More bees were massing on the front of my original hive every day. I figured they might be bearding, but I was also worried that they were just waiting for the new queen to hatch so they could swarm. The group on the outside of the hive had reached swarm size, and there was no such bearding on my other two hives.
So this morning I supered the hive and harvested some honey. I moved about half of the honeycomb, 3 bars, into the super, and placed it on top of the hive with a bar near the front of the hive with holes drilled in it to give the bees access.
It looks like the queen cells have not hatched yet, and there was still a lot of room in the hive from the split I made. Now, I'm worried I gave them too much room by placing the super. Is there such a thing as too much room? At any rate, I'm going to leave them alone for the rest of the month so that they can finish requeening.
One question for those of you who super top bar hives: do you regularly remove the super to check the state of the main hive, or do you just leave the main hive body alone when the super is in place?
I checked the split I made, and the new queen does not seem to be laying eggs at a great rate. There is little new comb, but there is larva and capped brood. Maybe I just didn't include enough bees in the split, and when the brood starts hatching they can get to work in earnest.
So the original swarm seems to be the strongest hive of the three at the moment, though they're in a weird state because there seems to be small amounts of brood in the bottom of the comb with lots of honey put up on top on about seventeen bars -- though there is more brood toward the front of the hive.
I'm at the point where I have accepted that I am learning, and I think with three hives I won't completely mess up and lose the bees.
Wow! Sounds like you are getting great swarm and split experience. If it wasn't for the amount of comb and honey in your original hive, I would wonder if there is something (smell?) about it they don't like.
Your bees sound like they are doing a similar brood and honey pattern that mine are. I just put on a super (cardboard box for now) at the back of the hive Sat morning. I moved 7 bars from hive and 2 empty bars into the box and put empty bars in the hive trying to make space in the brood nest. I also reduced the entrance quite a bit and left a gap in the box for them to use as a top entrance. So far they're doing good, but haven't really started using the top entrance much.
I sure hope they consolidate the brood nest and honey sometime before winter. I don't dare hope I might actually get some honey for myself. The one bar I harvested last week when it was suggested that would be the best thing, came out really runny. Too much water in the uncapped nector I think. It's tasty, but we are keeping it in the frig and trying to use it up fast.
BTW, what strain of bees do you have?
I purchased the package from RWeaver in Texas. It's their All Americans, which is a line of Italians. In the split I made, I used an Italian/Carniolan hybrid queen from Zia Queen Bees here in Northern New Mexico.
I have some concern that there may be some Africanized genes sneaking around in my RWeaver queen. They are not as calm as some other bees I've seen worked, and they are swarming a lot. But I can watch them from a distance of four or five feet without -- most of the time -- being chased. Which is good, because I had to put the hive for the latest swarm near my kids' swingset.
The original plans I had for a Les Crowder hive called for a three foot hive and a three inch entrance. I have since learned that Les is now building his hives 44 inches, and the entrances are six inches long. With all this swarming, I have built my three newest hives four feet long.
The original hive has had plenty of empty bars before this last swarm, and I harvested three bars of honey to give them even more room. Someone suggested that the small entrance might be making them feel crowded, so yesterday, I went in and drilled a line of 3/8" holes next to the side entrance halfway down the side of the hive. I was surprised to see the bees didn't really go on the defensive while I drilled. I hope that helps them feel more at home.
Come Autumn, I might find myself recombining some of the smaller groups of bees. The split is not growing very quickly. The original swarm has turned into a very strong colony, and the new swarm is hard at work. I think that swarms, in general, may be stronger than splits. I assume they contain a good cross-section of the hive population, not just nurse bees and brood. But I don't know if the new swarm will have time to build up for winter, and I don't know if the original hive has enough population left to do the same.
Now -- how do you combine top bar hives? You can't just put a sheet of newspaper between two brood chambers.
And hopefully I'll be able to find the new, unmarked queens. I have a hard enough time finding marked ones.
I thought top bar hives would be easier than Langstroth hives. I'm no longer sure that's right.