Monday, July 16, 2012

Retrieving Feral Bees

Often beekeepers are called upon to remove feral colonies of honey bees from cavities in hollow trees. In many cases the beekeeper can discuss with the property owner if it is necessary to move the bees at all. Those who decide to leave feral bees in place add to the pollination of the neighborhood as well as adding to the genetic diversity of the bees in the area. Sometimes safety is an issue, as when the feral colony’s flight path is close to human or pet paths. I was asked to remove a feral colony of honey bees from a hollow tree located adjacent to the parking area of a public office building. To accomplish the removal of the colony and the saving of the bees, I chose to use a one-way funnel arrangement. The same arrangement can be used to remove bees from the walls of a building.

In today’s photo, working at night, I am fashioning a cone-shaped screen funnel to cover the bees’ entry hole in the tree. It is important that the feral bee nest have a single entrance; the beekeeper must block any extra entrances. With the bees now able to leave their nest but not return, I will place a modern hive close to the funnel to receive the bees. The hive contains a queen-right bee colony with a small population. A good candidate colony for accepting the feral bees is a nucleus colony with a young, egg-laying queen. The transfer of bees works simply: The large number of bees in the tree overwhelms the guard bees in the receiving hive, and they move in. The transfer starts immediately upon placing the funnel, but takes from six to 12 weeks to complete. Eggs laid inside the structure emerge as adults in three weeks, and those bees fly from the tree in another three weeks. Eventually, the colony in the tree declines and perishes while the colony in the hive grows with the new queen.

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