Hiving Wild Honey Bees

May 11, 2011 · 7 comments

This hollow, rotten hemlock log was trucked into the local log sort yard (a location where logs come in from the forest and are processed for wood pulp or held until they are sold and shipped to a mill) with a hive of bees in it last fall. Our friend Stu got a call from one of the equipment operators at the sort yard to see if he wanted to hive the wild bees, so in February, he picked up the whole log and brought it home to the ranch. Stu fed the bees sugar syrup for the rest of the winter and through our extra wet spring.

When Henry the Husband and I showed up on Monday, bees were entering and exiting from both ends of the log, but the main comb area was not visible or accessible.

Stu suits up.

Bees going about their business before we disturbed their routine.










Smoke masks alarm pheromones and makes bees think their hive is on fire, so they quickly gobble up as much honey as they can carry and are then more docile and less quick to react.

Chainsaw is required.










A section needed to be sawn off the end to gain access to the main comb.









Henry cuts the comb free from an interior knot.

Hive access









Smoking the hive.

Getting a feel for things.








The bees moved into this cavity when the tree was standing. Since then, the log has changed orientation several times, so the bees adapted by changing the orientation of new comb with each move.

New comb perpendicular to old comb

Getting a good grip on it and loosening the comb.






The main chunk of the hive including most of the brood comb came free. It was important to keep the brood comb as intact as possible to promote healthy population growth in the next couple months. In this case, the chunk of comb was too long to fit into a standard bee box.

Stu starts cutting off sections of honeycomb in an effort to shorten the big chunk of hive while Henry checks out what's left in the log.

At this point, finding the queen was the most important task. If she got killed or flew off, the hive would die.







Got her!

Her majesty, the queen

Once the queen was located and safely placed in the box, the main chunk of brood comb went in with her. Lots of bees were  still flying around disoriented, but with the queen inside the box emitting her potent queen pheromones, the rest of the hive would soon join her.







Stu poured a sugar syrup in the box to further entice the bees into their new home.










The hive had quite a bit of honey stored up. Bees will clean out the discarded honeycomb and bring that sustenance back to the hive in the coming days.








Henry enjoys a few bites of honeycomb after getting stung in the face.

Henry had a bee crawl up into his veil and sting him right under the eye (for a couple cringe-inducing photos, see my Flickr page). I didn’t get stung at all, which is kind of amazing because I wasn’t wearing any protective clothing, and I had to stick my camera right in bees’ business to take these photos.

It appeared that the operation was a success. The next couple months will be critical for this hive. If they don’t raise enough brood to boost their population, they will die during the winter. We’ll be checking in on them from time to time, crossing our fingers and doing what we can to help.

Chunks of honeycomb around the new hive box will be quickly cleaned out by worker bees.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda R. June 2, 2011 at 11:22 pm

Wow…totally cool.


Gokul June 14, 2012 at 8:19 am






ogunsanya quadri November 12, 2012 at 5:34 am

Please I want to get started in the business and I need your help in introducing me into it, first how to build the bee box and other required things. Thanks


Alec Alberti November 21, 2013 at 11:34 pm
Elliot April 28, 2014 at 7:43 am

I have found some bees going in and out underground . Is it possible that honey bees can build a comb underground?How can i identify the right


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