The hidden hive is among more than 60 now discovered living among ancient woodland on our Estate – making it a vitally important haven for the increasingly endangered native bee species.
Our bee expert Filipe Salbany joined Rural Manager Nick Baimbridge, and members of our forestry team to find the colony’s queen and coax her into a temporary hive.
“The branch fell overnight among a stand of oaks close to the walled garden. We estimate the tree is somewhere between 600 and 700 years old,” said Nick.
“It is extremely rare to have the opportunity to study the combs within a truly wild honeybee hive and the information it provides us will be invaluable in helping look after the other colonies across the estate
By studying the structure and size of the combs we were able to confirm it is a well-established hive,” he added.
Our rescued colony has been transferred into a manmade wooden hive built from fallen trees on our Estate and then relocated to a safe place.
Our massive branch will also be transported into High Park, an ancient woodland on our Estate where it will gradually rot down, creating a new habitat for a whole ecosystem of insects and other invertebrates.
“Although it looks extremely dramatic, we’re confident the oak tree will survive losing one of its limbs and, hopefully, continue to grow happily for at few more decades yet,” added Nick.
Our ancient oak woodlands, which Salbany describes as a ‘paradise of biodiversity’, are home to more than 3,500 species.
They have remained virtually untouched since the early 12th century, when they formed part of a royal forest used by Henry I for hunting deer.
They’re home to the largest collection of ancient oaks in Europe, with some specimens thought to be more than 1,000 years old and provide a vital habitat for native plant and animal life.