Finding Feral Bees

You have just gotten your bees, either in the mail or you have gone and picked them up in person. Now what do you do? Covers from installation in your hive until the end of the first winter and the first blooms of spring.
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hsilgnede_bee
Freshman Beekeeper
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Joined: Sun Nov 29, 2015 8:16 pm
Location: West of Ireland

Finding Feral Bees

Postby hsilgnede_bee » Tue Jan 05, 2016 3:50 pm

Whats the best way to determine if there are feral bees in my area?

I've never seen a swarm. Naturally, I see bees during the season in my garden and the surrounding area, but short of following one for a few hours and trespassing across other peoples property there's no good way to know where its hive is.

My area is dairy grassland with hedgerows, some of which have decent sized trees in them. Picture below is taken from my back window and is typical of the surrounding area in all directions for a few miles. There is a small patch of woodland about a mile away as the bee flies. And I live about 700 meters from the River Shannon which, near where I am is, a fairly wide slow moving river with lots of tree's along the banks. I am aware of one small scale backyard beekeeper about two miles away, there may be others. I'm sure he's doing his best to catch his own swarms or prevent them.

My reason for asking is that I'm trying to determine what my realistic chances of catching a swarm are. Its looking unlikely that I will get treatment free bees from anyone in Ireland that supplies bees. I MAY be able to get a swarm from an apiary about 60 miles away which has a mix of treated and partially treated hives. By partially treated I mean organic type treatments and sugar dusting. And there's the added complication that I'm going with top bars which means transferring a nuc from a British National/Standard setup, to a top bar. I know it can be done but it adds complexity and cost that I'd rather avoid, especially for bees that aren't what I want as they will probably be treated Itallian's.

So before I order the bee's I don't really want, I'd like to establish if there are ferals in my area and whether I'm likely to be able to catch one of them when they swarm.

Many thanks.
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Mycroft Jones
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Location: Surrey

Re: Finding Feral Bees

Postby Mycroft Jones » Tue Jan 05, 2016 9:15 pm

I think for most of us, the only thing we can do is set up a dozen swarm traps and find out. That's what I'm doing this spring.

With one sheet of plywood, and 3 sticks of 2x6 (8 foot) lumber, you can build 4 sturdy swarm traps exactly the size that the bees love, 40 litres. In Ireland, that should run you 30 euros.

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trekmate
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Location: UK, NW England
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Re: Finding Feral Bees

Postby trekmate » Wed Jan 06, 2016 9:13 am

If you are seeing honeybees in your garden I'd try swarm traps/bait hives.

To try and locate where those bees are coming from, have a go at beelining. Have a look at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJ7eqau_q5E for a description and method. The triangulation method (two bait stations a few hundred yards apart, plot directions on a large scale map) is quickest, but either way is a fun way to spend an afternoon.

This may lead you to your neighbours hives..... :roll:

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hsilgnede_bee
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Joined: Sun Nov 29, 2015 8:16 pm
Location: West of Ireland

Re: Finding Feral Bees

Postby hsilgnede_bee » Wed Jan 06, 2016 10:24 am

Thanks lads.

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Michael Bush
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Re: Finding Feral Bees

Postby Michael Bush » Wed Jan 06, 2016 1:13 pm

This article by Wenner has the formula to calculate distance by timing the return of the forager:

http://www.beesource.com/point-of-view/ ... -colonies/

"Marking and Timing Bees – Once round trips have become routine for a few bees, individuals must be distinguished from one another to obtain round trip times. Water foragers often settle on the same spot each time they return for a load, permitting timing of flights without a need to mark individuals. After several trips, foragers visiting sugar solution or diluted honey can be marked with paint (model airplane enamel, in our case), colored dust (as Columella used), or even cooking lime (as used by Mexican cowboys: C. H. Muller, personal communication). That is because nectar foragers may alight anywhere at a dish where there is room. If one anaesthetizes foragers, numbered disks or Christmas-tree tinsel can be glued in place.

"With foragers now recognizable as individuals, the time of arrival of each marked bee is tallied (one needs no more than 10 round trips per bee), while recording at the same time the homeward bearing of marked individuals. One normally needs at least three (but no more than six) bees coming from each colony to counter error due to between-bee variation. The third or fourth shortest time for each bee (rather than the mean or median time) provides a usable estimate of round trip time (Figure 1). The median time for several such estimates usually fit our formula closely (see below), but times were shorter than normal for the Frazer Point colony due to exceptionally light winds all day (see Wenner 1963.)

"Interpreting Round Trip Time Data – Earlier accounts ranged from vague statements about colony distance (e.g. Edgell 1949:20) to more specific flight time equivalents (e.g. Donovan 1980:85). Such accounts are not particularly helpful; during field work we use a simple formula: x = 150y – 500 (straight line in Figure 1). That is, to estimate distance (x = meters or yards) to each colony, we multiply complete round trip time (y = time between arrivals) by 150 and subtract 500 from the result. (The constant value of 500 represents the time spent filling at the station and unloading in the colony – see Wenner 1963). Error can be considerable, because several bees (marked and unmarked) can be landing and departing each minute, markings are not always clearly distinguishable, some individual foragers are not consistent, wind (as well as uphill or downwind flight paths) alters time, and foragers from more than one colony can be traveling to the feeding station."--Adrian M. Wenner, Efficient Hunting of Feral Colonies
"Everything works if you let it"--James "Big Boy" Medlin
http://www.bushfarms.com/bees.htm

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hsilgnede_bee
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Location: West of Ireland

Re: Finding Feral Bees

Postby hsilgnede_bee » Wed Jan 06, 2016 5:00 pm

Thanks Michael, that's really interesting. It sounds like it could work well on a fine afternoon in early spring where there's going to be little in the way of forage, but plenty of bee's out looking for forage as their winter supplies run low. And if done in early spring it gives the added advantage of having a few weeks to build and site swarm traps for when the colonies do swarm.

Its interesting that they come back to the exact same spot when they are drawing water. I wonder why that is. I guess they feel safe there having done it once successfully. I also wonder why there isn't a predator that's evolved to take advantage of this behavior. Maybe there are species of birds that know if they wait around, the bee the saw will come back and they can catch it.


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