Feral Hives




A Feral Hive is any hive that is not managed by a beekeeper.

This is my definition. There might be a better one somewhere, but I like mine for now.
Swarm Traps can catch swarms with little effort.

Anyway, feral hives might be a hive that swarmed out of a beekeepers hive last year, or a hive that is hundreds of swarms removed from a beekeeper’s hive 200 years ago.  You just don’t know. Sometimes you can tell it is completely feral if the bees build brood comb 4.7 mm. My best feral hive is 5.1 mm so I think it is a few removed from a beekeepers hive.


The big deal is in the survivor genes. If the hive has survived in the wild for several years and many generations of swarming, then there is a very good chance it has the genetics to fight small hive beetle, varroa mites, and foulbrood. This is why it is good to bring these ferals into your apiary.


The downside might be a bad temper if they have a bit too much Africanization. Don’t tolerate mean bees, requeen and move on with life.  But don’t tolerate having to treat you bees, either. Keep fresh genetics coming in with feral swarms, typically from swarm traps.


Bottom line, bring feral swarms into your apiary will improve your beekeeping by adding survivor genetic stock and improve your apiaries resistance to disease.

5 Responses to “Feral Hives”

  1. John says:

    Well, awaiting the arrival of feral bees. A coworker has a bird bath frequnted by honeybees from hives on two sides of her home. Weather is right and deployed two swarm boxes built to specifications listed on your YT videos. They are scented with lemongrass oil and set up with topbars with string and beeswax. She called to let me know of activity around the boxes on 4/3, only a day after deployment, but when I went by today 4/4. I saw nothing. I’ll keep my fingers crossed….

  2. John says:

    Well thet aren’t exactly feral are they…..

  3. Jason Bruns says:

    MT, how do YOU classify bad tempered?

    All of my “feral-gotten” hives are less tolerant of me than the few that are left from boughten sources. They are more likely to bounce off the front of my veil anyway in the event that I get into a hive. Also windy days are not good for mowing around my hives. I always wear protective clothing when working with them. I highly doubt that I have African genetics here.

    So how “mean” would they need to be before YOU set to queen killing? Or what behavior would you recognize to indicate that requeening is needed?

    I don’t want to do too much queen killing because the queens that are making it through the winter here are feral. Varroa seem to be killing the boughten hives at a much greater rate than my feral stock. I fear the varroa right now more than my feral bees.


  4. mccartney says:

    When they become unworkable or outright unpleasant. My acid test is if I can’t work them bare handed. If they sting my hands each inspection without cause, that queen has to go. Vicious hives exist without being Africanized. German black bees are notorious for their temper, and they were released in the US in the 1600’s.

  5. Cary Voss says:

    I plan to go all feral. No reason to spend cash on potentionally genetically inferior stock. Fortunately I have access to lots of land, in town an out, to set traps. I have also found several hives that have been in situ for years, so have some “honey holes” to set some traps. None of them would offer easy cutouts, so hope to catch their castoffs. Thanks again for your book!


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