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How can I move my feral hive to a bee box?

 
Brian Vagg
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Location: Northern California - Zone 9b
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I am hoping to enlist some help from some experienced bee keepers. For the last 12 years my wife and I have had a feral hive on our property servicing our homestead. It has been a strong hive and they have done a great job. But a few days ago the tree in which they have made their hive broke open and the hive is exposed. See picture below.

For years my wife and I have toyed with the idea of capturing one of the swarms and starting a bee box. It just was lower on the priority list. Well, it just moved way up the priority list. In our research we also have decided on a Warre hive. Any suggestions on how we can move the hive to a Warre hive? We haven't purchased the Warre hive yet, but plan to ASAP.

Some other information:

We are in zone 9 (Northern CA - Near Auburn, CA)
The daily temps are in the mid 80's right now
The night time temps are in the mid 50's
We still have a good amount of nectar sources flowing - although winding down
We have no idea if the queen has survived
It looks like there are bees still trying to work the hive, although I do see a lot of empty comb

Some other questions:
What is the likely hood this hive will swarm? ie should we focus on trying to capture a swarm?
If the hive doesn't swarm, can we entice the hive to move to our Warre hive? What are our options?
If the weather holds for a couple of week's how long do you think we have until the hive collapses?

As always any assistance is greatly appreciated.


Bee hive Oct 2015.jpg
[Thumbnail for Bee hive Oct 2015.jpg]
Broken Bee Hive
 
Tomas More
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Ok time to go from bee haver to beekeeper. This is a advanced type of rescue called a cut out. Below is a video of me teaching how to do a basic cutout.



I would go to Mann Lake in Woodland, Ca to get the hive parts. They don't have warre but for your first cut out a warre is tough. If you go foundation-less with a 8 frame Langstroth box it will be close in size to the warre and then you could add a quilted top cover. If using warre zip ties work well to attach the comb.

What is the likely hood this hive will swarm? ie should we focus on trying to capture a swarm?
• Hive may abscond meaning they leave altogether but this late in the season they may try and stick around. With so much exposure it is tough for them to protect from robber bees, yellow jackets, ants, rain and cold.
If the hive doesn't swarm, can we entice the hive to move to our Warre hive? What are our options?
• If you take out the baby bees, and all the comb the bees will follow. You could also try to smoke them up but bees are reluctant to leave established comb.
If the weather holds for a couple of week's how long do you think we have until the hive collapses?
• Rescue as soon as possible as every day any brood they can not keep at about 95 degrees will die, if they are not already at some point they may come under attack and that will cause them to increase there defensiveness.

I have done many of these types of removals. You can post on craigslist or search the internet to see if there is anyone who offers "live bee removal" in your area. You could pay a little to have a local expert help you. Let me know if you have any more questions.

 
Brian Vagg
Posts: 60
Location: Northern California - Zone 9b
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Thanks Tomas! I wonder if using a modified Warre hive to start with and then add normal Warre hive boxes in the spring would be a good approach. I expect that I could use the modified Warre frames like you show in the video you attached. Next fall I could remove the modified Warre frames and convert the operation to a normal Warre hive. Does that sound like a good approach or is my thinking flawed? Thanks again
 
Tomas More
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Once the colony is saved you can figure it out from there. The 8 frame langstroth is about the same width as a warre just deeper. I have had some success with getting the bees to build into a standard warre box in the spring with a good nectar flow. Main goal at this point is to save the colony and the good local genetics. Check out the photo below of the frakenhive.

Instgram photo of frakenhive
 
Brian Vagg
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Location: Northern California - Zone 9b
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Ah.....This is one of times where a picture is worth a thousand words. I was having a hard time picturing how that would work. Now I do.
 
Ernie Schmidt
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Location: Olympia, Washington
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Brian,
As an experienced keeper using Langstroths, Top Bars, and Warres, I have to strongly agree with Tomas. Your first objective is to save the colony. Cut outs are sometimes difficult at best. Do it with a Langstroth because instructions are far easier to find and follow. Another idea you might consider is enclosing the existing stump. A long box made out of plywood, square enough to fit up over and slid down the stump. Drill an entrance or 2 in the face of the plywood box. Stuff burlap or such into the bottom of the box around the stump at the bottom of the box to enclose it. Voilà! homemade feral bee hive.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Ernie Schmidt wrote:Another idea you might consider is enclosing the existing stump. A long box made out of plywood, square enough to fit up over and slid down the stump. Drill an entrance or 2 in the face of the plywood box. Stuff burlap or such into the bottom of the box around the stump at the bottom of the box to enclose it. Voilà! homemade feral bee hive.


I was thinking the same thing, but by nailing 2X4s or 1x8s onto the stump to re-enclose it, and waxing or caulking to close up the gaps. Perhaps cutting the top of the stump off horizontal as a platform for adding a warre to the top next spring to see if they could be enticed up.
 
Brian Vagg
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Location: Northern California - Zone 9b
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Thanks Ernie and Joseph!

That is a fantastic idea. I think that should work good as a temp hive over the winter. The bee's are still there, but I can tell they are getting some what agitated. I think there is a lot of robbing going on from yellow jackets. We still have nectar flow from a number of different sources, so hopefully they can build up some stores for winter.

I did get a feeder with the new hive (should arrive on Wednesday). I am thinking about setting up the new hive next to the natural hive and I will setup the feeder (feeds from the top of the new hive). I am also thinking about putting some lemongrass essential oil to see if i can entice them into the new hive. Fingers crossed. I sure hope we can get the bee's through the winter.
 
robert e morgan
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go to j.p. the beeman and watch him do cutouts from trees and buildings on utube videos .
 
Jean-Jacques Maury
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Hi Brian,
nice picture of your broken bee home. Hope they are still alive and protected. Essential oil will not entice the bees to move into your new hive. Early in the season (March probably) on a nice warm day, get in there and cut a piece of comb that has brood on it. Put that into your new hive. Then try to locate the queen - you will most likely need help for that. Move the queen on that piece of comb in your new box, set close to the trunk. If you cannot find the queen, move as many pieces of comb as you can out of the trunk. The rest of the bees (foragers included) will join the queen in the new box; that might take a while so be patient and leave the hive in place until the next day at least. See the video above to arrange your pieces of comb on the new frames temporarily. Get a experienced beekeeper to have a look after a few days to make sure things are going okay or post pix here. The most important is to get the queen in that new box.
 
Brian Vagg
Posts: 60
Location: Northern California - Zone 9b
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Thanks Jean-Jacques! The bee's absconded the day before I got my bee box I am hoping that they found a safe place to put a hive in. For a couple of weeks after they absconded I noticed a fair amount of bees around (could have been from another hive close by). I still had a number of plants that were providing nectar so I hope they got enough reserves built up.

Anyways, I have my Warre Hive built and ready to go. I did save a fair amount of old bee comb and will place in the hive come spring. I am going to apply two strategies to try and get our hive populated. I will place the old comb in the hive and hope to lure them in. And I am going to reach out to local bee groups and see if I can help with a swarm collection and bring them home. If anyone knows of a good contact in Placer County in Northern California a PM would be appreciated

I am really bummed that our wild hive is gone. The bee's were always very productive and seemed to have great temperament.
 
Ken W Wilson
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Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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I'd save some old comb and buy some lemon grass oil and use your hive for a swarm trap. Maybe build a few extra boxes for more traps. I don't plan to ever buy bees again. Hive traps and just hiving swarms is a lot more fun. Healthier bees too. Here anyway. Most of my swarms have been truly feral, I believe.
 
Jean-Jacques Maury
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Brian,
so sorry about your bees; it is sad to see them go but you will get others! You might want to check your local cooperative extension and ask if they have people calling for bee/swarm removal. Catching a swarm and move it in your warre is not difficult but you have to prepare ahead of time. It is best to catch swarms early in the season - maybe April for you, not sure - to give them time to build up their new home before winter so be ready in March if you can. Trapping swarms is pretty unreliable but still fun to try and you don't need to use your hive as a trap, just make a box out any clean scrap wood you have. It's a good idea to save some brood comb for either method but watch for wax moth until you are ready (maybe you can save a few pieces in your freezer).
Good luck!
 
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