From wine barrel to beehive, how to?

Here I am again after one month of enjoyment watching my visiting bees building their combs inside my 450 litre wine barrel, (at least that is what I assume they are doing since I cannot look into the barrel other than through the bung hole). Over the last days I have observed an increase in activity and numbers of bee trying to find a way in and out. Overcrowding ?? (Just remember I am a beginner by default and hope to put up some more intelligent questions when finishing the bee keeper course.!!) Pending this I wonder wether it makes sense to put a simple hive somewhere in the neighbourhood of the barrel to tempt a possible second queen to move in with a new swarm ? Too simple ???

cheers and a happy being in 2018


Hi Wouter,

The workers in the hive have likely increased in numbers as the queens comb laying space has increased. I doubt they would be overcrowded in a 450 litre barrel if they have just moved in, in comparison a 10 frame Langstroth box is about 42 litres so it’s like a 11 box Langstroth hive :smiley: .

Cutting them out will be a real chore and I would advise that if you wanted to keep them to get them out ASAP as it will only get more difficult as the size of the hive/comb increases. The process will essentially be the same as the following:

Cutting into the barrel will increase complexity and removing/re-establishing larger combs will also make it more difficult. Some people will likely claim that you can trap them out, but I don’t see the nurse bees or queen leaving established large brood combs in the barrel.

Putting a bait hive for swarms is a good idea at the peak of swarm season, and may make sense if you plan to keep the bees in the barrel. If they have the full volume of the barrel available to them though, I doubt there will be swarming due to overcrowding before this season is out. That being said, these bees have obviously swarmed from somewhere, so the bait hive may pick up another swarm from the same source.

Thanks RBK, I am a bit wiser. I am at this stage not confident enough to get a hive and transfer the bees. So for the time being I leave the pretty animals do what they do best without my interference. I hope to be able to acquire a simple 8 frame half size hive after participating in a the “hands on” course. I still notice major congestion at the entrance to the barrel , which is the bung hole with diameter 5.5cm. I wonder whether I should drill another hole to facilitate traffic and possibly aeration. Any suggestion ?