Re-Homing a Bee Hive Gone Feral

Today I got a message about a “feral” bee hive from a former resident at a nearby property. They are moving cross country and it is obviously not practical to move the hive with them, and they are concerned that the hive get a good home. Turns out this is basically an 8-frame Langstroth hive that has been left to its own devices.

When I arrived it was leaning perilously to one side and bees were coming and going from various gaps between the supers (boxes) that have shifted so that they no longer lined up. I was really worried that one good nudge or heavy wind and it might have fallen over. This had also allowed a large number of ants to access the hive.

Despite all that, the colony looked healthy with a large population, young bees performing orienting flights and foragers regularly arriving with heavily-laden pollen sacks.

When I opened the hive I got a little surprise. The supers (boxes) lacked frames inside and the bees had build the comb “wild”. I found brood but was too worried about causing damage to look for the queen, but I’m confident she was in there given the other signs. Additionally, I was concerned about the stability of the supers themselves; a little rot and the dovetails are separating and flexing when handled. If I tried to transport this in its current state, there is a good chance it would break apart or collapse.

Best I could do for now was level the hive, re-align the boxes, trim the propolis (to encourage them to seal the hive properly), and deter the ants from accessing the hive as best I could.

My plan is to come back with some lumber, electric saw & drill, and build a structure around the supers to support and seal it for transport. Hopefully very early one morning this coming weekend, before too many bees are out foraging.

Followup 2021-03-07

Went back this morning at dusk on a cool morning, and secured the old hive body. It creaked and flexed, but stayed together until I got it home. Transferred them to a fresh, clean 10-frame hive, with some starter foundation and Spring feed to encourage them to stick around.

Didn’t see as much brood as I’d have liked, and had to remove some of the wild comb that showed signs of pests. Once they’re settled, they may need a mild treatment. Probably won’t harvest anything from this hive this year unless they look very strong in the Summer.

Dear Community

It is with deep regrets and sadness that I must announce there will be no honey harvest this year. The usual challenges of beekeeping, coupled with the increasingly erratic climate since Winter have been really hard on the hives this year and there will not be a harvest-able surplus. Thank you for all your support in the past, we hope to be able to bounce back next season.