While hunting in upstate New York last fall, my dogs and I came across a feral bee hive. First one I ever saw, so we all watched as the bees did their thing. The hive was built in a bush approximately four feet off the ground and because of the weight it had tipped over exposing the bottom to the weather. We left, but on the way home as I thought about it, I knew the hive was doomed. I got home and knowing nothing about bees, started to read about them and decided I would try to save the hive. And so It began. I built a top bar hive and as the fall continued, I monitored the hive to see how it was doing. I brought my clippers and would occasionally remove a branch here and there as the bees let me.
The first time I tried to gather them ( I had brought an ice chest for the purpose) it was too warm and the bees became very agitated, so I left them alone. A cold day would be better. That day came on Nov. 10, it was 26 degrees, so a little after dawn I trekked back in with clippers and ice chest. I removed the lower branches and slid the chest under it. No bees so far. I clipped the remaining branches and lowered the nest into the chest. The bees remained friendly, so I brushed the ones crawling around into the chest and closed the lid. Home we went.
I had ordered a bee suit so when it arrived it was time to transfer the bees to their new home. I had occasionally opened the chest to let out moisture and feed the bees some honey and the few that flew out disappeared into the back yard never to return, so I knew that doing the transfer outside would not work. I built a fire in the woodstove in the garage and brought the chest in and opened it. No problem so far. My intent was to free the hive from the branches, attach the combs to the top bars, and wah-lah, a new home for my new bee friends. Not. While trying to move the hive from the chest, the bees came out in droves, filling the garage with flying insects ( I should say friendly insects because the did not attack). Plan A was out of the question, so I just installed everything into the hive as was, branches and all, and would take care of it in the spring if they survive. Probably a good decision as I read more and more. I had to modify the comb to get it to fit, but it was so empty I just cut away the empty cells. The whole thing only weighed 7-8 lbs. I placed the hive in the new home and waited. Most of the bees went back to the hive, some landed here and there, and quite a bunch landed on the windows, being cold, they bunched together for warmth. So I got my spatula out and carefully picked them up and put them back in the hive. Believe it or not, after about an hour, they were all back in, including two that didn’t seem to want to go.
Probably not a good idea, but as the weeks went on, I would occasionally look in to see if they were eating the food and pollen that I purchased for them, they were. We had a terrible blizzard with 50 mph winds and 2 feet of snow on the 26th of Dec, so yesterday, New Years Day, I trudged back to them and see how they were doing. What a surprise, I guess they wanted to celebrate the New Year because they were out and having a great time.