Feral Swarms???
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Thread: Feral Swarms???

  1. #1
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    Default Feral Swarms???

    I have been reading up on Feral swarms and there seems to be a number of good reasons to try to trap them. The first and what seems like the best is that they are adapted to your area and therefore should prosper there. It does seem that they should do better than package bees from way out of the area. I have about 1500 acres 60% bottom land planted for wildlife, and 40% mountain land, in North Alabama. I have looked around at the neighboring farms, and have not seen any other beehives, although I am sure there could be some. I am planning on setting bait hives in the spring of 2018 to see if I can catch some. If I dont that is fine, but if I am able to catch some are there any precautions I should take before moving them back to my yard? I have read that they can be bad for robbing, but it does seem their possible genetics could be worth having. I guess I am asking for the positives and negatives. Any help or suggestions would be great.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Feral Swarms???

    It ain't necessarily so. Just because you see a swarm that doesn't mean it came from a colony that has any particular advantages.
    Mark Berninghausen

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Feral Swarms???

    I put out swarm traps every year I usually let them be themselves to see how the behave are they gentle, good honey producers, do they over winter well. Sometimes I requeen them if I think they are going to be a problem. Not all swarms a feral they could be from a package that swarmed I have caught swarms that had marked queens in them

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Feral Swarms???

    How can you tell a feral bee from a domesticated one?

    I tend to capture my own swarms. How do I know? Marked queens don't mark themselves.
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    20170422_151543.jpg
    Internet credibility is an oxymoron

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Feral Swarms???

    You cant tell where a swarm has come from. I do know of a bee tree on a farm near me that has been there for years and years I set swarm traps near it and have caught swarms from it . The reason I want those bees they are living from year to year with out intervention from man. They are survivors. I have begun to graft queens from that stock for the genetics. These bees most likely came from some ones hive at some point in time but for what ever reason they survive. Do you call these feral or domesticated

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Feral Swarms???

    Quote Originally Posted by bee keeper chef View Post
    You cant tell where a swarm has come from. I do know of a bee tree on a farm near me that has been there for years and years I set swarm traps near it and have caught swarms from it . The reason I want those bees they are living from year to year with out intervention from man. They are survivors. I have begun to graft queens from that stock for the genetics. These bees most likely came from some ones hive at some point in time but for what ever reason they survive. Do you call these feral or domesticated
    I've heard this before only in Urbana, Illinois. Bee tree with feral bees that had been casting swarms for years.

    First season back into bees I was led to that bee tree that reportedly had "survivors" in it.
    The tree owner swore there had been bees in the tree for many years. My mentor had been catching swarms from it "for years".
    The reason was the cavity was so small that it swarmed constantly.

    City cut the tree.
    So we took the "survivor bees" with plans of building an apiary out of them. Ironically the swarms cast by another beeks package bees were way better at surviving. Slowly over a period of three years them "feral" tree bees died off despite my best efforts. I'd split them and had several colonies that never really made any honey and didn't survive too well. Lucky I had a plan B.
    Not exactly convinced that feral bees are survivors.

    There's a house in town that has the same exact story. Want the address?
    They're expecting a free cutout.
    Internet credibility is an oxymoron

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Feral Swarms???

    As stated before I let them be themselves for a while to see gentleness, honey production, overwintering. and I do requeen when there seems to be a problem. swarms from bee trees like package bees and purchased nucs do fail for what ever reason

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Feral Swarms???

    Oh I have serious belief that there are feral bees around. The definition of feral is " in a wild state, especially after escape from captivity or domestication." they came from a beekeeper at some point. I guess what I am "hoping" for are survivor type bees. The marked queen references above made me laugh, because I had not given thought to that. I am not against using chemicals on my bees, just thought if there are better genetics out there, why not try to obtain them? Of course it could be a trade off. Few mites, and less honey, or few mites and aggressive, etc... Maybe they do swarm from feral colonies as natural mite reduction. I dont know, but the idea is very interesting .

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Feral Swarms???

    My $ 0.02 to add to the conversation:

    There's tons of 'feral swarms' around here...I could show you three trees within walking distance.

    Mostly old soft maples that have lost a large side branch which left a hole etc etc.

    And I'll take a 2-pound swarm over a 3-pound package any day.

    They are adapted to this locale and have proven themselves to be somewhat resistant to mites, else the parent colony would not be throwing off a swarm.

    I don't try to 'trap them', I sit back and wait for the phone to ring starting about April 10th.....

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Feral Swarms???

    I caught 2 "feral" swarms near my hive area this year. One of those swarmed again - and from that parent colony, I got the only decent and a good queen raised out of 4 swarms from my hives. From the time she emerged, she was laying eggs in no more than a week's time.

    The ferals are performing very well and are not agressive.

    Good luck.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Feral Swarms???

    >How can you tell a feral bee from a domesticated one?

    Smaller bees; emerged from nature cell size, a difference you can see. Often mixed matched colors or sometimes just darker. Some can be a little more aggressive.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Feral Swarms???

    Certainly appreciate all of the feedback. It just seems to make sense to source established bees from as close to home as possible so that they are adapted to your environment as best as they can be. I am hoping they are going to be some version of a bee that has hybridized to perform best here. I am going to give it a go and see what happens. I am not even sure I will trap any, but I guess it wont hurt to try.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Feral Swarms???

    'Trapping' is a good idea.

    BUT........get your name and phone number to every pest control company, animal control person, fire department, police department, sheriff's department and state police unit within whatever radius you feel comfortable driving to retrieve a swarm.

    Oh, and talk to tree trimmers too....most would rather assist you in saving a colony in a tree than felling the tree and having to deal with p*ssed-off bees when cutting it up......

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Feral Swarms???

    >>How can you tell a feral bee from a domesticated one?
    >Smaller bees; emerged from nature cell size, a difference you can see.

    People comment all the time on how small my bees are. Yes, the true feral bees are that size too.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Feral Swarms???

    Quote Originally Posted by Haveuseen1? View Post
    Certainly appreciate all of the feedback. It just seems to make sense to source established bees from as close to home as possible so that they are adapted to your environment as best as they can be. I am hoping they are going to be some version of a bee that has hybridized to perform best here. I am going to give it a go and see what happens. I am not even sure I will trap any, but I guess it wont hurt to try.
    Finding feral bee's in a tree in the backyard of the house I moved into is what got me to decide to want bee's and be a beek. Also found some in an old house up the road. They were much larger but I set up traps there as well.
    I want the feral as my start. But I'm not worried about a great honey harvest. I figure I have years of learning then selecting certain traits and expanding.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Feral Swarms???

    These photos show some of the black ferals here. They have been very aggressively trying to rob my weakest hives. I had to rework my robbing screens because they were able to get behind them. At one point I observed 3 or 4 resident bees trying to hold back one of these which still made it inside.

    IMG_2377.jpg IMG_2357.jpg
    Attached Images Attached Images

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Feral Swarms???

    I have found that if you put robbing screens on during the robbing that they will follow the resident bees in. If the bees that live there figure it out so will robbers.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Feral Swarms???

    I put up a few bait hives ever year and have had success. I leave the bait hive in place a few days after it has been inhabited. The I move it to my home apiary, which is my "sanitarium" and leave the bees in the bait hive for a few more days. Then I transfer them to a regular hive and put them where the bait hive was. I leave them in the new hive until I say brood. Then I test for mites and move them to one of the other apiaries.

    Bees do not normally do well at my home apiary so I don't keep them there for long.

  20. #19
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    Mar 2017
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    Green Ridge, Missouri
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    Default Re: Feral Swarms???

    I guess it depends on what you want. I want feral survivor stock in my bees as around me they show great resistance to mite issues and are pretty darn good winter survivors. They are a bit more aggressive though and probably not quite as productive as a big calm Italian package. I crossed my Italians with survivor feral bees when I made my decision to not treat my bees with anything. I want the bees to survive varroa mites without my assistance. I will take a healthy resistant hive that produces a tad less honey over a hive that has to be treated. I have trapped a few swarms and conducted a few cutouts and do notice with feral bees there is a general smaller bee and greater color difference as well with bees that are black to blond and all different shade of striped and solid abdomen color.

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Feral Swarms???

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    >>How can you tell a feral bee from a domesticated one?
    >Smaller bees; emerged from nature cell size, a difference you can see.

    People comment all the time on how small my bees are. Yes, the true feral bees are that size too.
    I made a comment like that this spring.
    Later it hit me. Spring...lots of young nurse bees. Duh.
    Internet credibility is an oxymoron

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