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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Just had the remnants of the hurricane that hit the gulf roll through last night. This morning went to check on the bees. We found chunks of comb lying on the ground, and a lot of upset bees. I looked up to see if a hive had been built in the trees above, and at first didn't see anything. My wife then pointed out a huge hive about 40' above the ground on a sweet gum, almost directly above our hive. This hive has a huge amount of comb, at least the size of those metal classroom trash cans in high school. Obviously there was a swarm and this new queen decided she didn't want to stray far from her original home, so she started a new hive there. It was so far up in the tree, that it was nearly impossible to see from the ground. We live in Newnan, GA. The hive is on a tree at the top of our mountain, exposed to north winds. Average Jan low here is 30 degree F, meaning it usually doesn't get colder than 30 degrees at night. Average high is 55 in Jan. This is our coldest month.

Options:
1) Leave it, and hope they survive? Has anyone heard of a hive surviving a winter exposed on a trunk like in the photos below?
2) Drop the tree, and salvage the hive to put in single or double deep box. Would this give them a much better chance of survival?

The tree the hive is on is only about 6" in diameter ABH (at breast height). We have far too many sweetgums, so dropping the tree is fine. Removing the sweetgum will help the sourwoods, oaks, and beech trees nearby. The hive is too high to be brought down safely by any other means. I am a former logger, and I can make multiple cuts to bow the tree over without dropping it hard, hopefully. But there's still a high risk I could destroy the hive and kill the queen cutting the tree down. If the hive is not too busted up, I can place it in two deep boxes, leaving the 2" upper tree trunk in the center vertical, like on the tree, so the comb is oriented properly. This won't leave any room, or little room, for any frames, but this would disturb the bees the least and I am least likely to loose the queen this way. Comb inside the box would be au-natural, but we won't harvest honey from it. Or, I can break the comb off, and put it between the two halves of my frames, but I risk losing the queen this way.

What would you do? Leave it in the tree? Risk dropping the tree to put it in two deeps, with the comb still on the trunk? Take the comb off an put it in sandwich it in my frames (like the rubber band method)? Thanks in advance. I hate to do something that in the end will be worse for them. I knew of cases where bees survive in the open like this, I'd be more willing to leave it.

Hive In Tree.jpg Hive In Tree Closeup.jpg
 

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That is crazy! And you have more hurricanes heading your way.
I think you're right in taking down the tree and boxing them up. I wouldn't want any daughters from that queen, seems like a bad choice for a nest. Or is common in your area?
I just cought a swarm two days ago in upstate NY and we could have a killing frost any time now. And some people say that the bees know best....
 

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I don’t know how cold your winters are but I saw them survive like that in temperate winters. It just shows how adaptable this species of bee is.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
I know...its hard to tell, but looking at the hive from the ground, it appears to be sealed up. Maybe they used leaves or something. Like I said, the average low here is 30 degrees in January...our coldest month. Average high is 55. I'm torn...I could really mess things up if I drop the tree and move them into a box. I could lose the queen doing that too.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I don’t know how cold your winters are but I saw them survive like that in temperate winters. It just shows how adaptable this species of bee is.
Thank you! What town was this near? If they can survive in the open like this up north, down here in GA should be fine.
 

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Thank you! What town was this near? If they can survive in the open like this up north, down here in GA should be fine.
Honeyeater is quite a bit South of you ...
 

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I’m in Perth, Western Australia. Winters here are mild, no snow. There was a hive like that open in a tree in the park outside my property where I go for a walk every morning. It survived at least two winters then I think the park managers took it down.

I also know of bees building hives in the open and semi sheltered locations in Southern Europe, they are native there.

Pretty resilient creatures. But then with these wild hives there are no beekeepers taking away their honey stores and messing their comb.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
Yeah, your average lows are about 18 degrees F warmer there than here (48 degrees F vs. 30 here). That's quite a large difference. Southern Europe is pretty warm too, especially if you are talking about areas around the Med. For example, Naples winter low is the same as Perth, 48 degrees. Course their low is in Jan, yours is in July.

Spent some time in Perth as an 18 year old Marine Corps midshipmen. You people were really great. My ship, USS Belleau Wood, was met by a crowd of Australians waving American flags on the pier. Many were old folks who were alive when both our nations were fighting together again a potential Jap invasion. I've been to the submariner monument on the hill above Perth.
 

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I don't have any suggestions rather an observation that it's pretty interesting. I had a hive swarm do the same thing this year only it didn't build any comb. Just sat up there in the tree 40-50 feet up. The ball of bees got smaller each day until there were none. Took 7 or 8 days.

Please let us know what you do.
 

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To me this is not a decision about the bees, but rather about the tree. If, as you said, you do not need/want the tree there and cutting it down falls into your long term plan, then do it. I would never cut a good tree just to save (questionable) a colony of bees. It is much easier/faster to make new bees than to grow a tree...
 

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To me this is not a decision about the bees, but rather about the tree. ...
+1
Some questionable bees are not that valuable to down the entire tree just to get them (maybe!).
But IF the tree is go to anyway, might as well do it now.
Could be a lucky double-whammy.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
As I said, we have far too many sweetgums, so dropping the tree is fine. Removing the sweetgum will help the sourwoods, oaks, and beech trees nearby. The sweetgums are actually hindering our biodiversity....they grow almost like weeds, and choke out the slower growing trees. We are a registered GA tree farm...we love our trees.

I just knew someone would bring up the tree thing...lol. We manage about 28,000 trees on our land...anyone that knows sweetgums knows a 6" ABH sweetgum is nothing to fret over.
 

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I have done cutouts to rescue bees in Oklahoma, probably, more than any one around here. At times I rescued open colonies, especially in the southern part of the state, from trees like that, often wondering how they could survive Oklahoma winter. But they did and do. More amazing than their survival is they are free of small hive beetles, the major plague in the south. The openness seems to work against the SHB's. Since you are in Georgia, I would wait till late February or early March before hiving them because they have arranged their combs to survive this winter to their best knowledge.

Earthboy

https://www.facebook.com/YSKHoney
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I have done cutouts to rescue bees in Oklahoma, probably, more than any one around here. At times I rescued open colonies, especially in the southern part of the state, from trees like that, often wondering how they could survive Oklahoma winter. But they did and do. More amazing than their survival is they are free of small hive beetles, the major plague in the south. The openness seems to work against the SHB's. Since you are in Georgia, I would wait till late February or early March before hiving them because they have arranged their combs to survive this winter to their best knowledge.

Earthboy

https://www.facebook.com/YSKHoney
AWESOME. Very useful info. What town were you near where you rescued open colonies? I want to check the temp history.
 

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AWESOME. Very useful info. What town were you near where you rescued open colonies? I want to check the temp history.
I was in Tishomingo, OK, located in the southeastern part of the Democratic People's Republic of Oklahoma. ;)

The bees were nearly 70 feet up high on a dead tree, but they had a small cavity atop, and they built combs extending out in the open to accommodate their growing family size. I suspect when the chill was too much they may have crawled back into the tiny hole under inclement icy conditions. The homeowner had to bulldoze the dead tree gently down for me to work them later. As the tree fell, however, it flopped HARD against the ground and kill the queen: I could not find her. I was able to raise the queen using their eggs, however. The rescue happened in February, which is pretty cold in OK. Let them bee for now as your winter is far milder than ours.

Best,

EB
 

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I was in Tishomingo, OK, located in the southeastern part of the Democratic People's Republic of Oklahoma. ;)

The bees were nearly 70 feet up high on a dead tree, but they had a small cavity atop, and they built combs extending out in the open to accommodate their growing family size. I suspect when the chill was too much they may have crawled back into the tiny hole under inclement icy conditions. The homeowner had to bulldoze the dead tree gently down for me to work them later. As the tree fell, however, it flopped HARD against the ground and kill the queen: I could not find her. I was able to raise the queen using their eggs, however. The rescue happened in February, which is pretty cold in OK. Let them bee for now as your winter is far milder than ours.

Best,

EB
I was able to dig up a few pics of bees in the open nest I had mentioned above. They are here:

https://www.facebook.com/YSKHoney

EB
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks! Good to know. Regretfully, this little hive is on a young sweetgum, so no cavity to hide in, which is why I'm so concerned for them. And our average Jan lows are less than 1 degree C warmer than Tishomingo.

What is the logic behind waiting until Feb-March?
 

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Thanks! Good to know. Regretfully, this little hive is on a young sweetgum, so no cavity to hide in, which is why I'm so concerned for them. And our average Jan lows are less than 1 degree C warmer than Tishomingo.

What is the logic behind waiting until Feb-March?
By late February and early March, the weather will be thawed; for instance, red maples bloom usually in the first week of February in OK. In your area, they will bloom perhaps in mid January. So by hiving the bees then, you can kick start for next year's honey crop.

Invariably, cutouts made in late summer and fall invite small hive beetles in the south, the reason being that a growing colony often does not have enough bees to patrol all the combs, being filled with nectar or syrup, offering opportunities for SHB's. I cannot overemphasize this problem as i have lost many a summer splits; SHB's forced me to make splits only in the spring now, which works better as it is more natural with flow.

If you can spare this colony, why not experiment if they will survive? If worried about the cold, you can do cutout, paying attention to SHB infestation. Make sure you crowd bees by removing scanty brood combs and saving only good brood combs. Most experienced beeks will get rid of all the combs when doing cutouts around this time of the year to eliminate SHB infection. That way, the bees will start drawing new foundation from scratch--not allowing a toehold for SHB.

I have never treated for mites for decades, which goes as far back at the time when this very forum has created, off-shoot from Bee-L, but SHB can be far worse than mites in the south. And they love cutouts as the disoriented colonies are not yet fully established; they would abscond even in November, if infected. Ask around how beeks in your neck of the woods are handling SHB issues other than maintaining a strong colony with good genes. Placing hives in the sun is a myth, among others, for instance.

Please feel free to give us a follow-up, would you?

EB
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Thank you.

Yeah, we could experiment, but with average lows at 30 degrees here, I think they are almost certainly going to die. I just hate the thought of them all slowly freezing to death over winter, huddling for warmth until none remain. Yeah, its nature, but we did a walk away split... The first queen to emerge from the queenless split didn't manage to kill the other queens, so one escaped and swarmed to this undesirable tree 10' from the box. But cutting the tree down is risky too...if I destroy all their comb, honey stores, kill the queen getting the hive down, it may not be much better.
 

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Thank you.

Yeah, we could experiment, but with average lows at 30 degrees here, I think they are almost certainly going to die. I just hate the thought of them all slowly freezing to death over winter, huddling for warmth until none remain. Yeah, its nature, but we did a walk away split... The first queen to emerge from the queenless split didn't manage to kill the other queens, so one escaped and swarmed to this undesirable tree 10' from the box. But cutting the tree down is risky too...if I destroy all their comb, honey stores, kill the queen getting the hive down, it may not be much better.
30 F will not kill a clustered bee in the open; in fact, 46 F is the ideal temp to keep in a warehouse setting up in Canada, if my memory serves me right. Bees are resilient; more so that we think.

Sure, it's your call.

How about wrapping them around with a black plastic bag when the temps get worried low, leaving the bottom of the cone open? If you put a number of hives around the tree, they will emanate heat, as well. Assuming they have enough winter store, I would bet they will come out just fine.
 
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