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Old 01-19-2012
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Honey dipped halyards

I'm hoping someone here is both a beekeeper and a sailor. I have a very active colony of bees living at the masthead of my 48' catamaran. Since I can't see a hive on the outside of the mast, I'm assuming they'e taken up residence in the interior. The airfoil shaped rotating mast is about 60' tall and has ample hollow interior space. The only openings in the mast are where halyards enter and exit (main, 2 jib, spinnaker, topping lift) and where various electrical cables exit the mast as a bundle at its base above and in front of the substantial rotation bearing. My questions: Is there a simple way to evict these unwanted tenants without leaving behind 1000s of bee corpses? Once gone, what kind of mess am I facing and how to clean it up without a substantial opening to work through? Many thanks for your suggestions.
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Old 01-19-2012
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If it was me, I'd google beekeeper association and give a local beekeeper a call. I think they have a way of encouraging the bees to take up residence in a new hive.

To replay a recently posted riddle on Sailnet:
Do you know what kind of bees make milk?
No? Give up?


BOO-BEES
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Old 01-19-2012
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Dave
I know you probably have already dreaded the thought of , but I think you will need to do some form of mast hauling. If nothing else to have it lifted so that you can clean the mess that eventually falls down to the bottom. You might be able to shoot up thru one of your openings with one of the wasp sprays or a bug bomb to kill them but then you still have the cleanup of the fallen corpses. Not a fun project. SORRY
Peter
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Old 01-19-2012
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two things come to mind...and I am a beekeeper...

1st make sure they are honey bees...
2nd you must move the queen to get the rest to move.

Anything less will lead to aggravation on both parties.

If they are not honeybees, pesticide is your best shot. But you will be left with corpses.
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I keep bees also, another thing you need to watch out for is to make sure the comb is also removed once the bees are gone they will no longer be regulating the temp of the "hive" and all the wax will melt and start to run. Combine this with the honey in the combs and you get a very big mess that attracts a lot of bugs.
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Old 01-19-2012
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I was a commercial beekeeper and I don't know of a "simple" solution to your problem. I'm assuming that the boat doesn't leave the dock much? Bees (if they are honey bees) have very precise geographic zeroing ability and even moving the hive a few feet messes them up tremendously. There is a saying about moving a hive "less than a foot or more than a mile". Meaning that if you move the entrance less than a foot they will figure it out and if you move it a mile or so they will immediately re-orient themselves when they exit the hive. The only two suggestions I can make are: 1. Climb the mast at night (when everyone is home) and spray them. There will be a LOT of dead bees at the base of the mast to vacuum up, and possibly a fair amount of honey (12 lbs/gallon) wherever the colony set up housekeeping in the mast (it may not be right at the top, could be quite a ways down). After the bees are dead, if there is honey in the cells other insects (yellow jackets) will probably go in and take it so that might not be a problem (other than the yellow jackets). 2. Move the boat during a hot sunny day, half of the bees will be out foraging. Do this a couple more times and the hive will "probably" die out eventually. The down side to this is that you won't be well liked at the places you "leave" several thousand bees which will quickly adopt another mast as home and won't be in good humor at losing their home and queen (in other words kiss your friends at the marina goodbye).
Wish there was a good third option, but I can't think of it.
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Old 01-19-2012
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If you live in an area where africanised bees are a possibility, you would be better off leaving this to a professional.
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Old 01-20-2012
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Many thanks for all who have offered advice, well educated advice at that. There is a local pest control company that will get them out but it is pretty clear that I will have to pull the mast and figure out the best approach to cleaning the interior. The moral of the story is that I need to use the boat more frequently. She is tucked up a river in Ft. Lauderdale where I put her in June to ride out hurricane season since I wasn't able to bring her north this year. I used to think birds perching in the rigging were a big problem. I would trade the bees any day for birds. Thanks for you help one and all.
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Old 01-20-2012
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This thread is cool. Just demonstrates the awsome collection of experience among our members.
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Old 01-20-2012
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Couldn't you smoke them out? There are machines that make smoke safely.

The main question is, how much honey and mess are inside the mast, after the bees are gone. If they aren't honey bees then there won't be much to clean up.
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