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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Has anyone else ever cut a bee tree for its honey? I know in today's world it would create howls of outrage and the practice is probably all but eliminated in the rural culture. But back in the 60's and earlier it was quite common for folks to find and cut a bee tree each fall for honey. Some of my earliest memories as a kid were going with my grandfather and uncle to cut a tree.

First you had to find a tree. In the fall, many times you could use your nose to locate one, as the bees were drying goldenrod nectar into honey and it emitted a very strong scent. If one wasn't found, my grandfather had small wooden box with a sliding glass lid. Inside he'd place some Karo syrup laced with anise oil to attract honey bees. They would gorge themselves and fly slowly ( they’re packing a lot of sugar weight )and directly back to there hive. And I mean directly. When a bee has a full load of honey, it will fly a completely straight line back to its hive. ( that's where the term "making a beeline" came from). If you ran, you could keep up with them. If you caught several bees at different locations and walked out their flight path, their bee tree could be triangulated from where the courses cross. When you found a tree, you'de paint an X with white wash on it to let others know the tree had been claimed.

Now came the day to cut the tree. This was usually in early October. I was only 3 or 4 went I went, and had to stay in my uncle's Chevy Apache truck. With the windows up. The bee smoker was lit, and a rag with sulfur powder was stuffed inside. My grandfather had a David Bradley chainsaw...that saw must have weighed 40 lbs. The tree was notched and felled. As soon as it his the ground, my uncle would start smoking their entrance hole with the smoker.( the sulfur would kill the bees). The bees were none to happy, and stings were common. I remember watching out the window as a huge mass of bees would swirl around in the air at the exact location their entrance hole had formerly been. There brains were hard wired to that exact location, even though there tree was now on the ground.

After thoroughly smoking the hole, the tree was left alone till the next day. They used the chainsaw, hammers and wedges to split the tree and remove the honey comb. Everything was placed into metal water pails and hauled home to clean it up. Folks said that "wild honey" tasted better than the honey you took from a hive...I couldn't tell the difference.

A couple of years ago I had an oak tree fall over that held a honey bee colony. I recalled what I'd seen 55 years earlier and collected about 40 lbs of rendered honey from that tree. Today, feral honeybees ( honey bees aren't a native specie to North America) are far and few between and I wouldn't cut a bee tree if I found one. But it was an interesting thing to see that most folks today will never get to witness.
 

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Never on purpose, but iv'e cuts dozens of them. In good weather we just leave the area till they calm down, then avoid any further conflicts with them by working carefully near their tree.

In cold weather they still get kinda' mad, but not for long. After they calm down we get something and cover the nest, some old boards or a peice if a tarp or carpet, to keep the weather out. Don't know if they survive, but i i try to help.

Many times i can tell a bee tree so we a avoid them. When we do cut one by mistake it will be solid down below and hollow up where the nest is, and usually they break apart exposing the nest.

Iv'e also cut some trees with hornet nests in them.
They seem to take it personal and that can be a not so fun experience when you start limbing the tree and they find you.

Interesting to hear about harvesting wild honey, thanks for sharing.🐝
 

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As much as i am in the woods, i have yet to find a honeybee nest. I have always wanted to try and collect wild bee honey but i have been unsuccessful finding their nest. I do however find plenty of yellow jacket nests which is never fun when you step on a ground nest.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Ydog....it would be unlikely that a log laying horizontally would still be a viable home. Skunks, bears ,and ants would have easy access to the colony. Also, the comb was oriented vertically, and the cells within the comb have a slight downward pitch. All that is gone once the tree lays down. I have seen where they survived a season in a white oak that blew over. So it never hurts to try saving them.Thirty years ago, we brought home a log and anchored it with wires into a vertical position. Covered the hollow top with plywood. It’s illegal today to keep something like that as bees have to be kept on frames that can be removed and inspected.

I’ve had timber guys call me about removing them....out of curiosity I’ve gone out a few times, a couple of times I had to mop up the mess with Sevin dust because of tree being in an area of a lot of people activity. If they have to go, soapy water will kill them also.
 

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About 10 years ago,i WAS IN MY DRIVEWAY AND HERD THIS CONSTANT BUZZING SOUND.I looked up and there was a cloud of bees around a big double trunked red oak.I saw a small hole that I never noticed before and there was literally a carpet of bees all around it.I have no idea what stirred them up but never saw that before or after that day.About a year later,the tree had to go so I cut it down in Jan.The tree was hollow probably 4 or four feet above and below the hole.The bees were gone but the honey combs were still there.I probably would have salvaged it but there must have been 3 feet of bat crap packed in there.Interestinging,there were huge maggot like larva in the bat crap.I have no idea what they were but they were big and white.
 

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I have never heard of claiming and cutting a bee tree. Interesting tradition from yesteryear - thanks for sharing the story!
 

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Discussion Starter #7
About 10 years ago,i WAS IN MY DRIVEWAY AND HERD THIS CONSTANT BUZZING SOUND.I looked up and there was a cloud of bees around a big double trunked red oak.I saw a small hole that I never noticed before and there was literally a carpet of bees all around it.I have no idea what stirred them up but never saw that before or after that day.About a year later,the tree had to go so I cut it down in Jan.The tree was hollow probably 4 or four feet above and below the hole.The bees were gone but the honey combs were still there.I probably would have salvaged it but there must have been 3 feet of bat crap packed in there.Interestinging,there were huge maggot like larva in the bat crap.I have no idea what they were but they were big and white.
dce...the cloud of bees most likely were a swarm, either coming, going, or temporarily staying then absconding. Without seeing what you saw, I’m guessing the white maggots might have been honey bee larvae, and maybe what looked like bat crap may have been old, black comb. Some old bee trees have been used for 50+ years, on and off. Sometimes they’ll draw fresh beeswax and the old stuff might remain.

That’s why it’s fun to take a look when folks call....you never know what you’re gonna find and I usually end up learning something. I have a cousin in Virginia who does extractions from homes ( for money. You need more carpentry skills than beekeeping skills for those jobs.
 

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Bigbrownie,
I also have that memory as a dairy farm kid back in the sixties in upstate N.Y. I remember it like it was yesterday. thanks for bringing up a memory from a time when life was much much simpler!! :)
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Some universities that have an apiary science department , used to ( and may still) participate in bee lining competitions. A small hive of bees is hidden, and different competing teams set out to locate the hive in the shortest amount of time. When bees find a good source of nectar ( or Karo in this case), they’ll always return. So before a captured bee is set loose, it is dabbed with a little paint. A stop watch is used to time it’s flight time ( with allowing time to “ unload” at the hive ),and an estimation can be made to the hives distance. These fellas have good compasses to map a bee’s flight path and record their triangulations. They are amazingly good at locating the target hive.

I always wondered how they didn’t get tangled up with a feral colony, and literally end up on a wild bee chase!
 

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dce...the cloud of bees most likely were a swarm, either coming, going, or temporarily staying then absconding. Without seeing what you saw, I’m guessing the white maggots might have been honey bee larvae, and maybe what looked like bat crap may have been old, black comb. Some old bee trees have been used for 50+ years, on and off. Sometimes they’ll draw fresh beeswax and the old stuff might remain.

That’s why it’s fun to take a look when folks call....you never know what you’re gonna find and I usually end up learning something. I have a cousin in Virginia who does extractions from homes ( for money. You need more carpentry skills than beekeeping skills for those jobs.
I don't know much about bees or bats but I'm 99% sure it was bat crap.The disgusting maggot like creatures were bigger than 2".
 

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My plan is always to get further away from any kind of bee, wasp, hornet, never closer.

A couple years ago i was cutting trees and felled one into a small ravine. When i went down to top it there were some rocks along the bottom where water ran when it rained. It was probably a half hour since i had cut it and when i topped it, the stem fell down to the ground. I looked down and right betewwen my feet was a volleyball sized hornets nest with a few of the residents sitting on it and the hole pointed right at me. I immidiatly turned and ran back up that ravine expexting to get hammered by those hornets but for whatever reason they spared me and i escaped unharmed. It was pretty cool overnite so i sneaked in right at daylite with some gas and matches, but some brave creature had already destroyed that nest and there wasn't much left.

Iv'e had lots of close calls with bees and hornets. Still not sure how or why those hornets let me stand over their downed nest and top that tree without attacking me. Coulda' been real bad.
 

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Interesting how in them days they didn’t care about killing the colony to get honey as feral hives were everywhere according to some of the old timers.
I have a feral colony in a cucumber magnolia in my backyard and the entrance is in the base of the tree which I find odd as most of the ones I’ve seen are up high. They were there when we bought the place so I leave them alone, plus they make a great source of free bees for my hives in swarming season
 

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I went down the woods one afternoon just as I had done hundreds of times since I was a kid but this time was different. I paused to look around a bit before I crossed the little creek and on the far side I saw a huge tree that I had never noticed before. I don't recall what species that tree was, but it had a split in one side and the tree leaned toward that side. The split started at about six feet off the ground and went up to about twenty feet. At it's widest part you could have stuffed a good sized freighter canoe if you had reason to do such a thing, but if you did you'd find yourself in a lot of trouble. There were three side by side yellow combs that started farther up into the hollow than I could see and hanged downward to about six feet from where the split began. So, 8'L x 1'W X 3'deep, and obviously an active hive because there were bees all around those combs.
The way that tree leaned away from the prevailing winds kept the cavity around the combs dry, and I'm sure that hollow went far enough up into the tree to give the bees a place to winter over.
I should have gone back. My grandfather kept bees and the separator was still out in the shed with the smoker. It's lucky for the bees that I'm allergic to their stings.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Interesting how in them days they didn’t care about killing the colony to get honey as feral hives were everywhere according to some of the old timers.
I have a feral colony in a cucumber magnolia in my backyard and the entrance is in the base of the tree which I find odd as most of the ones I’ve seen are up high. They were there when we bought the place so I leave them alone, plus they make a great source of free bees for my hives in swarming season
FC....Yes it is unusual for bees to have such a low entrance. About 15 years ago, on Labor Day weekend, I watched a swarm come down and take up residence in the base of a small sassafras tree, maybe 15 inches in diameter. There was a hollow about 6 inches off the ground. Being that it was so late in the season, they didn’t survive the winter.

Out in the Southwest of the US, honeybees are known to hive up in the in-ground boxes that hold lawn sprinkler controls. That’s a problem, as some of those states also have established Africanized honey bees.
 

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Very interesting thread.
When I was a kid my grandfather took me to a sawmill to get some rough cut lumber. The lumber operation was a mobile crew and when we got to where they weer cutting it turned out that there was a bee hive in a tree that was smack in the middle of the cut area. They let the hive and tree alone as well as some trees around it and I still recall the mass of honey running down the side of the tree from the hive entrance.

BTW, I am the only person I know who is allergic to honey. If I have even a teaspoon of the stuff I can stand by for a very uncomfortable day.....
 

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Very interesting thread.
When I was a kid my grandfather took me to a sawmill to get some rough cut lumber. The lumber operation was a mobile crew and when we got to where they weer cutting it turned out that there was a bee hive in a tree that was smack in the middle of the cut area. They let the hive and tree alone as well as some trees around it and I still recall the mass of honey running down the side of the tree from the hive entrance.

BTW, I am the only person I know who is allergic to honey. If I have even a teaspoon of the stuff I can stand by for a very uncomfortable day.....
I only ever knew of one other person with a honey allergy. More than likely it’s do to microscopic pollen spores that many honeys contain.

Also, infants should never eat honey, as some raw honey may contain a form of botulism, that is harmless to everyone except infants.

It’s a funny thing, only 2% of the population will have a true anaphylactic reaction to honeybee stings. But most of the time when I’m catching a swarm, 50% of the bystanders say they’re allergic to bees. A healthy adult can survive hundreds of stings, with 1000 being where toxicity levels can be fatal. Bald Faced hornets? I think I’d die with more than a couple of those things stinging me. I’d take 20 honey bee stings over 1 hornet sting.
 

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Last one I found was during deer rifle, little snow on the ground and I saw a tree with scratch marks and what looked like bite marks. First thought was a rub but that was soon dismissed. There was a home in the tree and upon looking in I didn't see anything but heard buzzing... A bee tree! and I wasn't the first to find it...A bear discovered it before I did; and I doubt I would had not the bear left his calling card.


When I left the tree was intact don't know if the bear came back or not but the next year there were no bees to be found in the tree
 

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way back when i was a kid, my grandparents lived on a small farm. the house they lived in was an older one. on the back side of the house there was a couple of boards missing and a colony of honey bees built a hive inside the wall. they never came into the house and grandpap left them alone. the bees got so used to him that he could reach into the hole and not get stung. if he wanted honey he would reach into the hole and take a piece of the comb. those bees stayed in the hole for years. us kids stayed away from the hole as grandpap told us to.
 
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