urgent, help needed with feral hive

Discussion in 'Beekeeping' started by gobug, Jan 11, 2005.

  1. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I was hoping to get calls to exterminate bee swarms, but was figuring May is the normal swarming time here. I always contact several area beekeepers before I exterminate a swarm. This year I wanted to adopt one. Well, today, I got a call from a crew that cut into a tree and found a mature hive, apparently healthy. I have 3 days to take the hive.

    The temperature today is mild for January, but we are to get a storm tonight.

    I'm guessing the exposed hive may be in danger if the temperature goes too low. Then again, I am guessing it may be easier to take the hive when its very cold.

    I have the personal safety equipment, and I just got a bee hive. The bee hive is used and I haven't cleaned it up yet.

    How should I do this?

    I'm guessing:
    1) set up the hive
    2) if its cold enough I may not need a smoker
    3) carefully remove comb and honey and save every bit
    4) try to locate the queen
    5) remove half of the frames from 2 hive boxes
    6) (I don't have a queen excluder) put the queen in a hive box
    7) fill up the empty space with honey and comb from the hive
    8) ??????

    Thanks in advance for the help
     
  2. bare

    bare Head Muderator

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    Don't you get winters in Colorado?

    If it were me, I wouldn't even disturb the bees. They are in their winter cluster and trying to move them into a hive body will disorient them and probably cause their demise.

    If it were me, I'd carefully determine the location of the hive in the tree trunk and saw out that portion. Cover both ends for transport and take them home. At home you can fashion a bottom board and a cover for your stump and set it back upright. Make sure there is an entryway, even if you have to drill a couple holes, one in top and one in bottom for ventilation.
     

  3. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thanks for the suggestion. I just returned from inspecting the site. Unfortunately, the remaining stump that houses the comb is about 6 foot in diameter. The cut on the stump starts at about 1 1/2 feet and the top of the stump is about 3 feet high, but the comb goes below ground a little ways. The break exposes the hive in an advantageous way (to me or a bear). While some of the comb has been broken, it appears the majority is still intact. It sits right outside the entry to a junior high school and I have exactly 3 days before it will be dug out. There is about a dinner plate sized swarm of bees on the surface of one of the breaks in the comb.

    I could ask the maintenance crew to take the stump/hive to one of their yards and wait till spring to harvest it, but I'm afraid the excavation and move will damage the hive further. Would they move if they are disturbed enough.

    I covered the stump with a blanket, and left a note of caution to the resident teenagers. I'm thinking I will go late tonight when the storm is coming and take them out of the stump.

    I don't have electricity within a few hundred feet, so I can't use a vacuum device. Now I'm thinking I will take them out of the stump and put them in a box. Then I will put the box next with openings adjacent to the hive and place the honey in the hive with some of the bees.

    I hope to get pictures and will post them.
     
  4. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    The bees will not go into the box: they will cluster around their queen.

    I don't think they CAN fly away: it would be too cold in Colorado for them to move once they are away from the winter cluster.
     
  5. justgojumpit

    justgojumpit Well-Known Member

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    if it were warm enough that the bees are not in a cluster, or are in a loose cluster, i would advise drumming them out in this case. The way you do this is to fit your hive over the top of the tree stump. i doubt there would even be brood at this stage to keep the bees from leaving. now, hammer on the side of the stump about once per second for several minutes. for such a big trunk, it may take a light sledge hammer to do the trick. the bees should move up into the new hive. you can then harvest the comb from the hive and tie it into deep frames, keeping the cells in the same orientation as they were in the hive (up-down) I would try this first.

    If this doesn't work, try smoking the bees down into the hive. then remove as much comb as you can, and set this aside in a closed container. somehow suspend a piece of the comb you harvested down into the now partially empty hive, after first spraying it with a sugar solution. there should be bees all over it. put this comb covered with bees on the top bars of your bottom hive body. seal the hive, plugging all entrances and exits (with an empty super over the bottom box. the frames of drawn comb in your bottom box should be sprayed with sugar solution too.)

    repeat the process until you aren't getting too many bees anymore. then remove more comb, smoking the bees down further into the hive if necessary. continue with this process until done.

    If you had all season, i would recommend different methods, but that is not an option. try to get the queen. if you can't find her, or don't know if you have her, wait till spring, and if there are no eggs then, then you should mail-order a queen.

    good luck!

    justgojumpit

    P.S. cleaning out the hive is not imperative, it will just make it easier to work. it should't take more than a half-hour anyway.
     
  6. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Terri said
    Thanks Terri.
    One would think it was too cold, but there were bees flying around the stump today. I also talked to a beekeeper here in Denver today who said his bees were active today. So its a day to day thing in the winter in Colorado. I have seen other hives active this time of year before.

    Thanks Justgojumpit, I'm counting on the low temperature to reduce their activity. I don't have a smoker. I will try the thumping routine and if it doesn't work, I will just transfer comb and bees to the super.
     
  7. bare

    bare Head Muderator

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    Hard to imagine in the "Mile High City", in the middle of Colorado in the middle of January, somebody even thinking of rescuing a colony of bees!

    It's 10 degrees here with wind gusting to 40 miles an hour. If anyone called me to come get some bees, they'd get a cold reception from me!

    I'm gonna be totally amazed if you pull this off, so I do hope that you will keep us posted and do put up some pics.
     
  8. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    The storm did not come in last night, but it is here this morning. Last night it was warmer than it is now. I plan to get the colony tonight. I will take pictures, and keep this thread updated as things evolve.

    Thanks for the support.
     
  9. Oregonsparkie

    Oregonsparkie Well-Known Member

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    I agree with the above post... Extract the stump and wait for warmer weather...
     
  10. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Well, I did it tonight.

    Although it warmed up after the morning snow, it was clear and as soon as the sun went down, it got cold - real cold.

    When I got to the school, someone had taken my blanket and sign :waa: , but didn't vandalize the hive :p . I took a 15 gallon plastic container, and my bee hive setup. The bees were down in the comb when I got there. I removed all the broken comb down in the bole of the tree, and put it into the plastic container. I think there was around 60 pounds. Then I used a saw and cut the comb where it attached to the stump. I pulled out big chunks covered with bees and put them into the super. I had removed about half of the frames. I got most of the bees this way. I just layed the comb in the wooden hive. They didn't fly at all. One got down my glove and stung my palm. I sprayed the frames with sugar water, and the comb once I placed it in the box. I duct taped the boxes to the bottom board and taped the entry closed. Tape doesn't work real well when it is cold. Still, it kept them together and I was able to move the assembly from the stump into my van. I probably got another 50-60 pounds of honey inside the hive.

    I did take a few pictures, but I haven't got them ready to post yet.
     
  11. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    Sounds like a strong hive. I hope the tape allows enough air to come in.
     
  12. justgojumpit

    justgojumpit Well-Known Member

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    hey gary, glad to know that you already have some bees set up in that hive! good luck with the winter, you will probably have to feed them the whole way through.

    justgojumpit
     
  13. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I took the bee hive boxes out of the van this morning. First, though, I lifted the lid to see what I had wrought. The bees were mostly in the bottom and they were buzzing like crazy. I closed the lid and put the assembly on my two wheeler and started for the compost area of my yard. When I got to the edge of the sidewalk, the boxes slid apart a little and about a dozen bees came out. They were pretty slow and most of them went right back in the box. I closed it and carefully rolled the setup back through the garden. When I got it situated I opened the lid again. Now a bunch of bees were near the top of the box. I closed it and removed tape from the regular entry space.
     
  14. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    Then you succeeded! Do you know how HARD that is supposed to be? Collecting a wild hive in a cold area in winter? :haha:
     
  15. justgojumpit

    justgojumpit Well-Known Member

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    Gary, congratulations! that is truly awesome! you will probably have some cleanup work in spring to get those old frames out of the upper box. when the time comes, we should all get together again and brainstorm a way to get the the bees to move out of this tangled mass of comb! enjoy, though Gary, as you have really accomplished something quite awesome.

    justgojumpit
     
  16. bare

    bare Head Muderator

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    I wonder. If they make it through the winter, and I do stress, make it, the bees may put things to right on their own.

    I've had hives that were totally destroyed by a bear, early in the spring. Still freezing... but after I put them back together, they managed to pull it together and rebuild everything on their own.

    Bees are pretty remarkable critters. I've taken drawn comb and thrown it in a hive, looking in on it from time to time and pretty soon, it's completely gone. The bees have moved all the honey, pollen and moved the wax to re-build properly aligned and usable space in their home.
     
  17. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thanks for the encouragement and help.
    I didn't get to check on them today, so, no new report. I did get 4 pictures and will get them up this weekend.

    justgojumpit said
    I sure didn't have a chance to look for the queen.

    I still have a few questions:

    1. How often should I open the hive and check them out.

    2. I bet I put about 30 pounds of comb, honey, and bees into my hive. What should I look for to determine if I need to feed them?

    3. I didn't need any personal protective gear (except gloves) because it was near 10 degrees when I took the colony. Should I dress up just to check out what they are doing inside the hive?

    4. I used 1 super and one small box to house these bees. The frames in the super were empty, the smaller upper frames had decent comb. I only put about half of the frames in each to allow room for the comb and bees. How long should I wait to add another shallow box? Should I order some inserts for the super frames?

    5. I got a book on making mead for Christmas. The book said the hive has eggs in it now. This sounds a little strange to me because the lifecycle is too short, unless it slows way down through the winter. Should I look through the rest of my comb and honey for eggs and larvae?

    6. I would love to make a batch of mead. I have honey now, but it is in the comb. Can I use a salad spinner to separate it? How should I store the left over honey and comb?

    7. Some of the comb is empty but in good shape. Can the bees make use of that comb now? Should I put some in the hive?

    Thanks again for all the support.
    Gary
     
  18. bare

    bare Head Muderator

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    Bees this time of year in northern climates are in survival mode. If you were to look inside, your bees will likely be all in a ball in the center of the hive. It's called a "winter cluster". The cluster is always moving, the inside or warmer bees take their turn on the outside, while the outside ones crawl in to warm up.

    They'll stay in cluster until spring, although on some warmer, sunny days, you may see some cleansing flights where the bees go out to poop.

    They don't use a lot of food right now and won't until the queen starts laying and the hive begins to build up. Then look out, what seemed like plenty of food disappears over night. If it were me, I'd keep your honey score and feed it back to them if necessary. Honey is of course being far better for them than sugar.

    Sounds like the hard part for you is going to be to leave them alone but that's what you should do in my opinion. They've already been more than severly stressed and exposed to very cold temps. Every time you peek in you chill them and stress them some more. I would seldom ever pop the lid unless it was 70 degrees or more. It's amazing how much you can tell from watching and listening to your hive from the outside. I can sit for hours, purely enjoying watching a busy and happy colony!
     
  19. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    30 pounds of honey is not enough for Colorado.

    In the summer I feed a hive by filling a jar with syrup, punching a few small holes in the lid, and turning it upside down with something under it so that the bees can reach the holes. I honestly do not know if that would work in the winter. Because I am a newbie myself, I put a bag of dry sugar in each hive this winter. Sugar is not the best feed for bees, but at least they cannot drown in it.

    In this area, Kansas, the queens should start laying about now. I don't know about your area, or if where you live even matters. They start with just a few eggs, which means that the first few bees will leave their cocoons in February. By February, in this area, the Queen will be laying well so that there is a healthy young workforce this spring.

    I do not open the hive unless it is warm enough for the bees to be flying. I PREFER to wait until it is over 60, because bees do not take kindly to being chilled. It injures any brood that they might have, and if a cold bee leaves the winter cluster for any reason it might die before it can work its way back.

    Gobug, you do not want to be stung around the eyes or inside your ear. I reccomend some kind of a bee veil when you open your hive. That, and gloves, is generally all that I use.

    When brood rearing is in full swing you must check your hives regularly to make sure they have enough feed. An experienced bee keeper with a hive with plenty of stores may check his hive twice in the spring. As a newbie I intend to check much more often than that. Also, I will check to make certain that the queen is laying.

    I think that right now your bees have all of the damaged comb that they can use. When the weather is reliably warm, you might consider putting bought frames with foundation in a box on top of the hive. When they want the room, the bees will draw the comb and gradually move up. Then, you can remove the lower boxes after they have moved out and keep the wax for candles.

    Your bees are not out of the woods yet. The move has stressed them out BIG time, and there is still a good deal of winter to go. But, if you got the queen you MIGHT have a bloodline that is resistant to mites. A very desirable trait. I would treat them anyways to be on the safe side, but mite resistance is being bred for right now because some of the mites are getting resistant to the chemicals being used to kill them.
     
  20. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I will try to post a picture, here goes.http://image28.webshots.com/29/8/79/57/251487957TmCkcQ_ph.jpg

    This is the first picture I took. It's looking at the comb with the bees along the edge above the spot of light.