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I live on a farm with an old barn.
Last summer I noticed a lot of bees getting water from a fountain we installed.
I followed them to the north wall of the barn where they were flying in & out thru a gap between barn boards.
I did not check the hive but have hopes they are honey bees.
Hi Paul. Honeybees will only nest in a cavity, so if they are living in the chaff or in the straw, it is likely not honeybees. They need a cavity at least as big as a football (better if it is basketball sized) so that the mass of bees can keep warm in the winter. The queen is kept at almost human body temperature all winter, and small holes do not allow enough room for that. If they are nesting in the wall and there is adouble wall, then they could be honeybees. If you are thinking of getting them, remember that the queen cannot fly, and without her all you have are short-lived bees. To remove her you would likely have to tear out one side of the wall in the spring. Doing it now would certainly kill the hive.
If you are quite sure they are honeybees, there is a chance that the will perish in the winter. If no bees are flying in and out next spring, and they were honeybees, then you should open the wall and take out the comb. The presence of honey and the likelyhood that there are grubs in there will attract robbers of various kinds. Rhodents, insects and such.
My guess would be something from the yellow jacket/paper wasp family from your description. In which case - keep your distance. They can become very angy & aggressive in a heartbeat if you come too close.
cukoo, they rotate inward. On warm enough days, the bees go to the honey and tank up. Then they cluster. As the outside cools, they burrow inward. Starvation is not uncommon in the northern areas if the number of days that are very cold don't allow for the bees to forage. The result is that one finds dead bees in the hive and a super of honey located just a bit too far for them to get. Of course there are the times when people take too much of the honey and don't feed, and the bees starve. In this case, you find clean combs and dead bees.
And then there are the times when the hive is "visited" by mites. This make the hive too weak to withstand the rigors of winter. The ball of bees dwindles to the point that they cannot maintain the temp and they all die. In this case one finds a tiny bunch of bees and lots of honey in the frames next door.
Bees that hatch in August can make it to March around here, but bees that hatch in April don't get to see June, they are literally worked to death so that the hive as a whole can survive. Bees hatched in the fall don't get to forage much, so they get to do winter. Adult bees eat only honey, and pre-adult bees (larvae) only eat pollen.
I live in Newport News, VA and would like a hive of honey bees in our back garden.
We have a secluded spot, formerly called The Secret Place, that was beloved of our grandchildren when they were small. It is surrounded by high azaleas (taller than I am and I am 5'9") abelias and a giant viburnum. There is a cement block patio in the center where the children used to have a small table and chairs. They could see out but we couldn't see in.
Would this area be suitable for a hive? I would not want to disturb the bees and have them come after me. I really just want the bees for pollination, etc. Since the plague that nearly wiped out the honey bees came I rarely see a honey bee. If I do I feel like it is a great occasion. All the pollination here is done by various flies, insects and other bees.
The garden is a certified wildlife habitat since 1988 and abounds in birds. The wild animals have all gone because the areas around us have been developed. There is no grass just paths winding through shrubs, a shade garden, a fernery and a vegetable garden. There is a hydrangea walk down one side of the house.
Would putting a hive in be a safe thing to do? I wish I could find a apiarist who would place a hive there and maintain it. He could have the honey. What do you think?
I think you should look into mason bees. They do a fabulous job of pollinating, are inexpensive, a breeze to 'maintain,' and do not sting.
Honeybees are much more work and a lot more expense. Before putting in a hive I would suggest doing some reading. I was considering putting in hives and spent at least a year reading books on the subject. I got them from the library.
Plus, if you make your own, you have to have the holes drilled the exact right size or the bees won't nest in them. We just got the can with the paper tubes and used that rather than buying the wooden thing with the holes drilled in. Easier to maintain over the years.
For Paul1951 I live in Australia and do not know much about your seasons etc. regarding bees, but I think Penn_Pete has given you a wrong impression as to Queens being able to fly. They are very capable flyers will take a flight occasionly. They actually mate whilst in the air. If they are honey bees and you would like to have them in a hive, then you could get a small hive and frames together with some foundation. Foundation is wax that has been formed to the shape of the bottom of a comb. The bees build up the foundation into combs for the honey. This material can be purchased at a local apiarists supplier. (He will also give you advice on any aspect of beekeeping).
Place any boxes or framework near the entrance to their hive (The barn where they are entering it).
Drill a 1 inch hole at the rear of your purchased hive, and place it close to the barn.
Using flywire mesh make a tube between the barn entrance and the 1 inch hole in the purched hive. This will force the bees to go through your hive in order to access the barn.
It won't be long before the bees, queen and all take up residence in the bought hive.
You can then move them to your desired location, but it is a slow process because you can only move them a few feet every week or so.
Penn_Pete was correct about the bees forming a ball and constantly rotating to the centre and back again. The queen is always in the centre of the ball.