Feral bees have somehow developed the ability to survive year to year without the aid of miticides or other beekeeper manipulations. For the feral bee populations found in Ohio and Kentucky the main attribute that these feral bees exhibit is a highly elevated chewing defense mechanism; whereby the bees chew off the legs of the varroa mites which kills them. Observations are that 60-80% of the varroa on the bottom board have been chewed. One hive with feral bees has now lived for 5 years without any interventions.
Feral bees are not escaped swarms from your neighborhood beekeeper. They are bees that have survived long term in the wind.
Does Wisconsin have similar populations of feral bees hidden in our woods and abandoned buildings? For adventurous beekeepers a search for feral bees could be fun.
Here are the pointers I got from Dwight Wells in Ohio. He is one of the leading figures in that area in the search for wild survivor bees.
1. Minimum area of forest of interest—15 square miles
2. Recommended distance from known beehives; both hobbyists and commercial—5 miles minimum, but 10 miles preferred
3. Trees should be 75 to 100 years old to provide cavities of sufficient size to satisfy a feral swarm
4. Old abandoned buildings are also possibilities.
5. Presence of feral bees can proven by putting out feeding stations with pollen substitute, such as Mann Lake Ultra Bee powder. On warm spring days above 50F, the feral bees will visit the feeding stations. If you observe activity you then can put out swarm traps. The feeding station is a 18 inch length of 4 inch diameter PVC. Half inch hardware screen is placed over the ends to prevent other critters from each the bait. The station is positioned about 5 feet above the ground.
6. Before trespassing make sure to check with the landowner or the DNR for state lands.
For those of you on Facebook check out Chasing Feral Honey Bees FB.