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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi - I'm from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I'm a gardener who's always been interested in beekeeping but I've never done it. There are beekeepers around the area though I don't know them. This past summer I had a lot more flowers and veggies than usual growing- a lot of sunflowers. Honeybees from someone's hives were all over them, and I enjoyed watching them.

I just noticed today that some honeybees have set up a hive in a stack of upturned landscape barrels near my toolshed. They are definitely honeybees- the same kind that were around all summer. It's a warm Thanksgiving day today, and they're busy flying in and out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the barrels.

I want to make sure they'll be safe there over the winter. Is there anything I should do for them? I do not want to disturb them going into winter.

My idea is to help them get through the winter, and get to know some local beekeepers who can transfer them into a hive for me in the spring. I could maybe make a deal whereby the experienced beekeeper could tend my hive next year and teach me, in exchange for the honey.
 

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For their safety, I would not bother them at all. This is my first season as a beekeeper and with only one hive so far but one thing I learned from all of this is that the honeybees take good care of themselves and know what they are doing better than people. They will control the temperature and humidity in that chosen swarm site they have chosen. Their scout bees liked what they found and the rest of the colony agreed so now they are well on their way of making it a comfortable home for the winter. If you plan on having a beekeeper coming in the Spring to transfer them into your own new hive, best to get your equipment now so that you have time to nail and glue it altogether and painted before Spring when you will need to have your hive well thought out and in place where it is best for the bees.
I am trying to get my head around all the wonderful plants that they like so that I can put in a food plot just for them. Think I will try some of those Purple Hyssops and Maximillion Sunflowers. I have a mentor that gave me a bunch of Buckwheat seeds to plant also. I do not have a green thumb so I hope it works.
I am very new to the forum also Sky but welcome. Good to have you on board.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you, Wil.
I was reading about it online last night. By their appearance and behavior they seem to be carniolan bees, which apparently are more inclined to strike out new hives than other breeds, even late in the season. I am worried though- from what I've read, this might have happened due to a crisis in their old hive and they may have had no choice but to move. It's a dangerous time of year for them to be doing this. I never saw a swarm, just about a dozen bees flying in and out of the drainage holes in the barrels yesterday (It was a sunny, mild day). The barrels, btw, are big plastic plant barrels I got from an old tree farm- an upended stack of three (a perfect bee skep, though I'd never thought of it like that before). I moved those barrels there in September and this is the first time I've seen the bees. They may have been just curious scouts out flying around on a sunny afternoon that haven't actually moved a queen in yet- I really can't tell.
Thanks for the advice about getting a hive and equipment early- I'll do that. Maybe some bees will move into it on their own!
As for flowers, I can speak with some experience. Bees are crazy for sunflowers, cosmos and any kind of mint. Last summer those honeybees were especially fond of the sunflowers- they were on them sunrise to dusk, several bees on every flower all the time.Cosmos are popular too- and they continue to bloom well into the fall. I also have a lot of native goldenrod and aster. They'd like the hyssop too. Growing sunflowers has some challenges, though. The plants themselves are easy to grow, but the birds and chipmunks will eat the seeds and the chipmunks nip off the young plants. The plants aren't really safe until the stems start to get hairy and thick (at least a foot high). To overcome this, I start many packets of seeds in flats and keep them covered with floating row cover. Then I plant them out in the garden and spray the plants regularly with a mix of water, dish soap and cayenne pepper to disguise the scent. That seems to help a bit, but the chipmunks still get their share- less than half the plants survived. The results are well worth the effort though.
 

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Thank you sky, I have heard the name Cosmos several times but forgot what I have heard so now that I know,I will be ordering some seeds. That is interesting about the sunflowers and I will surely have a talk with all my chipmunks on the farm here.;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Cosmos is very easy to grow- toss the seeds around and they'll practically take care of themselves. They're very pretty- always a light and feathery appearance. Be warned though- some varieties get extremely tall - over six feet. Don't bother to stake them though- they'll wave and flop around in the wind but they take care of themselves well.
If you successfully negotiate with your chipmunks, do let me know your secret. Mine do not listen to me at all.
 

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If you take the "dont touch them" approach, at least see to it that they are decently protected from winter ravages.
Shelter the hive from rain, wind, snow, and insulate as practical.

Alternatively it may be worth a try to trick them to move into some used gear if you put it next to them and they find it more attractive.
However the brood they are raising will bind them to the hive they are residing in, to get them to accept a new box, brood/queen would have to be relocated to the new box.

A winter move could be done depending on your local climate and the availability of the right ingredients.
I would "let it ride" if the current digs can provide enough shelter for them to over-winter.
If the hive is not well sheltered a move might be a better choice, poor shelter or limited space for feed stores almost dooms them. (the poorer the shelter, the more feed they will need to keep warm) (so much of this depends on your local climate and fauna)

Also if you are going to adopt them, you need to decide what your Mite prevention strategy will be and be prepared to feed them if they don't have adequate stores.
 

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If you take the "dont touch them" approach, at least see to it that they are decently protected from winter ravages.
Shelter the hive from rain, wind, snow, and insulate as practical.

Alternatively it may be worth a try to trick them to move into some used gear if you put it next to them and they find it more attractive.
However the brood they are raising will bind them to the hive they are residing in, to get them to accept a new box, brood/queen would have to be relocated to the new box.

A winter move could be done depending on your local climate and the availability of the right ingredients.
I would "let it ride" if the current digs can provide enough shelter for them to over-winter.
If the hive is not well sheltered a move might be a better choice, poor shelter or limited space for feed stores almost dooms them. (the poorer the shelter, the more feed they will need to keep warm) (so much of this depends on your local climate and fauna)

Also if you are going to adopt them, you need to decide what your Mite prevention strategy will be and be prepared to feed them if they don't have adequate stores.
Sky is in Cape Cod, and I don't know anything about east coast weather. Do you?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
It looks like the bees were just gathering water, as a couple commenters here suggested. I haven't seen them around since, so I guess they went home. Thank you for the advice about helping bees winter over, though. Good information to have. The weather on Cape Cod is generally a bit milder than inland (zone 6-7 ), but we have had some hard frosts lately. The day I saw the bees was sunny and quite warm - low 60s. That must have brought them out exploring.
 
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