The Honey Bee Tree: A Bee Home for 20 Years

By Kent Fenley, Beekeeper, Indiana

Twenty years ago at the least, I discovered a honeybee tree on the west end of a wooded lot while riding on a wagon bailing hay. It was my job along with my brother’s to stack the bales of hay on a wagon as our father slowly bailed hay. Standing on the slow-moving wagon, maybe three feet off the ground, put me in the flight path of bees as they cleared the tall horse weeds. My brother and I would start to swing our arms up and down to dislodge any bees that would want to attack, a tactic learned from tormenting the bumblebees that nested anywhere they pleased.

My grandfather tended honeybees, but had to give it up because my grandmother and his son (my father) were allergic. As a child I played with the old smoker in the farm shop and asked a lot of questions as to what it was used for. Nowadays my father doesn’t get out of the house much and I wanted to start tending bees as a hobby for some time.

My good friend Jack Hawkins motivated me to buy some hives and equipment from Walter T .Kelly Company and catch some bees that I believe came from that old tree. This new hive took up residence in the wall of an old garage we wanted to tear down. I assembled two Kelley’s Kentucky Special Hives and painted them white.

I stuck one in front of the entrance to the hive in the garage wall and I made a tube with PVC pipe duct tape and screen wire to force the bees to enter and exit on the new hive. Fortunately the 90° temperatures made the wall so hot and reducing the air flow with my tube forced the bees out and into my new hive. This occurred in July; I then started to feed sugar water to the bees to make up for this act of meanness inflicted on them. I had two feeders and kept them full until they stopped using the sugar water in late September early October.

I moved the new hive away from the old garage and my brother demolished the garage. A few diehard bees refused to move, these bees just hung out where the old hive had been, I think maybe they were drones because they didn’t do one thing.

I want to learn more about bees so I have been reading the newsletters produced by The Walter T. Kelly Company. I learned that starting a hive of bees in July is a little too late for the bees to get established and honey stored for the winter. My fingers are crossed for their survival; the bees come from a hardy stock that has survived for more than twenty years. I still worry and hope they survive for another year, I did tape the joints of their new home and hope that will help reduce wind chill on the hive. Next year I plan to set the second new hive close to the old bee tree and get any new swarms that may come from that old tree.

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