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Are there really any native bees left anymore or are feral hives these days just remnant swarms from apiaries and crossbred queens from various drones. I want to believe there are still survivor stocks surviving in the wild but i find it difficult to believe that they haven't been infiltrated by other various genetics from surrounding apiaries. If such a feral stock does exist do you think they are superior breeds or just overall swarmy and mean. Would there be any way to tell if the bees were from around the area or not. I ask all this because ive had some bad luck with commercial bought queens and was thinking about rearing some queens from feral hives. I know Michael Bush says the F1 hybrids(first offspring) from commercial queens can have bad temperment. I think that's what i'm experiencing right now. All opinions welcome.
 

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There are native bees:) - they just are not honey bees:( - Bumbles, Sweat Bees and the like. Honey bees are an introduced species in the US. Are you using the term "native" instead of "feral" intentionally?
 

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The area I am in tends to be somewhat isolated even to domestic bees, but i'VE heard of some bee trees that have survived after many years in the wild and cold of northern MN. I do think that they are survivor stock from bygone beeks but they have something special going that helps them survive in this climate,,,,,,All this to say, I've dreamed of taking a mating nuc into areas where I've heard there were bee trees with wild bees and try to cross breed my virgin queens to the ferral or wild drones.....A farmer friend of mine said he had honey bees arround ,but it sounds like they are ground hive bees, truely native pollinators, I was hoping maybe some honey bees had learned to hive in some of his stacked round bales and survived winter, but he said he followed them to holes in the dirt, under some discarded wood.....

==McBee7==
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
There are native bees:) - they just are not honey bees:( - Bumbles, Sweat Bees and the like. Honey bees are an introduced species in the US. Are you using the term "native" instead of "feral" intentionally?
I mean the kind of honey bee people talk about when they say, "use the wild stock because they're acclimated to your climate"
 

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Feral bees absolutely exist. At least in parts of my county. There's a swarm that has pitched in the same area for at least 2 years near here. I got them last year and they are sweethearts. I got the swarm this year too, but they absconded.

I've seen bees on flowers just a few miles up the road. This was in an area with no beekeepers.

They do exist...and the ones around here are gentle.
 

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Who knows if true feral hives exist here in the Bay Area. There are over a thousand packages hived here each spring just by hobbyist alone.
 

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Ferals still exist for sure!German black bees are not extinct for sure!I know where they're at and leave them alone.they're more defensive than regular ferals.I don't know who did the studies that they drew those conclusions from but they couldn't have been beekeepers!The original imports were not 5.4 that's for sure!
 

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Feral bees have become re-established or never disappeared completely in pockets around the US. My speculation is that some of the old ferals must have had African like traits that helped them coexist with the Varroa mite - the bees in Africa (not just Scut.) are reported not to require human assistance dealing with Varroa. So then the issue comes down to temperament - do you want to work with those bees? Some do, some don't. A recent BeeSource thread concluded that mean bees should not be tolerated.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
>Feral bees have become re-established or never disappeared completely in pockets around the US

Thats kind of what i figured. So if i dont live near one of these isolated pockets, theres not much sense in me raising the local feral stock. I guess the next best thing is to buy from local breeders.
 

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My neighbor has a hive of feral bees that has been under the floor of his well house for eight years. They look like Italians but seem to be smaller. They are not aggressive as I stand right by their entry and never get bumper. I am in the thinking stages of a "hogan" type trap-out.

My family ranches in Brown County, Texas, and there is not a beekeeper within 20 mlles of the ranch. We have owned the ranch over 10 years and there have always been honey bees there, especially at the hummingbird feeders.

I think there are feral bees that survive in the wild and are not treated. Whether they are feral or native is an academic issue of no consequence to me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
>Whether they are feral or native is an academic issue of no consequence to me

As far as im concerned, they're native, if its a sustainable population without the need of replenishment from beekeepers swarms.
 

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ive had some bad luck with commercial bought queens and was thinking about rearing some queens from feral hives. I know Michael Bush says the F1 hybrids(first offspring) from commercial queens can have bad temperment. I think that's what i'm experiencing right now. All opinions welcome.
For openers, honey bees are not native to the Americas, were brought from Europe and then later, Africa. Feral bees can be escaped swarms from domestic bees, or swarms that have lived in the wild for generations. How can you tell the difference?

Also, in the south including Florida, Texas, Arizona, California, feral bees are generally part or entirely Africanized. If they are mean, it's probably the African component. Hybrid vigor in the F1 cross between domestic and feral is possible, but the less likely cause of meanness in the offspring.
 

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>Are there really any native bees left anymore or are feral hives these days just remnant swarms from apiaries and crossbred queens from various drones.

The reason "wild" honey bees are generally refered to as "feral" is that the prevailing theory is that honey bees are not native, hence the term "feral" for something that used to be domestic but is now escaped to the wild as opposed to something that was always in the wild.

> I want to believe there are still survivor stocks surviving in the wild but i find it difficult to believe that they haven't been infiltrated by other various genetics from surrounding apiaries.

But if they are indeed feral, then they are originally from the genetics of the domestic bees.

> If such a feral stock does exist do you think they are superior breeds or just overall swarmy and mean.

Some are very nice and productive. Some are swarmy and mean... Nature only selects for survival...

>Would there be any way to tell if the bees were from around the area or not. I ask all this because ive had some bad luck with commercial bought queens and was thinking about rearing some queens from feral hives.

Size is a pretty good indicator since most domestic bees are on enlarged cells. The ones that are swarms of swarms of swarms are much smaller than a recent swarm from a domestic hive.

> I know Michael Bush says the F1 hybrids(first offspring) from commercial queens can have bad temperment. I think that's what i'm experiencing.

I think the F1 are usually the worst temperament. But some of the feral bees are not so nice either. Some are, though. Some of the domestic stock aren't so nice either... I've had some pretty hot MN Hygienics and some nice ones as well...
 

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Feral bees can be escaped swarms from domestic bees, or swarms that have lived in the wild for generations.
Lets straighten out the language a bit. Feral bees are, by definition, bees that are descendants of escaped domestic stocks, which have been able to survive and reproduce. Since natural selection will have operated on the local population, it will be well acclimatised to the area. The bees will often be a lot hardier than their domestic forebears. Since only varroa tolerant bees can thrive unaided, they will also have a good measure of varroa resistance.

They live as 'colonies' not 'swarms'.

If they are mean, it's probably the African component.
It could equally be the case that defensiveness is due to a persistent predator in the locality which has been disuaded by a propensity to a strong response. The gentler 'bloodlines' have been eliminated (or reduced as a proportion of the population).

Mike (UK)
 

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I had ferals living in my upstate NY barns for two decades before the winter of 2012-2013. My neighbors also have some in their barns. And other neighbors have them living in bee trees.

Now, I suspect that at least some of these long-standing colonies are not completely continuous, but are actually sequential swarms re-occupying the haunts of former bees.

But there are a surprising number of free-living colonies in my area.

Last spring after after the loss of all the feral colonies in my barns during the previous late winter (I have no idea what happened, they just vanished) three more separate swarms arrived in early June. All three were hived. One, at least, has almost no problem with varroa - and I monitor them more or less constantly. They are all in the same yard, indeed they spent the winter, and still are, slap up against each other. The low-varroa colony has distinct some behavioral differences, too, particularly relating to their unusual activity level in cold weather.

Of course, this is also the hive that two weeks ago I let fall down out of its brood box. Luckily, after an anxious wait, I do see open brood that can only have been laid after I scraped them all back up off my sneakers and reassembled them.

They may, or may not, be "survivor bees" in the common meaning of that term. But they definitely qualify as "survivor bees" simply because they somehow manage to survive their beekeeper's clumsy "care".

Enj.
 

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if they swarm and I put them in a hive they are in my apiarie, if they make it across the road and go in a tree there a feral hive. same bees. just the way I see it.
 

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if they swarm and I put them in a hive they are in my apiarie, if they make it across the road and go in a tree there a feral hive. same bees. just the way I see it.
This is similar to a lot of the comments. "Feral" is "just the way I see it." Seriously folks, words have meanings. If we all make up our own meanings for words, then words mean nothing and we might just as well quit trying to communicate.

Feral means: escaped from domestication, and living in the wild. Honey bees, however, are not actually domesticated. Despite the fact that they live in our boxes, they remain essentially wild. Nor do they change their behavior by living in a tree.
 

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Honey bees, however, are not actually domesticated. Despite the fact that they live in our boxes, they remain essentially wild.
This is where we have to start refining the terms in order to improve our ability to conceive and communicate.

There is a good argument for the position that bees that are dependent on humans are to a qualifying extent 'domesticated'. The outstanding example is treatment dependent bees, but any colonies or 'strains' that are unable to thrive in the locality untouched would fall into this category.

Randy Oliver made good use of this approach in a recent article about keeping bees treatment free.

Nor do they change their behavior by living in a tree.
They may. Freedom to build the sort of comb they want rather than have a uniform cell size forced upon them might make a difference. There may be other critical or minor but contributory factors.

But there is a larger point here. If we think about our bees in terms of the local breeding population, rather than in terms of individual colonies, we can see that over several generations there might be deeply significant changes in behaviours.

We have to think about the fluid flow of genes (and the capacities they govern). In domesticated apiaries we govern that. In feral populations natural selection for the fittest strains governs it. There is something, or things, the ferals are doing better than us, and if we can undersand what that is we can copy it.

All this is true whether they are true natives, or hybrid/mongrel feral populations, or combinations thereof not already covered by those terms.

Mike (UK)
 
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