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  1. #1
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    Default What is the longest you have kept a hive alive?

    Quote Originally Posted by Smarsh7903 View Post
    When I talked to the man that owned them, he said he got them in 98 and hasn't done anything with them since.
    I once was told about a bee tree that had been active for ten years. I kept an eye on it through that summer and fall, and when I checked on it the next spring, it was dead. Later that year a new colony moved in. I suspect that is what had been happening each year, making folks think that it was an old colony.

    The quote at the beginning of this post made me think of that bee tree and wonder how long anyone has verified that a colony has lived. Perhaps some of you have some stories to share. I am also curious about the average length of colony life.
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: What is the longest you have kept a hive alive?

    This would be a good question for feral colony observer Dr. Tom Seeley. He has kept track of bee trees in the Arnot Forest near Ithaca,NY as part of his study of bee behavior.

    I removed a colony of bees from the eaves of the Church I attend because a new roof is being applied. That location had been a home for bees for well over thirty years. I have observed it for some 12 years myself. Max Coots, two ministers ago, mentioned this hive and another one in one of his Sermons. Over the last 12 years there have been years when it was unoccupied, but most years it was occupied.

    This could be an interesting question to see the answers to. Thanks for asking it.
    Mark Berninghausen To combat Ebola, please consider supporting http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org


  3. #3
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    Default Re: What is the longest you have kept a hive alive?

    I have six colonies in a yard that have survived since 2006 with no assistance from me. The most common cause for colony failure in my area is failing to requeen themselves when needed.

  4. #4
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    Siloam Springs, Arkansas
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    Default Re: What is the longest you have kept a hive alive?

    In keeping with these thoughts,

    How soon MIGHT a swarm / colony move into a recently vacated hive?

    As in : If you have bees checked monthly? / weekly? / daily? and find them continuously when can you be certain it is the same colony?
    Trying techniques that I doubt will work because I like to be right!

  5. #5
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    greer south carolina USA
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    Default Re: What is the longest you have kept a hive alive?

    i took two huge hives out of a building and i was told they were in there for over 50 years best honey i ever tasted much of it had turned to sugar

  6. #6
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    Default Re: What is the longest you have kept a hive alive?

    Quote Originally Posted by seamuswildflower View Post
    i was told they were in there for over 50 years

    Do you believe that to be the case? I have to admit to being skeptical. I feel that most likely several different colonies have been there over the last number of years.
    Like us on facebook This is the place to bee!
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  7. #7
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    Kingsport, Sullivan, Tennessee
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    Default Re: What is the longest you have kept a hive alive?

    I still have my original colony which was caught as a swarm in spring of 2010. I'm sure that pales in comparison to other folks here. -js

  8. #8
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    Concord, CA
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    Default Re: What is the longest you have kept a hive alive?

    My oldest queen was 3 years old, she was replaced by the bees this summer. In the last 5 years we have lost one hive. I have to agree with AR Beekeeper failure to raise replacement queens is something you have to watch out for. Probably the number one mistake, followed by Varroa. I check my hives at least once a month for queen-rightness.
    Dan

  9. #9
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    Default Re: What is the longest you have kept a hive alive?

    I ask myself, what difference does it make? Maybe honeybees are only supposed to stay in a hive 3 to 5 years and then die out or leave. Maybe this is the natural rejuvenation cycle of honeybees. maybe wax moths are good! Humans tend to define "good" as it pertains to them in the short cycle (always looking at the bottom line). I wonder how "good" would be defined looking through a honeybee's eye?
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  10. #10
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    Default Re: What is the longest you have kept a hive alive?

    Quote Originally Posted by Acebird View Post
    I wonder how "good" would be defined looking through a honeybee's eye?
    I ask myself,what difference does it make?
    Like us on facebook This is the place to bee!
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  11. #11
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    Default Re: What is the longest you have kept a hive alive?

    Maybe it makes little difference what the average life expectancy of a honey bee colony is, but knowing that info may be useful to a beekeeper who wants to evaluate his performance.
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    Ralph

  12. #12
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    Default Re: What is the longest you have kept a hive alive?

    One should evaluate ones performance by how well one can keep their equipment occupied, not how long a particular colony stays alive. Though that could be the same thing.
    Mark Berninghausen To combat Ebola, please consider supporting http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org


  13. #13
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    Old Hickory, Tennessee, USA
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    Default Re: What is the longest you have kept a hive alive?

    This is also one of the dilemma I have and now at least I have an idea. I think the lifespan of the hive depends on the life span of the queen which is according to my research would be 3-4 years. When the queen dies, the workers will create new queen and start new hive.

  14. #14
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    Clifford Township, PA
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    Default Re: What is the longest you have kept a hive alive?

    Quote Originally Posted by virgiea68 View Post
    When the queen dies, the workers will create new queen and start new hive.
    The bees will create a new queen but the hive continues.

    The hive's lifespan only depends on having a continuous presence of a queen or a succession of queens. The lifespan of a particular queen is of little importance to the hive. As long as it has the resources to requeen itself, the hive continues on, sometimes many times the lifespan of the average queen.

    Wayne

  15. #15
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    Default Re: What is the longest you have kept a hive alive?

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    One should evaluate ones performance by how well one can keep their equipment occupied, not how long a particular colony stays alive.
    I suspect that if you never took a drop of honey the hive would remain occupied for the majority of time passing until it no longer provided protection from the elements.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  16. #16
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    Eldersburg, MD, USA
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    Default Re: What is the longest you have kept a hive alive?

    I received my bees from a beekeeper who received his bees via a swarm. The swarm was caught 7 years ago and the same hive genetics have been present in that hive since that time. The beekeeper made a nuc for me from those bees in the spring of 2011. That very generous beekeeper never treated with any chemicals and would intermittently sprinkle some powdered sugar when he remembered to. I made a nuc from those bees for a friend (as a "pay it forward" kind of thing) this spring.
    I decided to treat last fall and after seeing what I just saw yesterday, looks like I'll be doing it again. I hate varroa mites.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: What is the longest you have kept a hive alive?

    Quote Originally Posted by Acebird View Post
    I suspect that if you never took a drop of honey the hive would remain occupied for the majority of time passing until it no longer provided protection from the elements.
    I agree for the most part, but I don't think it matters how much honey is taken. If the current colony dies, the hive is likely to be occupied by another colony, so it is probably correct to say that "the hive would remain occupied for the majority of time passing until it no longer provided protection from the elements".
    Like us on facebook This is the place to bee!
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  18. #18
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    Default Re: What is the longest you have kept a hive alive?

    ferals appear to be making a comeback in my area. I have been monitoring a tree hive that has been alive for 3 continuous years [others say it has been there longer]. I check it every spring, long before drones are flying and it has been alive. I believe that's the best time to determine if a hive has been surviving for a period of time.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: What is the longest you have kept a hive alive?

    My oldest continually occupied hive/colony is six years old, treatment free. Second oldest is 4 years. rest are younger, as I just started with two hives six years ago. Of course it has had different queens in six years.

    I wonder how many feral "comebacks" are the result of swarms from managed colonies, esp. survivor stock? I would guess quite a few. That's part of why I don't worry about swarms too much, my way of helping repopulate the feral population.
    Regards,
    Steven
    "If all you have is a hammer, the whole world is a nail." - A.H. Maslow

  20. #20
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    Default Re: What is the longest you have kept a hive alive?

    The people that let me keep my hives on their land have a feral hive in their chimney and it has been occupied every year since they moved in, which was 15 years ago!! Who knows how long that hive was there for before that!
    Coyote Creek Bees

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