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  1. #1
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    Jan 2009
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    Default What's going on here?

    I need a diagnosis on what is going on with one of my top bar hives. I started two new tbh's in late April with package bees. One of them seems to be going about business normally, but the other hive is troubling me as to what is happening. Many bees have been clustering on the front of the hive above the entrance and also hanging underneath the landing board (which sticks out 2") like a bee beard for about a week now. The last couple days the bees above the entrance have begun washboarding all day long, like a couple hundred of them. The bees also have become more aggresive towards me, they were always so well behaved before. Bees flying to and from the field is about the same as my other hive. The clovers began here big time about a week ago, so there is plenty of sweet clover, alsike, and white dutch available just 300 yards away from the hives. An inspection two days ago revealed much honey and pollen in the brood area to the point where I would say they are honey bound. Could that be causing this? Any ideas would be appreciated. Thanks.

  2. #2
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    May 2009
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    Island County, WA, USA
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    Default Re: What's going on here?

    It could be a couple of things...

    Do you use follower boards? If so, are there at least two empty bars between the follower board and where they are building comb? They could be crowded.

    Did you see larvae in your inspection? Do you see eggs? They may be queen-less.

    Where did you get your package from? If you got them from the southern US, you could have an Africanized strain (or some Africanized genetics in there) in the queen. With packages, the queen usually comes from a different place than the bees so you don't usually know the true temperament of the colony until she gets a few brood cycles in. If you think the colony has Africanized genes, you should replace the queen from a source you can trust being sure to euthanize the old queen.

    There is also the possibility that you have a very successful package and they are just plain ready to reproduce (swarm), in which case you can look at artificial swarming (e.g., splitting).

    I'm still a bit new to this, so some more experienced folk here may want to jump in if I missed something...

    Take care, -- Logan

  3. #3
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    Default Re: What's going on here?

    I'm not using a follower board right now, took it out about a month ago and let them have run of the whole hive which contains 30 bars, the bees only occupy half of them. I did not see any eggs or larvae, but I didn't inspect every bar because a few of them were cross combed. Sometimes I have a tough time seeing eggs if the lighting isn't just right, and my eyes are not what they used to be also. The hive is very strong. Don't get me wrong, the bees seem more aggresive than they were previously, but its only been a couple bees at a time threatening me when I stand off to the side of the hive. No stings yet, just bees checking me out at close range!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2009
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    Island County, WA, USA
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    Default Re: What's going on here?

    I would recommend going in tomorrow and making sure the hive is queen-right. While you are there, look for swarm cells which will be an indication the hive wants to swarm. You can also gently straighten the comb up while you are there if you like (may make for easier future inspections.) I understand having trouble seeing eggs. One trick I use is to hold the frame between me and the sun. You shouldn't have to go through every comb to see larvae. Once you start getting into the brood nest, it should be pretty apparent if you have larvae or not. No larvae is a good sign that you have a queen-less hive but you want to be sure before you go introducing a new queen. A change in temperament is also a good indication that something is wrong. One possibility is that the hive may have tried to supersede the queen for a variety of reasons, the new queen and old queen fought and they both lost and then unfortunately they are left without a leader. If you still have capped brood but no larvae, chances are you can avoid a drone or worker layer situation.

    I use this method for making my top bars and so far have not had any difficulty with cross-combing.

    Let us know how it goes tomorrow after you find out if you are queen-right or not. (I have a hunch that for some reason you are without a leader.) Take care, --Logan

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
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    BelAir MD U.S.A
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    Default Re: What's going on here?

    I have the same thing going on with both of my tbh's. One hive is very strong they have drawn comb on 18 bars since late April. The other hive is not as strong as they have only 9 full bars and 3 partial. I'm not using the follower boards at this time. I've noticed the bees hanging out side more when the temp. gets above 80, and mostly they do this at night. I have seen this during the early morning hours before the sun comes up, but, The ood thing is that I never see them clustered outside at 30 +/- mins before sun rise. Its like they go in side for that last 30 to 40 mins of darkness.
    I wonder if its a ventillation issue. my tbh's have a solid bottom boards and
    3-1" holes on the end for an entrance.

    Thanks
    Dan

  6. #6
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    Sep 2007
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    Hudson, WI USA
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    Default Re: What's going on here?

    JMGI, I think your bees are going to swarm. This happened to me last year: Do a search by my name and you'll read the whole sad, but educating saga, I think your best option is to make a split into another TBH if you have a box on hand or can make one quickly. Michael Bush's website has a lot of well written explanation on splitting. Adrian.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: What's going on here?

    Quote Originally Posted by dan k 1 View Post
    I have the same thing going on with both of my tbh's.
    Lack of ventilation is not the problem here, I have a screened bottom board, a 7" wide by 5/8" high entrance hole, and the temps have only been in the 70's. The clustering outside and washboarding diminishes somewhat after dark, but resumes again the next morning.
    Last edited by Bizzybee; 06-22-2009 at 01:33 PM.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: What's going on here?

    Logan, I do plan on going in tomorrow rain or shine to see what is going on, this has been driving me nuts for over a week now. This is a really strong hive and I surely don't want to see them swarm as they were really bringing in the nectar from clovers, they had made the transition from brood to honey storage and had a couple whole combs full and partially capped with great tasting honey! Will let you know what I find later today. Thanks. John

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
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    Portland, OR, USA
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    637

    Default Re: What's going on here?

    I have 9 top bar hives and many of them, even though the hive is wide open (30 bars) had this issue until I began "checkerboarding" the bars to open up the brood nest a bit. Thousands would be sleeping outside at night until I gave them a bit more space. Give it a try.

    Matt

  10. #10
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    Default Re: What's going on here?

    OK, I did a check of every bar in the TBH that I've been wondering about with the clustering outside and all, what I found was honey and pollen packed into almost every available cell. There were a few scattered empty cells around the lower edges, the only brood was a some sealed worker and drone that together may have equaled one side of a comb. No eggs or larvae whatsoever, no queen in sight, no capped queen cells, no queen cell cups. The colony occupies about 15 bars strongly. I must mention that a couple days ago I went into the hive and added two empty bars, each one between two straight combs. One of them was not worked on at all, the other had about a third of the comb drawn, and even that one had some honey stored in it already. I expected that if a queen existed, the newly drawn comb would get eggs layed in it, but that's not the case. So what I did was remove a comb of eggs and very young larvae from the TBH next door and gave it to them minus the adhering bees. I also removed two combs of bees and shook them off into the hive next door which is somewhat weak, I shook them on one side of a divider board with a hole in it covered with newspaper. As of a few minutes ago, looking through the observation window I could see that the bees had joined peacefully. I'm hoping that what I did today is going to solve whatever problem they had. Any further input would be appreciated. John

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Island County, WA, USA
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    Default Re: What's going on here?

    Hi, John,

    It sounds like your hive has no queen. I would recommend at this point in the season re-queening the hive because the hive may not be able to create a new one. Even if they do, it would possibly take 23-24 days from today before you see any eggs laid and since it is late in the season the hive may suffer because they won't be able to get to where they need to before winter. That's my $0.02 on the queen-less issue.

    -->So what I did was remove a comb of eggs and very young larvae from the TBH next door and gave it to them minus the adhering bees.

    Did you give these eggs and larvae to the hive we are talking about? If so, this may give them a chance to raise their own queen, but my recommendation would be to get one and put it in the hive.

    -->I also removed two combs of bees and shook them off into the hive next door which is somewhat weak, I shook them on one side of a divider board with a hole in it covered with newspaper. As of a few minutes ago, looking through the observation window I could see that the bees had joined peacefully. I'm hoping that what I did today is going to solve whatever problem they had.

    I'm hoping these bees went into the hive we are talking about, and not the other way around. If you did in fact take bees away from a queen-less hive I have just one word: Yikes! We have a queen-less hive here, and that means it is not getting any eggs laid until it has one. The hive will need all the resources it can get to make it through winter, and borrowing bees from a queen-less hive IMHO is not the way to go. Bees, like people, do not live forever and they need to be replaced.

    I had a hive with similar behavior and I discovered her not to be queen-right after inspection. I introduced a new queen, and the issues resolved very quickly.

    Good luck and keep us posted. Take care,--Logan

  12. #12
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    Sep 2007
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    Default Re: What's going on here?

    John, another possibility is that you still have the original queen. She has stopped laying in preparation for her departure. The bees have filled the hive full and will leave shortly taking half of the honey with them leaving empty cells for the soon-to-emerge-queen to lay in.
    Adding the frame of young brood is a good test. If they are queenless they will make a new queen from one of the larva, if they don't you will know a queen is in there.
    Queens are hard to find at the best of times. You say the hive is full of bees, I think this makes queen cells hard to find.
    It is going to be interesting to see how this turns out. Adrian.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: What's going on here?

    Adrian, I'm virtually sure that there were no eggs or larvae in the hive, the combs that were thick with bees I shook off a bit into the hive so that I could get a better look into the open cells and to check for queen cells. I may be wrong but I wouldn't think a swarm would issue without making provisions for a new queen for the parent hive.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    nottingham,PA
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    8

    Default Re: What's going on here?

    I agree with the poster who mentioned "checkerboarding" I have a 4 foot hive and one of my hives is really strong but for a few weeks quite a few of them were hanging outside all day and all night. So even though they had the whole hive to use it seems as though they stopped about 8 to 10 bars in. So I grabbed all my empty bars and added one between each full bar. Now there are none hanging outside and they've already started building comb on the empty bars. They kind of just psychologically crowded themselves, I don't know.

  15. #15
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    Jan 2009
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    BelAir MD U.S.A
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    Default Re: What's going on here?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Quiney WI View Post
    JMGI, I think your bees are going to swarm. This happened to me last year: Do a search by my name and you'll read the whole sad, but educating saga, I think your best option is to make a split into another TBH if you have a box on hand or can make one quickly. Michael Bush's website has a lot of well written explanation on splitting. Adrian.
    You hit the nail right smack dab on the head. They swarmed last Thursday while I was at work. My neighbor watched the whole thing. They left plenty of bees in the hive along with 8 queen cells.
    One good thing about this is that I was given a new queen last Friday to start a nuc with from a member of the bee club. It was a Russian queen cell that was to emerge that day. I put her in the hive that swarmed too shorten the queen less period. I removed 4 of the bars that had swarm cells from that hive, took 2 bars of honey and shook bees from my other hive into tbh nuc that I built, smoked them and checked them on Sunday. The queen cells were still unopened. but the bees seemed ok. Then I checked the hive that swarmed. The new Russian queen had emerged, so, with any luck she will be laying eggs with in 10 or 12 days.
    This whole experience has been beneficial I'll know what to look for next time. I'm also thinking maybe if I had added empty bars after they had drawn out 6 or 8 bars I may have given them more room and may have prevented the swarm. The reason I think adding empty bars after they drew out 8 bars is because they took 5 weeks to build out the first 8 bars. After that they grew very fast all most doubled in size by week 7. I would like any feedback I can get on this topic.
    Thanks
    Dan

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Hudson, WI USA
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    2,180

    Default Re: What's going on here?

    Another thing I was ruminating on. If you think the bees are going to swarm in a TBH, and there is at least half of the hive empty, how easy would it be to do a split within the hive by placing a follower board in the middle and dividing the bars accordingly? Then there could be a combine in the fall within the same box if neccessary. Adrian.

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