Odd bee/oak tree situation

zmike6October 3, 2008

I'm in the rural suburbs NE of Austin, and I have an odd bee issue I haven't seen before (I've been in this location for 6 years.)

I have several small Texas live oak trees, roughly 15-18 feet tall, in my yard. Over the last two weeks, I've noticed that a large number of bees (look similar to honeybees) are attracted to these trees, almost like the trees are flowering plants. The bees are particularly interested in one of the trees, with a higher concentration of bee activity at that tree over the others. I know little about bees, but this activity appears to be more like individual feeding activity, and not a swarming or hive activity. I can't quite make out what is attracting them, or what they are up to, but it may be related to acorns on the tree. At first I thought they might be a leafcutter bee species, but I don't see the characteristic holes along the edges of leaves that leafcutter bees produce.

On a possibly-related note, a couple weeks ago (just prior to this bee activity) I noticed that a large number of some type of moth or butterfly had settled in this oak. Which makes me wonder if the tree is secreting something sweet.

Anyway, the concentration of bees in and around these trees makes me leery of doing my usual yardwork, as I doubt they will react well to a big sweaty guy and a loud lawnmower disrupting their routine. Anyone have an idea what these bees are doing, and any tips to convince them to leave?

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marlingardener

Mike,
Why not post your query on the bees and beekeeping site here on the gardenweb? If you click on Forums, then Garden Forums, you will find the bee site. The posters there may have a good idea about what is happening to you and your trees.
Just a thought--if you haven't been stung yet, they most likely aren't Africanized.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2008 at 3:01PM
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marilyn_c(z9 Tex.coast)

Feeding bees aren't apt to attack anyone. We did have some bees move into a hollow tree and became very aggressive (Africanized?) after a few years and then you couldn't go anywhere near the tree.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2008 at 10:27AM
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agricola1

With the Colony Collapse Syndrome, domestic bee populations have declined significantly. One beekeeper I know in the Houston area lost nine of nine hives, and had to reestablish them.
I agree that if you haven't been stung yet, they're probably not Africanized. However, you might check to make sure they aren't western or eastern yellowjackets, which are similar in size and coloring to bees (although they have a lot more yellow.) They like to nest in abandoned animal burrows, under the eaves of houses, and in trees. I'm not saying they ARE yellow jackets, but you might want to get an expert to check them out.

Here is a link that might be useful: Waterwise Gardens

    Bookmark   October 6, 2008 at 5:09PM
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richdenis

I am also seeing this same thing in my oak trees. My trees have acorns in them but oddly rather than the acorns the bees and a few wasps are landing on these brown tubor like things growing on the tree.

I am not sure how to get rid of the bees but have to since my kids are petrified and it is starting to affect them. There must bee upwards of a 100+ bees in the two trees I have.

Does anyone know what the brown circle 'things' are? Is it a disease or just part of an oak tree?

    Bookmark   October 8, 2008 at 8:08PM
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richdenis

I think I found my answers so I am posting here for everyone else. My tree seems to be infested with oak galls. These are causes by insects that cause the tree to make the bulbs. Apparently they serve as a host to an insect inside (generally gall wasps). In a link posted here it says that the Gall secretes a sweet substance that bees and other wasps eat. So there you have it. I just need to keep the kids away until it gets cold, then trim the tree up and the problem will start to fade. Hope this helps.

Here is a link that might be useful: Gall link to book

    Bookmark   October 8, 2008 at 8:45PM
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PKponder TX(7b)

richdenis,
I am so glad you found a non-toxic solution!

Pam

    Bookmark   October 9, 2008 at 2:37PM
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tonybeeguy

The bees shouldn't bother you if they are just feeding. I just put my supers and wax capppngs out for the bees to clean up. It's a huge cloud of bees around them, but I can walk right out and set another super down next to the others without having them bother me

    Bookmark   October 14, 2008 at 11:00PM
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sowngrow(TX8)

I've had this situation with a live oak in my yard for the past two summers. I consulted someone in Dallas who has 50 hives and he told me the bees are there for the nectar. So far no one in my family has been stung and the tree has hundreds of bees on it.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2008 at 1:02AM
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