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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Watertown, NY
    Posts
    11

    Default What are they doing??!

    This is my first year with bees: I have two hives, one from a package and one from a nuc. Both were doing nicely as of the inspection on June 28th. I'd added a second deep hive body to the nuc-bees two weeks before, and added a second hive body to the package bees on the 28th. The nuc-bees were building up well into the 2nd hive body by then. All seemed happy and content, both hive queens were present and busy. Life was good, and I went out of town for a spell.

    I got back on Tuesday night and took a first look at the hives on Wednesday morning. I saw what I thought looked like robbing on the nuc-hive... lots of activity that had a stressful feel to it, and a lot of bees climbing up the front of the hive before taking off. Plus there was some fighting pairs and I saw bees dragging others out of the hive. I got a couple of entrance reducers and installed them in both hives... I figured if the robbers couldn't get into the hive they'd been robbing, they'd go to the house next door. The nuc-hive has an old bottom board that's not standard (I have screened bottom boards on the way, but they're back-ordered ) so I was having trouble getting the wooden reducer to fit. Sanded frantically, and got it to mostly fit with a slit where the larger opening is still open. I put in a couple of shims to block it.

    Early Wednesday evening, I went back to check and saw this:



    My husband said they were cooling the hive (he's new at this, too, but I didn't have a better explanation) and they seemed peaceful so we left them to it.

    Yesterday morning I went back out and found more robbing activity, lots of frantic side to side flying, wrestling bees (not drones) and a few times I saw bees being carried off by other bees. This was happening with both hives, but to a much greater degree on the nuc-hive. There were many bees coming in and out of the crevice, so I got a piece of wood to block it. The bees still have access through the small reducer entrance beneath the piece of wood. Last evening we went to check them again and this is what we saw:



    Here you can see what I mean about the piece of wood:



    It almost looks like what I think swarming must look like. There doesn't seem to be any bees looking for alternative entrances around the hive; none at the back or any other seams. It wasn't that warm yesterday, but could they be over heated? My husband thinks that the robber band has swarmed and is trying to move into our hive... does that ever happen? Do other colonies ever try to move in on a hive? As far as we know, the next nearest hive is a mile away.

    Also, I'm surprised about this whole robbing thing happening now. It's nearly mid-July and there are lots of flowers in bloom in the fields (we're on an old dairy farm with another farm across the road). The milkweed have just started blooming, so I wouldn't have expected robbing.

    I've read here that some folks use robber screens. I'm waiting to hear if our local agway can order some 1/8 inch hardware cloth, no other store carries it (I called every one in the phone book). I got the wood & the nails ready, so just waiting on the screen. I've also read about using vicks vaporub on the entrances. When should it be applied? At night?

    We're way up north in NY state with no beekeeping club within 75 miles, so we get all our knowledge from books & online. The folks who sold us the nuc are sweet, but are commercial beekeepers and not really available for handholding of newbies. We are extremely grateful to be able to come here and gather all the wisdom-nectar you good people so generously share!

    Thanks for all the great info, and for any help with this - I'm going back out later today and will let you know what I find.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Fresno California USA
    Posts
    2,479

    Default Re: What are they doing??!

    They are doing good!

    Take those reducers off immediately. They need more ventilation not less. Put a little pebble or something under the lid so there is upward ventilation.

    My bees do better when I leave them alone a while too!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Watertown, NY
    Posts
    11

    Default Re: What are they doing??!

    Thanks so much for your FAST reply! I'll get out there right away & pull the reducers.

    Do you think the robbing is over, or is it not likely to be a problem. Or could it have been me over reacting?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Watertown, NY
    Posts
    11

    Default Re: What are they doing??!

    Oh, how big a pebble? It's been cool here so far this year, today is the first day in weeks that it's been over 80. (That's why I didn't think ventilation was an issue)

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Watertown, NY
    Posts
    11

    Default Re: What are they doing??!

    Wait, another question...

    Mr. Laury, do you mean to say that I should have no reducer at all, just the bottom of the hive wide open between the bottom of the hive body and the bottom board?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Fresno California USA
    Posts
    2,479

    Default Re: What are they doing??!

    If the weaker colony has actually perished or gone queenless, there is some chance they are being robbed out. But I suspect you are entering your main honey flow and robbing would be very unusual given this.
    Yes you want a full entrance at the bottom and vents of some kind in the upper part of the hive so the air can move through. Just like the attic of a house needs those intakes under the eaves and vents up at the ridge.

    Also the good news: Looks like the bigger colony is ready for a super!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Watertown, NY
    Posts
    11

    Default Re: What are they doing??!

    Yay!! About the big colony, anyway. I'm heading down there right now and bringing the camera. It's just to pull the reducers and add venting pebbles, we'll do the real inspection late this afternoon. We were hesitant to open the hives while it seemed robbing was going on.

    Thanks again!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Massachusetts, USA
    Posts
    155

    Default Re: What are they doing??!

    I agree with Tom, especially getting a super on the nuc hive, just to make sure they don't swarm.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Barry, TX USA
    Posts
    861

    Default Re: What are they doing??!

    You can create some more ventilation by putting the front edge of your telescoping cover on the front edge of your inner cover. That will let air come up through the opening in your inner cover and out under the telescoping cover. It's important to tilt the front side up and not the back as rain would fall on your landing board when it rains. If you do this many of the bees bearding the front of the hive will hang out under the telescoping cover.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    27,114

    Default Re: What are they doing??!

    Quote Originally Posted by MrsFinch View Post
    Wait, another question...

    Mr. Laury, do you mean to say that I should have no reducer at all, just the bottom of the hive wide open between the bottom of the hive body and the bottom board?
    It was a beautiful day for working bees today, wasn't it. I worked all day w/out gloves or veil, supering 4 yards and transfering nucs into full sized boxes and splitting some 5 frame nucs to use somemore queens. I'm down to 7 queens now and hope to use them tomorrow.

    I sure hope you and Mr. Finch are coming to the bee meeting near Waddington on saturday the 25th of July.

    Open them hives and let them fly!!
    Mark Berninghausen #youmatter

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Ovid, New York, USA
    Posts
    134

    Default Re: What are they doing??!

    Wow, those are great pictures. Bees are leaving and coming to my hive at the rate of 1-3 per second...I don't have them leaving en masse ?????

    How do I know we have a nectar flow ? If Watertown has one, don't the Finger Lakes ???

    Nancy
    Ovid, NY

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Flora,IL
    Posts
    2,644

    Default Re: What are they doing??!

    I would say your robbing is a major issue here, obviously the size of the 2 hives is very different.... This can create the issue you speak of (fighting....) they will rob the nuc to death... once started probably won't stop until its dies....

    I would equalize ASAP... swap positions during the day for field workers.,, and swap brood and honey stores....

    Either that or move the hive much farther away...(50 yards or so) but it may only be a temp fix....


    and yes you need more ventilation..... you can A get your screened botton boards.... B, open the tops and entrances, c. remoce the bottom board entirely and leave the hive open underneath until your bottom boards arrive...


    but bck to the robbing... I see it a lot, my nucs have to be kept 100 yards from the real strong hives...

    Lost 2 this year despite my efforts.... Nucs Robbed to death in a cpl days...
    (one while I was out of town)

    Odd thing was BOTH were in the same spot....

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Watertown, NY
    Posts
    11

    Default Re: What are they doing??!

    It's been quite a day!! No new pictures because I left the camera behind... and I'd have something really neat to show you if I hadn't Either way, it's thanks to you, Mr. Tom, that my day had a happy ending

    Mr. Finch came home as I was going out the door, so we went down to the yard together to give the poor girls some relief. As per the great advice I got here we pulled out the entrance reducers and installed the new super on the nuc-hive - that's our stronger colony, which is another reason I thought it strange that they seemed to be getting robbed instead of the package colony. We also put the small stones under the telescoping lids. The package colony, the weaker one, didn't have much happening in the second hive body so we decided not to install a super on that one just yet. Then we settled into our hive-watching chairs to see if the changes would be apparent. Good thing we did!

    After about half an hour of watching, I noticed a lot of bees were buzzing around the bushes just beyond the weaker hive. 'Huh, that's funny, wonder what's so interesting?' Then I realized that I could see an odd looking blob in amongst the branches.... YIKES!! They're swarming!!!

    How lucky could we be, to have our first swarming event happen right in front of us! How considerate are our bees, to swarm right at waist level! Mr. Finch ran off to get the loppers and a bucket while I waited & watched. The swarm was not one clump but a big clump with a few smaller on nearby branches. I broke off a small one and held it near the entrance of the weak hive. In they went, like a bus load of tourists into a highway diner. (I like bus tours.. and diners!)

    Mr. Finch couldn't find a bucket, so we improvised. I lopped and Mr. Finch held out the bee veil I'd worn earlier, and our first swarm was captured. We dumped them out in front of the hive and watched while the wave moved up the cinder blocks & into the hive (Mr. Finch said it reminded him of The Blob... the good one with Steve McQueen).

    This evening we went back out and sat watching the hives. The stronger colony seemed very glad to have some air moving through the hive and while there was a crowd on the 'front porch' there was no bearding and no one was climbing the front wall.

    The weaker, swarmed & re-hived colony seemed happy to be home, but there was some fighting going on at the entrance. They weren't crowding the landing board; they're probably comfortable with the reducer gone and the lid open a bit. There was a wrestling match between one - two pairs pretty much continuously before the light gave out, but I noticed that none of the fights seemed deadly serious. Just some tussling and rolling, then they'd separate. Mr. Finch suggested they were personality conflicts and not too worrisome.

    So it seems as though everything has settled down and disaster has been narrowly averted. I do have some questions though!

    1. Since the swarm moved back into the hive with no hesitation or division, is it reasonable to assume the queen has come home as well?
    2. Should we be concerned about the fighting? It didn't seem like warfare, but there was definitely squabbling!
    3. We found some dead pupae in front of the stronger hive, about a half dozen. I didn't notice these until the end of the evening when the whiteness of them stood out. Is this worrying or could it have been a heat-stress thing?
    4. Is the Bee Meeting in Waddington okay for small potatoes like the Finches? I saw it mentioned in Bee Culture but thought it was for big producers


    Mr. Tom, thanks so much, for your advice and help with this! And thanks to everyone else who chimed in with advice & comments. I feel so lucky to have this amazing group of people here, who not only know so much and have so much experience, but are willing to share it. THANK YOU!!!


  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Watertown, NY
    Posts
    11

    Default Re: What are they doing??!

    oops, double post!

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Watertown, NY
    Posts
    11

    Default Re: What are they doing??!

    Mr Charlie, the SBBs are back-ordered. I hate the thought of just putting the hives out bottomless (seems like asking for weird things to happen! ) Maybe we could jerry-rig something with some old window screens we have in the barn. We could set the screens on the cinder blocks, then use some 1 x 2 pieces to frame the three edges of the hive bottom. That would work until the SBBs come in, right?

    Then again, our forecast for the next 7 days is 70's in the day and mid-low 50's at night. Maybe a screen over cinderblocks would be too chilly?

  16. #16
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Flora,IL
    Posts
    2,644

    Default Re: What are they doing??!

    don't worry about too chilly in the 50's I leave SBB on all year and only block the wind.... not nearly as cold as you are but no problems....

    Yes if your handy window screening will work, but the first choice would be 1/4 hardware cloth (rabbit wire)

    Your goal is to stop mauraders and mice, and let air and mites flow thru... Most screened bottom boards are number 5 so just a bit smaller than 1/4 (number 4)...

    I do have a cpl hives just sitting on open pallets at differnt times, and its not a big issue....


    (out yards and splits when I wasn't planning)

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