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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Dickson, TN
    Posts
    32

    Default Not sure how to proceed

    I'm a second year beekeeper with 4 hives at my house and 5 that I take care of near by for an older neighbor.

    I use all 8 frame medium equipment with a screened bottom board.

    A neighbor of mine who I haven't seen in a while and I were talking this morning and he told me about a beehive on his farm next to an old logging road. He said its been there for years even when his father in law lived there and he hasn't known of anybody taking care of it for 10 years or so. He thinks it must have been a neighbor who was allowed to put it on the farm. Anyway, my neighbor says that he has wanted somebody to put a hive or two on his property anyway so I told him I would go take a look at them not really holding out any hope of finding bees.

    What I found was a 10 frame deep with a medium on top. Solid plastic bottom board. It was laying on two boards next to the old road. In the summer it would be completely shaded and probably pretty damp. The boxes were in terrible shape. It was low to mid 40's when I stopped by but I took a chance and popped the outer cover really quick and sure enough there were bees that I could see through the hole in the inner cover.

    Here's how I plan to proceed. In the next few weeks when it is warm enough I plan to do a better inspection to check condition and then I would probably buy a deep 8 frame to replace the rotted 10 frame one. From there I will initially probably keep the second box as a medium plus a 3rd box as a medium to make up the brood chamber plus however many honey supers they need. I would also leave the board in the bottom of the screen this year. There is a flat spot of ground about 3 feet away that I can put some blocks and get the hive off the ground and out of the way.

    The problem is where I find this hive is totally counter to how I have been taught to place a hive but they are survivor bees that have made it work where they are. I want to change as little as possible to their environment yet have access to their genetics. My thinking is why fool with nature if they have it figured out and it works. That's how I treat my current hives as much as possible. This is my plan for the first year. I'm sure they have just cast swarm after swarm over the years due to lack of room assuming this is the same line that started there and not a swarm that has moved in at some point.

    Would anybody do anything different? Go ahead and move them to a better spot? Change over to all medium?

    oldbeehive.jpg

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Blacksburg, VA
    Posts
    461

    Default Re: Not sure how to proceed

    If you run all mediums you should change them over. I've had this situation come up every so often. You want to get them into what works with the rest of your equipment.

    I've found some bees do fine in the shade. It may not be optimal, but it can work. A hive lived in a stack of equipment under my shop for 12 years. It was under an overhang facing north in the woods. It never had any direct sunlight.

    I think you're on the right track.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
    Posts
    4,269

    Default Re: Not sure how to proceed

    I would not get in a hurry to tear into this treasure, but I would take what drawn dark comb you may have in reserve and put a box or two of minimum on top of the old hive. The queen should expand up into that comb pretty quickly and then you can slip in the queen excluder and keep her up stairs. I would add lots more room above, a couple more mediums at least. Then in three weeks or so you will have no brood down below and can take off and tear apart the old stuff at your leisure. I doubt much of that old equipment will be good for much. Wish I had your project!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Dickson, TN
    Posts
    32

    Default Re: Not sure how to proceed

    thanks for the responses. I am excited about this little project. Finding this hive really reinforced the idea that they do know whats best and can adapt. I hadn't thought about just putting some mediums on top of the current boxes. My eight frames will not fit exactly on the ten frame but I think I can tack on a small board over the opening that is left and maybe some plastic to keep out the rain. I still would like to dig into it a little bit to make sure its worth me fooling with. Winter is not over but the fact that they are there speaks well of their track record of survival.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    Bryant Pond, Maine
    Posts
    17

    Default Re: Not sure how to proceed

    Take a piece of 3/4 inch plywood and set your 8 frame box on it. Trace the inside of the box and cut it out. Cut down the outside so it leaves a small overhang on the 10 frame box. When you take the covers off the hive replace them with the cut piece of plywood and put your boxes on top. When they move up you will have them in your equipment and can discard the older 10 frame stuff. Or better yet keep it for a trap.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Dickson, TN
    Posts
    32

    Default Re: Not sure how to proceed

    Good idea. Thanks. I hadn't got that far in my thinking yet. I'd like to think I would have come up with that solution eventually. The more I've thought about it today the more I see this as an opportunity to keep what is essentially a feral hive feral and minimally manage it but allow them more room to expand at least for this year. I guess I'm more interested in the genetics right now than having another hive for honey production for this year.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Sacramento,California,USA
    Posts
    3,871

    Default Re: Not sure how to proceed

    You can wait until a little later in the spring when a good flow is starting, and take the queen and a few frames from the super on top and make a split that way. You will get the queen for genetics, and they will requeen as they've done in the past. Kind of like a managed forced swarm or cut down split. You could put them in one of your boxes and put foundation back in place in the wild hive, and just leave it as it is, where it's at, and do it again later in the year or next year.
    “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” – John Muir

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Dickson, TN
    Posts
    32

    Default Re: Not sure how to proceed

    Yeah, I'm beginning to think at least one split this year to try to preserve the genetics. Of course they may turn out to have horrible attitudes and I'll be sorry I found them. Thanks

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Huntersville, NC
    Posts
    96

    Default Re: Not sure how to proceed

    Quote Originally Posted by RayMarler View Post
    You can wait until a little later in the spring when a good flow is starting, and take the queen and a few frames from the super on top and make a split that way. You will get the queen for genetics, and they will requeen as they've done in the past. Kind of like a managed forced swarm or cut down split. You could put them in one of your boxes and put foundation back in place in the wild hive, and just leave it as it is, where it's at, and do it again later in the year or next year.
    I would do as Ray described except I would replace frames with foundationless, but then again I am a natural cell kind of guy.

    Good Luck!
    Thanks,
    Will

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    paulding Georgia USA
    Posts
    152

    Default Re: Not sure how to proceed

    I like hearing stories like this, it is great to hear about a colony living so long. More experienced beekeepers can give you better advice than I can, but I wanted to wish you good luck and thanks for sharing.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Utica, NY
    Posts
    10,151

    Default Re: Not sure how to proceed

    From the pic that hive doesn't look that bad. If no one has complained about the location of this hive I wouldn't move it. I wouldn't take the queen either but I would try to get splits off from it.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Morgan ,Kentucky, USA
    Posts
    171

    Default Re: Not sure how to proceed

    Ace, I was thinking the same thing about the equipment. I would check them out when the weather warms. The queen may be up in the top medium laying. Then the shim to add your own box and remove the deep would be a good option.

    Hard to know what exactly to do until you get a handle of the situation. Any idea of the condition of the frames?

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Dickson, TN
    Posts
    32

    Default Re: Not sure how to proceed

    Thank you all for the responses. It is hard to tell from the picture but the box is in worse shape than it really shows. Most of the corners are pretty well rotted. There is actually a hole in the back corner towards the bottom. I have no idea of the condition of the frames. I will either not open all the way for fear of destroying the box and just add a shim and medium on top and let the queen lay up then use that for a split or have new boxes ready to replace if I do dig into it. I do want to leave the queen in the original when I do a split. My main goal is to preserve what they have made work for them with minimal disruption. No complaints about the location so I think I will leave it where it is and maybe set it up on some blocks.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    longton, kansas USA
    Posts
    606

    Default Re: Not sure how to proceed

    set up some swarm traps close by and catch the genetics that way. i wouldnt change a thing. treat it like a fountain of youth and strength. the LAST thing you want to do is jeopardize that colony. if no one has messed with it...use it to ur advantage for years to come. and shoot....i have boxes that make that thing look like an example in a mannlake catalog hahahha.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Utica, NY
    Posts
    10,151

    Default Re: Not sure how to proceed

    Quote Originally Posted by jtgeor View Post
    It is hard to tell from the picture but the box is in worse shape than it really shows.
    Wrap the box by building a box around the box so it can support your mediums on top. Use scrap wood and just screw pieces together. It hasn't got to be pretty.
    Oh, btw how do you think those glue joints are holding in the corners?
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Dickson, TN
    Posts
    32

    Default Re: Not sure how to proceed

    Thanks all, I think I've got a pretty good idea of what I need and want to do now. A few variable depending on what condition they are in when I get into them.

    And the joints are nailed and I'm assuming they were glued too. The boxes may hold up better than I was originally thinking

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Cloquet, MN
    Posts
    79

    Default Re: Not sure how to proceed

    What a cool find! I am looking forward to finding out what is inside...keep us posted!

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Deford, Michigan
    Posts
    95

    Default Re: Not sure how to proceed

    What a great find. What a great source of survivor bees. I agree treat this as your fountain of youth and you could get a great strain of bees who winter great. Keep us posted as you proceed with this.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Superior, WI, USA
    Posts
    123

    Default Re: Not sure how to proceed

    It's possible, isn't it, that the colony in there is a swarm and not a 10-year survivor colony? I don't want to rain on any parades but I think the statistics are probably not leaning toward survivor. I'd still split the heck out of it, if only for the added genetics, but I wouldn't assume it's the same colony in there the whole time. I just don't like to get my hopes up that way, I guess.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Dickson, TN
    Posts
    32

    Default Re: Not sure how to proceed

    cmonkey, I totally agree. In fact I alluded to that possibility in the end of my original post and I'm excited either way. They have made it through this winter at least this far with no interventions from man so that is a good thing. He thinks the hive has been in continuous use every year but its possible they died out at some point and a swarm moved in. Either way I would consider them 'feral' and worth exploring their genetics.

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