This paper covers research during which a large number of feral hives were dissected, described and analyzed. There is a whole lot of interesting information here. This information laid the ground work for Seeley's subsequent research on swarm behaviour. Decades later, this is still the source most people refer to for information regarding bees living on their own in tree cavities.
Some items of interest are cavity diameter and volume, comb width, as well as entrance position and size.
With American beekeepers in particular, the idea of upper entrances for ventilation is very popular. What Dennis observed while using a water feeder inside a hive by placing a plexiglas cover on top of his hive, seems to go against that practice.
He observed that very little condensation occured during the winter. A good deal of condensation did occur during the spring and fall, but the bees quickly made use of this. His feeling was that this saved them the work of collecting water from outside the hive, and provided a needed water source for his bees when an external source was not necessarily available.
Will his ideas work for you in your climate? I don't know, but I do feel the topic of ventialtion and upper entrances probably deserves a little more thought and consideration than most bee books suggest.
This doc offers a quick glimpse into the tradition of collecting honey from Apis Laboriosa the giant bee which live exposed on large combs under over hanging rock on the side of cliffs in Nepal.
Very interesting to get a sense of bee culture in very different circumstances than I'm accostomed to, even if the emphasis seems to be a little to heavy on Jimmy's experience rather than that of Nepal honey hunters.
We fed the bees around 11 times. 1 - 1.5 kg of sugar in a 2:1 syrup solution each time. On October 15 we saw little evidence of capped honey in the upped warré box, and the outer combs appeared as thought they could be empty. The middle frames of the nuc contained reasonably large patches o capped brood. On one of those frames we also found a queen cup containing many eggs and on the following frame we saw the queen. On the 16th, With the cooling tempratures, the bees had not taken down any of the feed we had left them on the 15th. At this point we turned the top feeder into a quilt filled with saw dust.
As there was high amounts of DWV in this yard over the fall, we decided to use an organic mite treatment. As we quickly applied the oxalic acid dribble, we saw a modest, but encouraging number of bees for a colony which has struggled to get going all season. In the warré box we obsevered bees on all but the outer-most combs and in lang nuc adapter box there were two combs of bees. On the other hand, this leaves us concerned that they might not have enough stores for winter despite our efforts to feed them. We added 1.5" spacer box under the quilt and used this space to provide about 2.5 kg of dry sugar on top of newspaper as an emergency food supply.
As it was getting dark and we were cold the previous day, we came back to give the hive tar paper wrap for winter. The high for the day was around 11 degrees celcius and the bees were flying, and to our surprise even bringing back some pollen:
Dave and Jon and both certified master beekeepers. They are from Illinois and Arkansas respectively, so the show offers the perspective of both southern and northern American beekeeping. This podcast is recorded live and the audience is welcome to log in online or phone in with questions.
To get a sense of the style and format have a listen to episode six where they discuss mite management:
A study performed southern tip of Gotland,an island in the Baltic sea where 150 colonies were left unmanaged with varroa mites. After 6 years it appeared that a host-parasite co-adaptation occured with the 5 colonies, plus an addition to 8 swarm colonies that remained.
Due to high mite levels we gave the bees a oxalic acid dribble.
The temprature was around 4 degrees celcius and no bees were flying. We finally saw some honey in the bottom box. The hive wasn't as heavy as it was but still had some weight. Most of the bees seemed to be clustered towards the eastern side of the box, thus the cluster is a little more tall and narrow rather than the ideal fat and round. We did see some small amount of mold on the edges of the top bar cloth above the cluster. This suggested to me that their was a lot of moisture from the feed to evaporate and the insulation from the quilt may not be sufficiently effective at the very edge.
Original discovery of feral bees co-existing with varroa
A 2007 study by Seeley looking at the honeybee population of the feral bee population of the Arnot Forest showed a stable host - parasite relationship with the varroa mite.
An interesting part of this paper is that it describes how survivor bees co-existing with varroa were taken out of the Arnot forest and inoculated with mites from another apiary. As mite growth in inoculated colonies occurred at a level consistent with control colonies, we might guess less virulent mites have evolved in the unmanaged bee population of the Arnot forest.
Genetic analysis of the Arnot forest survivor bees
In 2015 Alexander S. Mikheyev, Mandy M.Y. Tin, Jatin Arora & Thomas D. Seeley published a study showing that the mite resistant bees living in the Arnot forest are genetically distinct from the bees in the nearby apiaries. They also compared genes of current bees with museum sample of Arnot forest bees from the 1970's. This comparison shows there was likely a genetic bottle neck, and Arnot forest bees have evolved distinct traits as compared to the bees living in the forest prior to varroa. It also suggests that some influx of some amount of new genetics has occurred in the population, including those associated with africanized bees.
The box we had moved to the top last time still only contained a few combs and a small amount of nectar. So we moved it back to the bottom, thinking the bees will move the nectar up and we will be able to remove this box in the future.
The bottom box was found empty and removed. The queen was spotted laying on the eastern edge of the top box. Looking at her gave me little doubt she is the same queen we saw in the spring and that no supercedure had taken place.
As the hive was too light for winter we began feeding. 4kg of sugar in a 2:1 syrup mix was given on each of the following days: Sept. 29, Oct. 3 and Oct. 5. On Oct. 5 there were still no signs of capped honey in the bottom box. By Oct. 10th they had only finished about half of the syrup provided during the last visit and I replaced it with another 2kg. By October 12 bees could still be seen drinking from the feeder but almost all of it was still there. The feeder was removed. The hive had gained a reasonable weight by this time, and the smell of ripening honey was present at the entrance. We added an entrance reducer.