Ok Guys, I am going to keep the report in one thread, to help keep some continuity and not have to repeat general information such as hive orientation and such. I am going to repaste the original posts into this thread for this purpose, please excuse the double posting, its simply for reader convenience.
Location of 3 Hives -- Home Apiary
SW Corner of property, facing due East. Hives are spaced about 36" apart. 6 Ft Property Line Solid Picket Fence, 1ft behind and and on the south side of hives.
Hive 1 is Northmost and gets the longest duration of sun during the day. Morning sun hits hive entrance 1hr before the last due to trees to the east.
Hive 2 is middle, and gets sun 1/2 hr after hive 1.
Hive 3 is the south hive and get the last morning sun.
Location of Hive 4 -- Zeke's Home Apiary
Whole property thoroughly shaded throughout day by 2 old and very large oak trees. Hive in center of property facing East with late morning sun coming though a nice beeway through the foliage.
Will post pictures sometime in the future of the hive's and their locations.
Scot Mc Pherson
"Linux is a Journey, not a Guided Tour" ~ Me
"Do or not do, there is no try" ~ Master Yoda
[This message has been edited by Scot Mc Pherson (edited April 23, 2004).]
4/9/04 -- Received Package Bees
Well I am excited about having received my bees today.
I hived 3 of the 4 packages, but ran out of time to go to my friend Zeke's house to hive the 4th. I am going to do that right now, which is midnight. I just thought I would share that with you.
Oh and for those who were wondering, I was wearing my shorts and my tee-shirt and didn't get stung at all.
Well actually I "may" have been stung, but I am not sure. I had 15 minutes to get ready for work when I was finished hiving 3 of the 4 packages, and when I looked in the mirror, my nose had a welt on it where my eyeglasses rest on it. Not on the edge, but right on it. I don't remember a bee buzzing my face, nor did I feel it. It might have just been a grain of sand that got in there and aggitated my skin, but regardless that's the worst of it.
Oh I was barefoot too
4/13/04 -- Have Eggsign
Well I hived my packages on friday. Today I found eggsign and removed the queen cages. I accidentally ripped a comb from one of the top bars because it was not apparent that it was built onto the queen cage until I already had done significant damage. I ended up removing the damaged comb along with about 50 of the first eggs layed. All the hives are doing well, have taken up 2 sandwich sized ziplock bags full of syrup. I put in two new bags of feed into each hive. They have been storing the syrup and since they are already out foraging I think I will see if these two feedings will be enough.
All hives seem very happy.
Bees sure do built their own comb MUCH MUCH MUCH faster than drawing out foundation. Its not something you even need to measure, you can see how much faster it is. 4 days in a hive with no foundation and the queen is already laying.
4/17/04 -- Sloppy Comb and Queenless Hive.
Note that I don't necessarily inspect the hives on the exact dates listed, I inspected them almost daily for the first week, checking the queen cages, closely noting the comb building, checking feedbags, etc. These dates are dates of something notable.
Everything seems to be well under way. About 8 almost full combs built, and have some milkbrood from the 1st laid eggs. Have reversed some combs to help keep the combs stright while they finish them. So the combs are staggered as far as which side they were started from.
Same as Hive 1, except only 5-6 mostly finished combs. Combs are even straighter than Hive 1
What a mess. Hive has turned nasty (relatively speaking, I still can work it without veil). Still have some eggsign, but I am not seeing any milkbrood. Its hard to really look for eggs though because the bees are highly aggitated, moving rapidly across the combs. I am sure I saw one or two cells with single eggs, but I am just as sure I saw some cells with several eggs in them too. I am suspecting the hive is queenless and will be watching this hive closely.
Comb is built very sloppily, with combs spanning two bars in some cases. Tried cutting the top of the ends of the some of the combs, but ended up in the combs falling and having to be removed the next day. Am going to have to do some severe comb coaching with this hive.
[This message has been edited by Scot Mc Pherson (edited April 26, 2004).]
4/18/04 -- Still no sign of queen
Ok I am in a slight panic here. I still don't have any evidence of a queen here. I still eggs but not milk brood. That's been 9 days now with eggs being present for 6 days. Eggs aren't viable or something. Suspecting Laying Worker as before. Hive is still nasty.
4/19/04 -- Got some help
Spoke with Dee Lusby and Michael Bush, and John from Beemaster.com. Suggestions that introducing a queen into a laying worker hive is very difficult with various methods of increasing chances from repackaging, smoking the heck out of the hive, introducing some brood, and introducing queen to nuc, intro nuc to hive later.
Ordered Replacement Queen, should arrive on Wednesday.
Other hives doing well. The aggressive comb production has stopped. I speculate this is due to cluster size, It appears the bees will only build comb INSIDE the cluster, and so if the cluster doesn't need more room they don't build more comb. Swapped some combs around to uniformly stagger comb in hopes that the staggered gaps inside the cluster will induce more comb building.
Syrup is still being taken agressively by hive 1 and Hive 3, Hive 2 has slowed its syrup intake. Made one last feeding for this hive, will continue with another feeding for the other hives.
4/20/04 -- Oh Crap!
I was preparing my hives to lend some brood from hives 1 and 2 to hive 3, went in and selected a comb of brood from each, leaving the hives open with the selected brood comb left in place in their opened gap.
I opened up hive 3 to select a location for the brood introduction. Worked through the hive, and what do I see, but milkbrood. I say to myself, "Ok this laying worker has finally layed some viable drone brood." then a moment later I see the queen run across the center of the very comb I was holding.
I have a queen coming, so I quickly build a 8 bar nucleus hive to install her in. Put hives back together as is. Maybe I will make an observation hive out of this 4th (or 5th) hive.
4/23/04 -- Queen still hasn't arrived.
I suspect the supplier forgot my order. No big deal I didn't need the queen anyway, so no foul.
Hives 1 and 2 still haven't built much additional comb, but have enlarged the staggered combs to span the top bar, still lacking comb at the bottoms of these bars so they still looked alternated at the bottom of successive combs. Swapped some more combs arround to help with striaghtness. Most are still alternated.
Hive 3 still has some sloppy comb despite my efforts to straighten it. Am trimming sections of comb off of top bar completely where the diverge, and alternating combs as before if the bars will marry at all. Will have to cull combs to get this hive straight.
Queen Paid for, but not here?
Ok, my wife calls me from work and informs me that the queen supplier drew money from my account for the queen I ordered. Call supplier and tell him to ship queen. I would have gotten credit for the purchase rather than a refund and I didn't want to put up a stink, plus I can increase better from 4 hives than from 3, therefore I ask him to send me the queen. Long story short, the US Mail returned 4 smashed queens from that last shipment, but failed to provide labels. Supplier couldn't figure out who's queens they were. I will be using that makeshift NUC I built, hopefully queen will arrive by THIS wednesday :P.
Hive 1 --
Combs looking really nice. Nice brood patterns. Nice stores in tops of combs. Repositioned all combs except 2 back to original position and orientation. Left 2 in alternate orientation because the combs were beginning to drift at one end. Still roughly 8 almost finished combs, only missing maybe bottom inch or two at one end.
Hive 2 --
Same as above, but hive has 6 mostly complete combs.
Hive 3 --
Finally a nice brood pattern, combs are still messy. Trimmed combs, and reoriented as best can be done. Carefully pressed together two combs where they overlap at center, hopefully the combs will finish straighter. I realize these combs wil be joined at center, because they are pressed together at this point, but I can trim that later. No other way to compress brood nest with training combs. One bar had double comb on it. Cut away the smaller double comb (about 6 sq inches) and moved whole comb about 5 bars away from cluster so it doesn't end of training more poor comb, but don't want to remove brood. Its really warm here, so I seriously doubt any chill brood. So far anytime I have moved yucky comb to the back of the hive, they don't work it anymore, just move stores out of it. I'll let the currently capped brood hatch then remove comb altogether. Put straightest comb at the back of teh brood nest so next comb will hopefully build or at least started straight. Cut a lot of comb out today.
I haven't had much problems with comb getting that far off although they did seem to wander toward the front on the ends. At least until they got past the brood nest and starter on storage. Then they started getting off of the center, which is why I make some 1 1/2 and 1 1/4" bars this time. So I can use the 1 1/4" for the brood and the 1 1/2" for the storage, since they seemed to want to do that anyway.
Yeah, I think this mostly had to do with my installed the queens at the side of the hive instead of in the center. If they had clustered at center, they would have had less top bar to navigate. The problem is that the combs built at about 15 deg from the line, not so that they bars are too narrow or too fat, but that they didn't follow the guide on this one. The other hives did the same thing, though they didn't do it to such a magnitude.
In fact though I think 32mm (1 1/4) is too narrow a bar for the brood nest. The beespace is probably right with that width, but when you cosnider that the bars warp a little, don't marry exactly and get gunked up with wax and propolis, the spacing is I think is greater than desired. I am going to experiment with narrower bars.
Something inresting though. There is no propolis in any of my hives. They are using wax for this purpose. Perhaps I have not propolis bearing trees/plants right at the moment. They are gluing everything near the cluster with wax.
Took a few pictures today, both of the outside of the hives and some inside the hives, a couple of comb close-ups, and had a friend take a few pictures of me while working the hives. Will post them as soon as they get developed.
Had my first emmergences today. In hive 1 about 10 new bees emerged. Joy!
Haven't check hives 2 or 3, I have to get ready for work, but hive 2 had same brood dates as hive 1 so should have emmergence between yesterday and tomorrow.
Hive 3 will probably not have emmergence for another week or more. I forget the day I saw the first cappings.
I will be going on vacation tomorrow morning and won't be returning until Friday.
Well today I checked the hives with my son, we saw plenty of "wet" young bees newly emerged and wandering around in an almost confused way in Hives 1 and 2. Looked for some that were emerging so I could show them to Davis, though we didn't see any. Took pictures of Davis handling brood comb rather bravely and with great interest. I will post those next week when returning from a camping vacation and getting that film developed.
Hives have finally started to get propolized. I am guessing they simply hadn't found a good source of propolis yet, but they have now. Its bright red almost magenta in color, some of it is getting mixed with brace comb turning the brace comb purplish-pink, I don't think I have seen propolis this color before. Dark Burnt Orange is the color I remember from the North East.
Hives 1 and 3 are still really sucking up the syrup feed. Hive 2 is still only just taking it very slowly. Hive 2 is also the slowest in comb building, but has the most consistent brood pattern and the straightest combs in the bunch so I am not complaining. Also it seems I saw quite a higher percentage of new bees in that hive relative to Hive 1 which is interesting also since it appears to be slower in the appearance of buildup.
Hive 3, finally have one straight comb in the bunch which I coaxed over the last several weeks by judicously moving and turning the comb here and there. I have placed that comb which is heavily laden with brood, at the back of the brood nest as the last comb, hopefully enticing all new combs behind it to be straight. Will begin culling combs in the front perhaps in a week or two by moving the brood past the back of the brood chamber, I have placed one comb there and the bees haven't abandoned it and the queen has not gone over there to lay at all since it is well outside of the cluster, suspended in the open air of the back of the hive. So I think this is a safe bet here in the warm sub-tropics to move brood out of the brood nest. The brood in the comb I moved back there last week is still in perfect condition by visual inspection. When it all emerges I will cut it off and replace another brood comb by putting it in the back the same way. By being between two already well built combs it should also be built rather nicely I think.
Hive 3 has settled down a lot, I didn't really notice any difference in agression between all the hives. Of course no emerging brood from Hive 3 since the queen got to laying a bit late.
Oh yeah, that queen never did arrive. I hope it doesn't arrive while I am away. I am just giving up on it and will call the supplier and get a refund or something.
Nothing out of the ordinary to report since last time I posted. Just a little update. That's not true, I had a bout with lesser wax moth 2 weeks ago.
Inspected Zeke's Hive on Sunday, Hive 1 yeastery maorning, Hive 3 yesterday afternoon, and the last one this morning.
Hive 1 --
Still Building strong, not much in stores though yet. This is the hive that got Lesser Wax Moth, so a lot of the bees that would have been borne were damaged or killed by the wax moth, the bees were able to handle it on their own once they realized they had a problem. They ripped out all damaged brood, assisted some bees in emerging (and these had damaged wings), and some emerging bees had to be literally chewed out by the bees. The bees chewed the combs down to the midrib and handled the moth larvae, the effected combs of which there were 3 now have a few communication holes in them.
Inspected yesterday morning and the comb has been completely repaired and back in use, though it does have more communication holes in it than before the wax moth problem.
Limited stores probably due to the temporarily reduced workforce, and needing to repair these combs.
Spotted Queen, plenty of brood and eggs.
Hive 2 --
2 weeks ago I placed the two best combs ( bars 1 and 2 ) towards the back to use as coach combs for new comb building. I placed an empty top bar in place of comb 1, which is being used for honey stores currently, and an empty bar between my coach combs. Today found queen on new comb in the back laying. Watched her lay 3 or 4 times. Very casual and not disturbed. Gotta love top bar hives.
Inspected this morning. This hive which was the weakest when it began is becoming one of the strongest, the combs are the most regular and straightest requiring the least amount of comb management. This probably is the reason for their success. These bees have already stored nearly 3 complete combs of honey. The only management I am going to be performing on these hives is an attempt to keep them from getting honey bound this year. When bees have emerged from their cells within the brood nest, the cell are getting filled with honey before the queen gets to them. Not much of a big deal, because the brood nest is pretty significant being probably the equivilent of a 3/4 brood chamber's worth of brood. Left everything where is was this time, will check back in a few days to arrange combs.
Hive 3 --
Bees are doing well, getting some stores going. Did a little more surgery to fix the ugly combs, most doing deep uncappings where top stores were protruding too far for the bees to build comb on the bar between.
Queen cell spotted between the two catenary curves of one comb, inspected the cell, its empty, no egg nor larvae. Spotted queen and she's laying fine. No other queen cells. Will just watch to see what happens. Perhaps the bees haven't liked being so heavily managed. Understandable. Will continue to review egg laying of queen for a while too.
Zeke's Hive --
Haven't been in the hive for a week. Several of SHB in this hive. This hive is under a heavy oak canopy, and could loosely be considered to be in a wooded area. Bees have coraled several of them into comb structures on the floor of the hive. Crushed all Beetles found. Saw some wax moth larvae, crushed.
Did surgery on hive, this hive having been in worse condition that hive 3 as far as comb structure. Combs spanned 3 bars in most cases. Last week, did surgery to separate most of the combs, had a block of 3 top bars that I couldn't repair without serious serious surgery. Went back in and did that surgery yesterday. These bees are surviving, but floundering. it is most certainly due to their brood nest being so thinnly spread because of the surgery performed. THis is the hive that Zeke didn't want me to interfere with unless he asked and he hadn't opened the hive up for the whole 1st month (after initial 2 weeks), and just got to asking for my help 2 weeks ago. He was afraid of doing something wrong to the hive. Can't blame him for that.
Checked Zeke's Hive again today. Things are moving along nicely. Bees are still weaker than they should be, but the queen is laying and has been spotted. Going to let them alone for while except for the occasional inspection. No more serious somb surgery to perform, just let them repair it back up.
Saw about 4 more hive beetles and some wax moth larvae, and also wax moth trapped bees on one comb. We'll see if they handle that as well as my hive did.
All Hives except Zeke's are booming.
Zeke's hive is doing better after all teh comb trimming, training and then recompressing.
After trimming, the combs were spread out strategically to help strighten them out. The colony had trouble keeping brood rearing going which is expected, but the combs are in much better shape. 2 weeks ago I recompressed the brood nest taking the brood combs and putting them together as tighly as possible as if they built the brood nest thusly on their own. Today I checked the hive and there is plenty of brood at all stages again. Hive isn't going to produce this season, but perhaps may be able to take advantage of the fall and winter flows. Still dealing with SHB, but the beetle is becoming VERY SLOWLY less of a problem.
In my hives, the two best hives have about 100 Lbs of honey in them, with about 50 Lbs of that being harvestable. The rest covering the top and edges combs of the brood nest.
My 3rd hive ain't really booming, but its doing well. Its still in somewhat of a training mode. The whole hive is easily inspectible and there are some nice combs, but about half of the combs are crooked in places and room for only half bar a of comb on some bars. With the training I don't expect much of a crop from this hive. Part of why I think its best to get them trained straight away culling crooked combs right out of the hive while they are still building the initial combs. I also think a follower board would help with this some if the size of the hive were compressed so the bees would only be able to build so much comb to begin with. Am trying this with NUC tbhs instead which I use for swarm removals.
All in all a good season I think. TBHs have taught me a LOT in a couple of months. I can't believe I have a realistically harvestable crop within 2 months of installing these bees. If I were to take all the surplus honey from my 4 hives, I would have something like 150-200 lbs of honey. Most of this coming from my two boomers, and maybe 25-30 Lbs coming from the third and none coming from the weak hive.
Scot Mc Pherson
Foundationless Small Cell Top Bar Hives
Congrads. Looks like tbhs have won over another beekeeper. :> ) I know they are not for everyone, but nothing else will do for some once they have tried them.
Thanks for sharing your adventure.
I went through both of mine totatly today. The KTBH had swarm cells and looks like it had already swarmed. Sounded like a queen piping, so I destroyed all the cells. I would have pulled them out and put them in a nuc, but I don't have one that those bars would fit.
I pulled out one small piece of comb that had collapsed and straightened all the rest that were too fat or crooked. I also moved all the drawn ones to the back and put empty ones in the front. Well see if they send off another swarm. The population is still pretty good.
I went through the three box long medium box. No swarm cells and they are doing well. The combs were acutally a little straighter than the KTBH. I moved them back a ways from the entrance also.
I worked both of them with NO smoke and it was so cloudy it was almost dark. No problems.
I do love that about the TBH.
I think I'll do more of the medium depth Lanstroth version. Since it seems to be doing just as well and the equipment is interchangable. But the KTBH is also nice.
Went through my 3 TBH's completely today. Since I am a first year beekeeper I am not totally sure of what I am seeing. Maybe I will take some pictures next week. But it sure looks like I have lots of swarm cells in all 3 hives. Some of the brood bar combs are filled with them in the middle. I am just going to wait and see what happens with them.
The good news is that the comb is really straight. I have not been training it or really doing much inspecting in the last month.
I did inspect with no gloves and no smoke, no problem.
I have been following the advice to keep moving bars to the front. This seems to be good advice. they make new comb in the front.
The deeper hive did have attached comb on the sides about the top 6 inches. Hive is 12 1/2 deep, 15 inch bars - 75 degree slope.
The other hives had no attachments - I think I like that size really well. others have 60 degree slope.
In one of the hives they made the comb perfectly straight, but right between the two bars! so I have a two bar comb. I have used both 1 1/2 inche and 1 1/4 inch width top bars, doesn't seem to be much difference.
I have been thinking about the article about honey being a cap to the brood nest. That is how my combs are, honey on top, brood in middle, pollen on sides. It may be that in TBH's they will want to swarm more for that reason. I will be gone next week but wanted to make these notes before I left.