thousands at least, on to a fire,
and messed up their home, and now they are inside yours. 

Whatever ones aren’t dead, are gonna be miffed with anyone in that room. 
People could legitimately die doing this.

Second, you might have started a chimney fire. 

So dealing with loads of pissed off bees AND a chimney fire. 

NOT RECOMMENED AT ALL. 

For the chimney to be used again, it needs to have this material removed,
all of it, that is in the flue,
and properly cleaned by a professional chimney cleaner. 

Chimney fires are no joke.

But before we even get that far, we need to get the bees out. 

Unfortunately chimneys have the lowest rate of success to economic cost value. 
They are the hardest to determine how difficult they are. 

In nearly all cases, we cant tell if they are easily recoverable until we are eyes on and up there. 

If you have access to a drone, maybe you could get footage to help us determine how we can solve the case.
Bees can sometimes get fairly aggressive towards drones, so dont land it right beside you if you use one. 

It is a lot more expensive to save the bees in chimneys than any other case type. 

Unfortunately, chimneys are a really common case type. 

The cheapest you can expect to get bees out of a chimney, is going to set you back around 800e. 

Half of that cost is to hire an appropriate cherry lift.
Some might charge you a hefty excess, 3k in some cases I have seen to hire the machine.
But we have to get up there to do anything. 

The next problem is there are so few beekeepers that will take on a chimney, single digits nation wide. 

Chimney removals are difficult, dangerous, and awkward.
They are also manky, soot everywhere, everything filthy.

Imagine that, and being on a cherry lift at the top of your home,
at the full extension of the machine and every move feels like you are going to fall,

And you have to take bees out of a chimney that’s only 8 inches wide, 
And you cant see into the chimney because its so bright
And there’s bees you are trying to evict. 
They are not happy.

And they could be 2 meters down or more. 
And the Sun could be blaring in your eyes, it usually is. 
And you are blinded by the volume of sweat from wearing the suit. 

So basically like the worst work place environment you can imagine. 
You can probably appreciate now, that anyone doing this work, is not doing it for free.

800e is the cheapest this can be done, and usually only in one or two circumstances. 

Mostly, that the chimney was capped with something like a chimney cap or a chimney film. 
It may have been mortared over at some point, but the bees found a way in. 

If there’s a solid top, or near solid top, there’s a good chance the bees are right up at the top. 

Some chimney tops are like ceramic and have relatively big vent holes, perfect for entrance spots. 

Bird cowls do nothing to stop bees, if there is one, and bees, the bees are likely down a meter or two, it seems like they go down that far to avoid the rain or something. These cases are pretty difficult, and might require breaking brick out of the breast, and a large scaffold to access it. I cant quote an overall price on that, but its not small at all. 

After that, if its in deep they tend to get extremely challenging to get out alive. 

Success is not good unless serious money is spent.

On rare occasions, a birds nest may have lived in the flue prior to the bees, and it wasn’t cleared away, it is possible that the bees used the structure of the birds nest, as reinforcement of their own colony. 

I have seen this only once before, but the combination of the two, made the sum stronger than it parts. 
Something like this is very easy to get lodged in the chimney should it fall. 

Best of luck with it.

Steve
Swarms.ie

If this information has been useful to you, please consider buying us a coffee at our shop link below:

Buy us a Coffee 🙂




Chimneys