I've got 2 hives in my field, one a Langstroth which is doing great (its 2nd year) and one a TBH which I started this year. I'm the only one in my area with a TBH and don't have that much experience on top of that, so I feel like I'm winging it a bit.
The TBH is one of Phil Chandler's 48" designs. It has a screened bottom, a deep top cover with a white plastic corrugated roof, with plenty of ventilation in the space between the roof and the top-bars, four 1-1/4" entrance holes on the side, and no special provisions for top ventilation other than leaving an opening between top-bars. The hive is in the shade of an oak tree most of the day and has struck me as a cool hive. At any rate I've never observed those bees fetching water from the nearby birdbath.
This spring, about 4-5 days after introducing the new package I removed the bottom board and the very next day half the package and my queen were gone. I immediately put the bottom board back on so the rest could keep warm. Since the hive was a bit of an experiment, I allowed the remaining bees to re-queen themselves, which they did successfully (they were mighty thin, so that was quite an achievement!) 3 weeks after the new queen started laying the population exploded and in a very short time they had 10 bars built up completely. I opened the bottom again during that massive heat wave the entire east coast experienced in July.
A couple of weeks after opening the bottom I noticed that they weren't building comb any more, and that foraging activity had fallen off dramatically (the Langstroth bees were really bringing it in). Eventually they started bearding, which I attributed to heat and humidity. But they persisted even when it started cooling off and today they were gone, leaving a skeleton crew again.
I have a few questions for the experienced TBH keepers here:
1) I have a strong dislike of the screened bottom now. Is this justified? Or was that a coincidence? I'm almost certain the open bottom is what caused them to swarm/abscond the first time. Not so sure about the second time. Lack of room was not the problem, as I tried to keep ahead of them. Does the open bottom make them feel vulnerable? My Langstroth also has a screened bottom, but the hive's vertical design and the frame bottom bars tend to minimize that open feeling.
2) Is it worth re-queening at this late juncture? Or should I allow them to re-queen again and hope for the best? (I've heard weird "peep peep peep" sounds that could be piping in there today, but I'll have to check tomorrow.)
3) Can they be got through the winter, and what is the best way? They don't have much by way of stores. I live in West Virginia, and it gets quite cold from late October through early April, which is a good long stretch.
Any advice and thoughts are appreciated.