Open-air colonies seem to be everywhere these days. The bees living in this particular colony, hanging from a large oak in northeastern Oklahoma, have a history of dwelling in trees.
Both the new colony and the parent colony belong to Lorieann Bradley of Kellyville, Oklahoma. The parent colony has lived for many years in the hollow of an oak tree on one side of her pasture. On June 12, Lorieann looked up to see a large swarm hanging from the limb of an oak tree on the opposite side of the pasture. The swarm was about 300 yards from the original colony and positioned high above her chicken coops.
“I hoped it was just resting while the scouts looked for a suitable place for their new home,” she said. But “now there is a large open-air colony established on the branch!”
So far, the colony is doing great. “We have had several storms roll through with very high, 50-60 mph, winds. I checked on the colony this morning, and it seems they weathered the storms just fine.”
Preparing the colony for winter
Lorieann is now considering whether to cover the colony for winter or move it to a new location. Unfortunately, the combs are about 20 feet in the air and a fair distance from the trunk. She wonders how much weight the limb can handle, especially if she adds a canvas cover.
“The last few winters have not been too bad,” she said. “Some freezing temperatures, thin ice on the ponds, maybe an ice storm, and then it warms up to the 50s and 60s. Kind of crazy!”
The pictures below show the original colony which still lives in a tree hollow, the swarm, and the open-air combs. Lorieann is looking into options and promises to let us know what she ends up doing for the bees.
The big surprise
For me, the most interesting part of this story is that Lorieann is not a beekeeper. I was amazed by this because she wrote her questions and explanations with more nuanced understanding of honey bees than most of the questions I get from established beekeepers. She should definitely join the fold.
In the meantime, I know she is looking for advice and suggestions on how to protect this new colony, so anyone with experience or good ideas should chime in.
Honey Bee Suite