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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Pasadena, CA

    Default Stop me before I kill again

    My first hive started as a feral colony in a rustic hive (old crate). I noticed it when it swarmed, but I missed catching the swarm by minutes. So I put a deep on top of a hole in the rustic to entice the remaining colony. They ignored it for almost a year, so the rustic became a cutout and I tossed some comb into the deep (upside down, of course). Could only fit 9 foundation frames. Somehow I managed not to kill the queen, but I did manage to get stung every time I worked the hive (mosquito net instead of veil, work gloves instead of bee gloves, not enough smoke, working from the front, etc).

    Moved the hive to a better spot and two weeks ago transferred the frames into a new deep box so I could clean up. Could only fit 8 frames because of the buildup of new comb and I didn’t want to crush ‘em. I put a 10-frame deep on top including the old 9th frame, which was half filled with uncapped honey.

    I built a screened bottom board with a sticky board made from tile board (it’s coated with melamine and has a squares pattern that helps counting). Daily mite drop is about 35. Moth poop is diminishing (the rustic had many places for moths to hide). I’m also seeing a few black, 2.5 mm beetles, like bark beetles not SHB; wassupwiddat? The sticky board handle has a hole for a crack pipe oxalic acid smoker. I also made a hive-top feeder, not yet installed.

    The bees appear normal and there are plenty of them in the lower deep. The brood comb seems well filled, but the lower deep has lots of new “wild” comb in the wider spaces, plus old upside down comb, so my hive is part frame, part top board, part mess. The top deep is seeing a little drawing out of comb, but no capped honey. Still haven’t seen the queen, but the bees keep on coming. I saw one new queen cell.

    Please help me avoid screwing up this colony even more than I already have. Should I cut up the “wild” comb and wire any brood comb into empty frames (right side up this time) and dump the “wild” honey comb in the top deep to be scavenged? Should I also try to hack out comb with moth larvae (which I haven’t been able to see, partly because I hate hassling the bees and they hate me for doing it). Maybe I could finally succeed in killing the queen, but then I could fit 10 frames. Or should I just leave the lower deep in its messy state for now? Should I vaporize some oxalic acid on them, or maybe just powdered sugar now and oxalic if the mite drop increases later in the summer? Or Thymomite? Should I feed them, since the hive is light (I have no idea what they’re foraging, late July in urban Southern California, but they are finding some pollen)? Should I medicate them? Should I requeen (maybe out of social responsibility)? I’m in an African bee area, but with better technique and plenty of smoke, only about a half dozen or so of these girls really go off on me when I take out several brood frames; they infrequently nail my gloves. When I’m not working them I can stand 6 feet away in T-shirt and shorts, which is my attire when I collect the sticky board. So maybe I have a fecund, mite-resistant and relatively gentle African queen, and I should split the hive?

    Inquiring bees desperately want to know.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2007


    12 questions, each requiring a detailed answere, when most of the country is harvesting honey, is a bit much. i suggest a good bee primer from the library and joining or at least attendig the meetings of a local bee club. good luck,mike
    "Wine is a constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy" Ben Franklin

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Greenville, TX, USA


    I'll offer an opinion (we all have one). I would feed to get the upper deep drawn out. When the queen starts laying up there, slip in an excluder to keep here there. As the brood hatches out of the lower deep, remove and correct any comb that isn't right. Feed back any honey you have to scrap. It takes a while, but you will eventually get them straight. The more direct approach is to pull all good frames and move them into the new deep with foundation to finish it out to 10 frames. Shake all the bees into the new deep. Place it on the bottom board. Put a queen excluder on it and set the old stuff on top to hatch. When it hatches, shake the remaining bees off and remove it.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Arundel, Maine USA


    I think it's too late to do a split. If the hive is booming, you might do a nucleus hive. Otherwise, just leave them as one colony. Here is what I would do for the rest...

    1) Get rid of any comb that has moth larvae in it. Comb that has brood in it can go in the bottom box (up to 4 frames.) Next to that frames of honey (one on each side of the frames of brood) on the outside, give them frames of foundation so you can start weeding out the weird, thicker frames. What brood comb that is left can go in the upper box with one frame of honey on each side of the brood nest, and then frames with fresh foundation. (the idea is to weed out the frames that are too thick) Any frames of honey can be put in a 3rd box on top of the other two. The bees may pull this honey out, and move it to the lower boxes. If they don't all fit, store frames with capped honey in a container to give to them when needed.

    2) Feed they sugar syrup so they can draw out those new frames.

    3) Treat for mites. I would suggest using either Api Life Var if it's legal in your state, or apiguard.

    4) Close them up and leave them for at least 1 week preferably 2. Make sure they have an entrance reducer on. (I wouldn't close it up to the smallest hole) Observe them each day. What do they sound like? What is the activity like at the entrance?

    When you go in next, work slowly but confidently. Don't spend too much time in the colony (30-45 min is too long) Give them a puff or two of smoke in the entrance. Wait 30 seconds. Pop open the outer cover, and give them a puff or two of smoke. Close the outer cover and wait 30 seconds. Take outer and inner cover off. Look quickly through the first box. Basically what I would be looking for is whether or not there are any eggs or small larvae. They will most likely be located in the center, so I would focus my attention there.
    Remove top box, and look through the bottom box, again focusing your attention on the center of the box to look for eggs and small larvae. If you see that, you queen is laying. That's great!

    Are they drawing out the new foundation? If they look like the are making good progress on the foundation (a frame that is 1/2 - 3/4 drawn out is good progress) I would remove one of the fat frames that is as empty as possible, and put more frames of fresh foundation on the outer edges of the box. So the goal is to progressively work out the frames that they drew out too far. It can also be beneficial to give them a frame with no foundation. I find that the girls are always looking for a place to build drone comb, and they love to build their own wax. (just make sure you keep feeding them, even if there's nectar!)

    Put your box back together and repeat in 2 weeks.

    Make sure you wash your bee suit and gloves regularly to get rid of alarm pheromone.

    hope this helps...
    Let's BEE friends


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