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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Richmond, VA, USA
    Posts
    24

    Post

    I have a top bar hive in which I installed a 3 lb package March 31. Things have gone well in terms of comb-drawing and population buildup. It's rainy and 56 degrees F here today, and it's been rainy and cool for several days. On the front of the hive, just above the entrance, a large number of bees have formed a cluster roughly square-shaped and about 8"x8". Foraging bees are actually having to push their way through the cluster to get in and out. As a brand new beekeeper, I am mystified by this behavior. Can anyone help me out? Thanks.

    Chip Wright

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,458

    Post

    How full is the hive with bees, honey etc.? Could it be there isn't room in the hive for everyone? That would be my first guess.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Richmond, VA, USA
    Posts
    24

    Post

    Michael, there's plenty of room. The hive dimensions are 19"Wx11"Dx36"L. When I opened it two weeks ago, there were at least 10 top bars that had not been drawn out. Also, at that time, I moved some bars with foundation into the middle of the brood area (although it seems like the bees put brood and honey in every "frame"). It's my first hive, so I can't say for sure that it's not crowded, but I can say that a lack of space to draw additional comb is not the problem.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Richmond, VA, USA
    Posts
    24

    Post

    Update: the cluster remained outside after dark. It's not really raining anymore at the moment, but it's still cool.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Belmont, NC, USA
    Posts
    38

    Post

    To me it sounds like it might be a precurser to a swarm. They gain numbers seperating themselves from the rest of the hive before they actually leave the hive. Keep an eye on them because you might see them on a bush/branch/tree near your apiary. Do you have some low tree limbs near by or bushes so they can land on if they do end up swarming?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,458

    Post

    I've seen many "bee beards" on the fronts of hives because of the heat. Many successufl hives have one every night. But it seems kind of early in the year for that. You might want to check for queen cells. It is the time of year for swarming and sometimes even when there is plenty of room that can happen.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Richmond, VA, USA
    Posts
    24

    Post

    Thanks for your replies. I'm inclined to believe it's a swarm, although right now the cluster has broken up and the bees are just buzzing around the entrance. In any event, my problem is that I am not prepared for another hive. According to the books I read, "[a] new colony started in the spring is not likely to swarm during the first season." R. Bonney, Beekeeping: A Practical Guide, p. 48 (Storey 1993). I only built one hive, and I couldn't get another ready before this swarm takes off. Haven't a clue what to do in the circumstances.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,458

    Post

    Take a look through the hive. If there are no queen cells, don't worry and be happy. Bees often cluster on the outside of a hive. Usually it's in the evenings or at night, and usually it's on a hot day, but if there are no queen cells, they are not going to swarm.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Belmont, NC, USA
    Posts
    38

    Post

    What to do if your hive does swarm and you aren't prepaired to deal with it yourself....You can call your State inspector, i know in my state we are broken down into five different regions and those regions have lists of beekeepers in the area you can contact. Or you can call animal control and they can put you in contact with local beekeepers who are more than willing to take on a few extra bees. Micheal's right, no swarm cells, no worries (at least about swarming)....

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,458

    Post

    Personally, I'd catch the swarm and put it in anything from a old five gallon bucket with a entrance cut somewhere, to a cardboard box or anything the size of a swarm and you can cut an opening. A styrofoan cooler etc. Any temporary container in hand is worth ten swarms inside a hollow tree or a house.

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