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I have bees... now what?

 
John Thames
Posts: 22
Location: Montana
forest garden hugelkultur hunting
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I live in Helena, MT and I found these guys this weekend on the back half of my homestead and don't know what to do with them. I have a food forest I'm just starting up and would love for them to stick around and do their thing with my fruit trees and gardens. Is it best just to leave them alone? Or is there something I can do to help them out? They seem really exposed on the low sage bush they've found. It seems like if I leave them alone they won't make it through the winter there and would probably leave to find a better winter hive. I've thought about beekeeping in the future but I haven't even read the first book on it so I'm afraid they'll end up dead if I intervene to much. Is there anyone in my area that knows of a permaculture beekeeper I could contact? Someone like the lady on Paul's bee reverence podcast. Any ideas or suggestions are welcome.
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Ludger Merkens
Posts: 171
Location: Deutschland (germany)
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Hi John,
the bees won't stay there for long. If they are lucky, they find an apropriate home, like an hollow tree, an empty wooden box soon. If this is the case, they will leave you as soon, as they found it.
Depending on your environment, it is probably best for them, if you find a bee keeping neighbour, who can take them and give them a home.
If you want to use this opportunity and start bee keeping, you have to act fast. What you need to do is called 'catching a swarm'. Check the web and youtube, you will probably find many howto's.

If you really want to do this, come back here and ask again. We will help you.
 
Ardilla Esch
Posts: 198
Location: Northern New Mexico, Zone 5b
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At most the swarm will be there a couple days - probably less. I would get them into a hive today if possible. They may already be gone...

Put a hive with frames underneath them and shake the branch so they fall in. I usually mist the swarm with a little sugar syrup (with a little peppermint oil) before moving them into the hive. It keeps the bees grooming for a little while - so there is a little less flying around when they drop. Put the cover on the hive once most of the bees have made their way inside. I usually leave them there until sunset before I move the newly housed swarm. That way you also recover the scouts and most straglers that inevitably hang around that branch for a while. It would be best if you could get the help of a beekeeper to do this. It isn't difficult, but a little experience goes a long way.
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1575
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Catching a swarm like that is a doddle - simply cut the branch they are on and drop the whole bunch into a box/bucket/eski etc... You can then transfer them into a permanent home.

As has been said, they won't usually hang on long in that location (possible exception if they are caught out by cold/wet weather over the next few days). If you don't want to look after bees, just give them a home, then a hollow log hive is an easy way to get them established. Just takes an hour or two with a chainsaw to make a suitable hollow.

http://www.permies.com/t/32735/sepp-holzer/Holzer-Style-Log-Bee-Hive

http://www.permies.com/t/34865/bees/log-hive

Edit - to be clear, log hives are basically zero maintenance. You tip the bees in, put the lid on and let them get on with it. Hence why I think they might be good in your case.
 
John Thames
Posts: 22
Location: Montana
forest garden hugelkultur hunting
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From what I've read I only have a day or two at most. If I where to shake them into a box (as I've read) to capture a feral swarm them move them to a hollowed out log as mentioned in those links that might work? Worse case scenario they leave like they were going to anyway? I definitely want to try but don't want to harm them out of ignorance. Any other suggestions?
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1575
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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You won't harm them out of ignorance - they can take pretty rough handling and putting them into a viable home is going to give them better long term odds than them trying to find a suitable cavity by themselves.

Watch a few videos on swarm catching first - lots of people do this without suits as the bees are pretty docile when swarming. Move lowly and gently and you won't agitate them.

If you can put them in a box with some ventilation they should be ok over night while you setup a permenant home. I use a wooden box with a mesh screen on one side, but you can use cardboard with thin cloth "windows" for ventilation.
 
John Thames
Posts: 22
Location: Montana
forest garden hugelkultur hunting
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OK I think I will give it a try this evening (if they're still around). I'll watch some videos and like you suggested and see what happens. If I can convince my wife to document for me I'll try and let you guys know how it goes. Thanks for the advice and suggestions!
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1575
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Brill good luck with them. Bees are fabulous, and they look like a lovely sized swarm.

Even if you don't get them into their home-for-life at first some kind of sturdy box might do the trick in the short term.
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3646
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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If it doesn't work out doing it yourself, maybe call Jacob Wustner who brought some bees over to Paul's place.
I think his info is:
Sapphire Permaculture Apiary
Stevensville, MT 59870
 
John Thames
Posts: 22
Location: Montana
forest garden hugelkultur hunting
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Cj Verde wrote:If it doesn't work out doing it yourself, maybe call Jacob Wustner who brought some bees over to Paul's place.
I think his info is:
Sapphire Permaculture Apiary
Stevensville, MT 59870


Thanks Cj. I'll contact Jacob to see if he might be able to help or be interested in moving them if I'm not successfull.
 
John Thames
Posts: 22
Location: Montana
forest garden hugelkultur hunting
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So like you guys said they don't stick around. Here is what's left... only a handful. I came home early from work got a box prepared with some screen and put on some long sleeves and this is all that was left. I guess these guys were out scouting and are just waiting for someone to tell them where the new log is? Anyway, thanks for the advice and if I'm lucky enough to find another swarm I'll be better prepared.
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tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3356
Location: woodland, washington
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I've found that swarms frequently cluster where other swarms have clustered before, so a repeat performance might not be so unlikely.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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