NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - A giant beehive exposed to the elements is doing quite well hanging from a tree in Nacogdoches.
Naturalists and bee experts are hoping it will stay that way.
In the winter time, when the leaves have fallen, oh, the discoveries a person can find near the Lanana Creek Trail. A large, open-air beehive is hanging from a Chinaberry tree. East Texas News showed it to beekeeper David Gallagher.
"It's very unusual to see an open-air hive," Gallagher said. "It's got honey on it. It seems to be doing pretty well being an open-air hive."
Some of Gallagher's own bees living in boxes didn't survive temperatures into the teens. The wild honey bees took the cold snap in stride.
"Open air hives don't do so well," Gallagher said. "As cold as it got this year, you know, I was really surprised."
Inside the hive, bees are generating warmth. The queen likes her thermostat set high.
"And they've got to keep the inside of that hive 92 to 94 degrees, and they do that by shaking and consuming honey," Gallagher said.
Gallagher guesses, by experience, inside the hive is a colony of 20,000 bees.
"I would say it's a basketball-size group of bees," Gallagher said.
There's no way to tell how many will be there later this year.
"In the middle of summertime, they can be 40,000 to 80,000 bees," Gallagher said.
The dark coloring on the older combs is what's left over from generations of bee cocoons. It's a clue the hive is probably several years old.
"This is their natural habitat," said Brian Bray, Nacogdoches community services director.
Bray oversees the city's trail system where the hive is near. He didn't have to be convinced to leave well enough alone.
"We have deer. We have bats. We have snakes. We have squirrels," Bray said. "We are walking in their backyard, so let's just leave them alone and enjoy them."
"Seeing wild bees making it on their own without any other help is good," Gallagher said. "Pretty neat looking."
The bees move around during the warmth of the day feeding on the early pollinator of red maple trees. This hive is on city property and should not be tampered with. Honey bees are important to the environment.