honey bee management photographs

Recooping the bees

A few weeks ago, George Kelley, a Washington beekeeper, was called to look at a derelict chicken coop containing a large colony of honey bees. The coop had just lost a wall and the owner was afraid the bees would die. George went in, removed the hive, and installed the bees in their own hive. He sent along these interesting pics:


This is the side of the coop with the hive entrance. You can see a few bees in flight. © George Kelley


I like this photo because it clearly shows building down, not up. Here, the comb is attached at the top, and the bees added more comb wherever they found some space. © George Kelley.


The bees, now in their own coop, are being fed in preparation for winter. ©George Kelley.


  • Hi Rusty,

    One of your posts is Never Trust a Queen. Let me tell a tale of trusting a queen. Last winter I lost all 3 of my colonies. Dunno why. Few dead bees and lots of honey left. I ordered 2 packages of New World Carnies and installed one in a Warre’ and the other in a Lang. After shaking the girls into the Lang, I left the queen cage for 2 days then went to release her. In the past, I had queen cages that had a cork and candy. Not this time! I removed the cork, no candy and the queen flew away. . . . So I looked for a new queen and ordered one.

    A few weeks later there were lots of bees flying around the cage so I looked. Beautiful EGGS in cells! Order cancelled. She somehow returned! The colony is thriving since.

    • Tom,

      That’s a great story! I had one do something similar this spring. When I went to release her from the cage, she flew off. I stood there by the hive, mortified, trying to decide what to do when she slowly flew right over the top bars . . . all I saw was this red dot wafting by. Instantly, I batted her with my hand down into the bars. I checked later in the week and she in there laying, none the worse for having been used like a volleyball.

      By the way, a “few dead bees and lots of honey left” is often a sign of varroa mites. Maybe you should review your mite management.

  • One of the few wild bees that survived. They are keepers for sure. The owner of the coop did a good thing calling a beekeeper and not destroying the colony.

    Last year I did a home inspection for a potential buyer. I discovered a patch in the wall of the structure.

    It turns out it was a bee hive. The owner called a pest control expert and that company destroyed the bees. What a shame.

  • When people re-coop bees from undesirable places like this to a hive, is there any value in trying to transplant some of their comb into the hive with them? Or do they build out new comb quick enough that it’s not really necessary?

    I suspect the short answer is “it depends.” What’s a longer answer?

    • Chris,

      Yes, there’s much value in saving comb, brood, honey, pollen . . . whatever you can salvage, especially going into winter.

  • I would like to know more about how he got the bees into the hive. Did he have drawn comb on frames for them? just bare frames? did he include some of their comb????

    I have a top-bar hive that I really don’t like, and would like to just move my bees out of there to Langs. Any ideas would be appreciated.


    • Lyn,

      Perhaps George can answer this, but when I install comb into a hive, I cut the combs to the proper size and then tie them into the frames with string. Just wrap the string around the frame to make a sort of cage for the comb. It’s loose and inelegant, but in a few days the bees attach the comb to the frame and eat away the string. It works like magic.

  • I love the comb pictures. You can see how big the broodnest got in the summer (the darker capped comb) and how the broodnest got pushed down with the flow.

    Thank you for sharing!


  • I can’t take all the credit! My uncle, Terry Felton is my mentor, and shared in the work. We cut the comb as best we could to fit into frames, then tied them in with string. So far the hive is doing well, but I know I’ll probably have to feed over the winter. I’m hoping they are strong enough to winter.

  • I have some pictures from a similar experience, ours didn’t end so well as the colony didn’t survive much after the move. By the time we were called in the hive had already been sprayed with bug killer and was weakened from the poison. I could email you some photos if you like??

  • I use rubber bands to hold salvaged comb in frames. In preparation, I stretch 4-6 bands onto the end of each empty frame, and put them in a hive body. As I cut the comb and put it in the frame, I slide a rubber band over it to hold it in place. Later, when I inspect the hive, if the comb is attached I remove the bands. Although the bees will eventually remove them .

    • Dave,

      This sounds like an efficient system; much easier than messing with stings and knives out in the field. Thank you!

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