I rescued these bees with a friend of mine from the panelling of a wall in a social club that was going be demolished, on April 10th, 2016. It was a cold day and a bit drizzly, and the location of the colony was near the car park for a popular bridleway/public footpath, and it was Easter Monday, so plenty of intrigued onlookers.
We cut the combs out with an old knife, and in haste, we put them (in no particular order) in to a brood box so we could get them away from the location as quickly as possible. Neither of us expected the bees to survive after their ordeal, but when I checked them about 3 weeks later, I was surprised and relieved to see that they appeared to have reconstructed the disarray of combs in to some sort of order, and they seemed to be remarkably contented and working quietly round the combs:
You can see where they’ve attached the combs to each other and there is no exposed brood. You can also see the paler combs which have had honey in them, and the darker patches which will have been for brood. There were a good number of bees, so I slotted some drawn brood frames in front of the mass of combs to give them something to work on.
This is what I found when I checked them on 17th May, so a couple of weeks later:
You can see that the bees have built a new tongue of pale wax in front of the brood frame in the left-hand picture, and that they are storing nectar in the cells in the photo on the right. There were a lot more bees too, so clearly brood was hatching, and the calm demeanour of the colony substantiated the presence of a strong queen.
This hive now has two supers, and the bees are probably the most active colony I have. I can’t check the bottom box of course, but the supers have regular frames (with bee-built comb) so they can be removed and the general state of the colony checked and honey taken off if appropriate.
Here they are on the 20th Jan this year:
They have also taken advantage of a loose connection in a super, to give themselves another entrance. They are tremendously keen to propolise, and have stuck everything that they can. You can’t really see in the photo below, but the entrance is reduced to a bee-sized hole with a plug of propolis, as is their front entrance – the block for which is a piece of broken fence panel I found near the hive when we set them down.
I think these managed feral colonies are interesting as they occupy the middle ground, and being able to see how they fare in these hybrid situations is a useful exercise.