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Bees setup in a strawhile bale


A friend showed me a small square straw bale where honeybees had taken up residence. The bale had been speared and created an opening in the bale. I think it was a late swarm judging that he recently discovered them. It’s early autumn here so I doubt the bees have much of a hive and suspect they will starve and/or freeze this winter. I’m thinking that it would take considerable effort to save them, but I’m up for the challenge. Any suggestions?


Hey Paul, that sounds interesting. Have you seen this bale yourself & can you post pictures? Straw bales can be very cozy, if kept dry - so I’d think the bees might be best left in there, if the bale is able to be shielded from rain and ground moisture that would seep into where the bees are. I wonder how much comb they have, with how much honey stored, and if feeding them is feasible if they remained in the bale.

Taking them out and banding the comb into frames would ensure convenient feeding and dry accommodations for winter - but hard to tell if there’s enough comb at all to fill a nuc.

Post some pics if you can!


That is an unusual problem. Maybe a double box and with just the bottom box with waxed frames with a couple of frames of honey and a frame of brood. Some smoke into the straw bale and then reduce it down till it can sit in the top box and put the lid on the hive. Leave them a day or two then I think all the bees will have gone to the bottom box and you can remove the straw and the empty top box. Feed them up on 50/50 sugar and water and even put a sheet of paper on top of the frames with a hefty sprinkling of unbleached white flour as a pollen substitute to boost the colony along.
Cheers Paul.


I saw the bale late yesterday and there were many bees moving in and out, Eva. The bale sits atop other bales under cover, so they will stay dry. Feeding in situ might be best as I think they are fairly new residents and I doubt they have much comb or honey/pollen stores. Then if they survive into spring I could move them and treat like a nuc. I’ll try to post a pic or two later today. Cheers.


It will be interesting to see the pics. You won’t know what you have till you investigate and hope when that time comes you update us.
Regards Paul


Can you marry the bees to another hive?


At this time I don’t know what size bee population is in the straw bale. So, I’m inclined to leave them in the bale, move the bale to a more convenient location, and feed them while they’re active. Our fall temperatures are dropping and I think feeding will be a challenge. If the hive survives the winter I’ll consider my options.


Good suggestions if the hive survives our winter? Our other bees are settling into their preps for winter so brood is scarce. But, I have a bee club meeting this weekend and will share your suggestion and what ideas they can contribute. Cheers.


I surfed far and wide, but haven’t found any evidence of wheat flour as food for bees. Rather a statement, ‘if bees roll around in it doesn’t mean it’s good for them’. Apparently bees like anything that has the size of pollen.
You keep recommending unbleached white flour as Bee food here on the forum and new beekeepers may follow your advice, trusting your experience.
Most beekeepers around the world would not feed wheat flour, not even much in pollen patty mixtures.
Now even the soy flour bee benefits got shot.
Where is your evidence that wheat flour is good for bees?
It’s NOT a pollen substitute.
Apologies for going off topic a tad, but I think it’s important and just came up again.


Did a closer examination this morning while the sun was on the bale. Definitely NOT honeybees; some sort of paper wasp with similar markings. Needless to say I won’t be caring for them. Cheers all.


Well done, an easy mistake to make. Needless to say: they’ll probably take care of themselves. Lucky you didn’t get too close to them. They keep stinging.


I have to suspect you didn’t look at all and asking me to provide scientific proof which I won’t do for you or anybody else. The same as if I asked you for scientific proof that it harmed bees. But as you claim to have surfed far and wide I found a heap of information on you tube, ok, it is not scientific fact, but hey, scientists claim have often been proved wrong by other scientists. I would put my trust in the bee’s.

I am not trying to coerce anyone into using it, I am only saying that I personally have feed unbleached white flour to some of my bees and the bees loved it, they stored it in cells alongside pollen and the hives I fed it to got a boost of bees in the hive where colonies that were not fed on the unbleached white flour gained number in the size I would expect. I am recommending unbleached white flour when there is limited or no pollen.
My mentor more than 40 years ago, a commercial bee keeper, 2nd generation, put me onto unbleached wheat flour and he fed all of his hives in late Winter to build them up for the Cape Weed and Patterson’s Curse in the Mudgee area and local for fruit tree pollination. He made his own mix as he felt the available commercial mixes could be improved on. .

Nowhere have I said it is a substitute for pollen, so you are trying to mislead other readers, I use it as a supplement to pollen that my bees enjoyed.
I am not trying to suggest if feeding is needed that unbleached white flour is the only option, but to make those aware that don’t have a closed mind that this is a cost effective option and at least offering it to their bees, and of course, are free to make up their own minds. I am not adverse to at least trying alternatives where it seems to make sense on a few hives as test studies. An open mind can be helpful, that is a part of the learning.


The local bee club is the best information for your local conditions so you will benefit from being involved and thinking about their suggestions, and what may work for you.


Hi Peter, did you read @Medusa’s earlier post? As it turns out, the colony is paper wasps of some kind. An easy mistake to make. I wonder if paper wasps eat “unbleached” wheat flour :slight_smile:


I don’t know about that Jeff. Seems Webclan doesn’t know that wheat flour and unbleached wheat flour are two different things.
Seems to be she is just blowing off steam and can’t con-seed other bee keepers can have experience beyond her own.
Glad @Medusa realized they were wasps and not bees before trying to usher them into a hive, they can be so nasty, even doing some mowing nearby a nest can bring all hell.
68mm in the past 24 hours, looking like more rain for the next week…


Hi Peter, I’m behaving differently on the forum lately. No more deleting comments. I give a little warning now if I intend on going off topic. It’s only fair.

Off topic: we got similar rain, we braved the elements to go & grab some more bread flour. I can’t think of anything better to do in the coming days.


Off topic from me. I’m still making up frames and fitting wax foundation. Waiting on 6 more excluders and boxes to be delivered.
I hope the people out west get enough rain to at least ease their drought. The Men’s Shed is helping a couple of families doing it tough.
Cheers mate.


With due respect @Peter48, I appreciate your input on this forum but beekeepers being beekeepers often disagree, possibly more of a human trait actually. Please don’t take comments personally, we are all here for healthy debate and learning through this.
I have taken so much information from this and other forums as these are my mentors with so many giving their time and wealth of knowledge for nix. :hats off and thanks:

You must mean apart from post 3 in this thread Peter…

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.


Thanks Skegs, Yes I was referring to unbleached flour there as a substitute for pollen but failed to add that if there was a shortage of pollen available. I took that as a given so failed badly in not crossing my T’s and dotting the I’s. Oh, well, if that’s is all I can be picked on I am doing well.
Over the past week I have experimented with the unbleached wheat flour on a few hives placing it on a tray under the roof measuring it out by volume and the bees are taking it up although there is a heap of pollen available to them.
I figure that bee keeping is a learning curve. A lot of that learning comes from other bee keepers experiences and thinking of experimenting with those I like. My experiments might not be scientific but scientist can get thing so wrong (the introduction of the Cane Toad into Australia was a real clanger) that I rely on knowledge gained and not to be one eyed.
I enjoy the forum and will continue with my experiences where I can although I have had some personal messages that were not what I expected.
Cheers mate


Don’t sell yourself short mate. I’d not heard of flour being used to feed bees in my short career as a beek and would be sceptical had you not actually tried it. I wonder if this is the reason honey is so good on toast. :smiley:
Around these parts pollen is always available it’s nectar which gets short on supply and has caught me out when I assumed as I could see pollen going in, which I could visually see,so must nectar, which I visually can not see. I now feel the weight as a consequence…
By the way I don’t care if threads go off topic especially when they start off topic. Now if this thread was Wasps setup in a straw bale…