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Beekeeping: tracking where honey bees are coming from

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Gazoodles
Iowa Park, TX
(Zone 7b)

December 21, 2010
1:03 PM

Post #8271029

I have a question about finding out where honey bees are coming from (and going.) Even though it is December and we have had many freezes (so there are no flowers at this time) we still have honey bees (a LOT of them) coming to our back porch where I have been putting out food for them since they started hanging around right after the first hard freeze. They have gone through a whole big jar of honey (I mixed some with warm water each day so they could drink it and fly home.) And now they are happily drinking apple juice and sugar water. We are curious about where they live since we have not been able to find anyone in our community that keep bees. My daughter came across an old tree trunk along a bike trail over five miles from here that has a bee colony in it. The tree has broken in such a way that the hive is exposed. (rain could get in) So we are wondering if the bees coming to our house are from that hive. (Has anyone ever tried to put a cover/lid over a bee colony in an old tree trunk - or will they be just fine the way it is?)
On another thread I was told that some people put a little colored chalk on the bees and try to locate the hive that way. Have any of you ever done this (successfully)? If so, do you put the chalk on the bee behind her head or try to get it on the body under the wings?
boxcar_grower
South Hadley, MA
(Zone 6a)

December 24, 2010
8:19 AM

Post #8275028

In Texas you in a mild climate. Feral colonies can survive much more redily there compared to Massachusetts, where I live. I have 6 hives and 4 more coming in the spring.

Bees can fly UP TO five miles from the hive to forage but is not common. They usually max between 1.5 and 2 miles. Any further than that it is counter productive for the bees. Alot of energy to get there and alot of energy to get back.

You could have a feral colony close by that is feeding. There could be a local beekeeper that you have not yet learned about with hives close.

That feral colony in the tree...I would just leave it be. In your part of the world it could be aficanized and you dont want to mess with that if you are not familiar with bees. Bees are wonderful insect but demand respect. Even gentle european honeybees are not for people who are not familiar with bees.
realbirdlady
Austin, TX
(Zone 8b)

December 24, 2010
9:37 AM

Post #8275198

lordy, Texas is a big state, some of the climate mild, some not so much.

Folks mark the queen, to make her easier to find in the hive. And naturalist types marks all sorts of things for various research reasons. So yeah, it's doable. There are actually special bee markers these days. But I guess I'm not following how that could help you locate a hive, only identify if a hive you already knew about was home to "your" bees. If you want to try that, there are some videos that might be the easiest way to learn the technique. You don't want to clog up the wings, and you probably don't want to handle the bee enough that it smells funny and the other bees drive it out.

If your daughter is really into bees (or bugs in general or hollow logs or etc) you might contact Rolling Plains Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists. Those folks know everything, and are usually pretty enthused about sharing it with kids (and their parents).

It might be fun to plan some bee-friendly plants for the spring. I'd guess since they're in the habit of coming to your house for honey water, they'd keep coming even as things start to bloom.


Have fun and be safe! Let us know what yall learn.
Gazoodles
Iowa Park, TX
(Zone 7b)

December 27, 2010
11:19 AM

Post #8278968

Thanks for the replies and info Boxcar and Realbird. Okay we are not going to try to help the wild bees in the log -just let nature take it's course. And I'll keep my eyes and ears open to find out who around here has bees. Maybe one day we will try beekeeping (I have much to learn about it though.) We need them for pollinating the fruit trees and garden so I'm not all that interested in the honey side of it.
Thanks again for your help!
kwwinken
Hodgen, OK
(Zone 6a)

January 6, 2011
8:32 PM

Post #8296471

With an eagle eye and some time here is how the old timers find the hive. Basically you watch the bees and try to determine from what direction they are coming from or going to. Once you determine the direction, stop feeding the bees at this location. Now take a pan with sugar water and march about 100 yards or so in the direction the bees travel. wait a day or two and repeat. Each time look around to see if the hive is near.
Now I would wait until after dark to remove a pan where the bees have been feeding, less likely to get stung.
Gazoodles
Iowa Park, TX
(Zone 7b)

January 8, 2011
12:39 AM

Post #8298430

That sounds like a good idea, kw, but the problem is that there are people and horse pastures around my house and they might not like me doing that. We are still feeding the bees (they are still coming everyday to be fed when the sun is up long enough to warm the day.) We have gone through more than a gallon of apple juice and about 3lbs of sugar. Which is okay because I am just happy to have bees living nearby somewhere. Can't help but be curious about where they are going when they leave my back porch, though. We have a cold front on the way which may bring snow so they will probably not come till that weather is gone.

Thank you for your input, kw. Have a wonderful new year/2011.

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Other Beekeeping Threads you might be interested in:

SubjectThread StarterRepliesLast Post
To catch a honey bee... WUVIE 10 Mar 25, 2007 11:18 PM
Dead Bees countryfarms 17 Oct 7, 2010 11:42 AM
New Beekeepers SwarmCatcher 10 Sep 12, 2009 3:51 PM
Bee sting - bee stinger mygardens 27 Nov 12, 2008 4:04 PM
Bees in the ground starlight1153 45 Sep 9, 2009 9:54 PM


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