I currently have 4 top bar hives. I started in April with one hygenic package, and split it into 4 smaller hives, all of which now have laying queens and are starting to build up. I'm the only one in my very large family (I'm the youngest of 9 kids) that does anything with bees. Likewise, my family is very intrigued. This weekend, two of my sisters, three nieces and my mom were in town. So I decided to do a hive demonstration. I was going to just let them stand by the entrance, and talk about the bees. Instead, they got to see a full blown emergency hive repair.
The key to this story is my two dogs, laborador retrievers. They like to romp in the yard, and when I say romp, I mean they tackle each other, fighting like bears. If you didn't know better, you'd think they were fighting to the death, but really they are just playing. As I was just starting talking to my sisters, the dogs tumbled by and I said simply "don't worry about them, they're just playing. Ok, should we open a hive?" At that exact instant, the dogs opened one for me! It happened so fast, I don't even know which one hit it, but one of them slammed the other one into the legs of one hive. The legs are 1x3 cedar boards, rough cut, so truly 1" thick. Pretty sturdy really. But I guess not enough. When the dog hit it, both legs on one end snapped across a know in each leg, that I didn't know was there. The hive fell to the ground and then tipped over. The roof flew off, and empty top bars scattered. Luckily, the brood nest was actually glued together pretty well, and no combs collapsed or even broke.
This was the weakest of the splits, and I actually was thinking that it may be queenless. They had failed their first attempt to raise a new queen. I had given them eggs, let them raise another, but had not seen her or eggs for over a week. My first thought was to go ahead and just throw in the towel, and combine this weak colony with another. I brushed off two combs and placed them in another hive. On the third, I spotted a small patch of capped brood. Looking closer, I saw larva, and then even eggs! The capped brood did not appear as drone brood, and was laid in a good tight pattern. I did think I may have seen more then one egg in one cell, but only in that one. I was going to look for the queen, but nightfall was fast approaching, and I just needed to get the hive put back together.
For now, I replaced the two empty combs that I took from this hive, with two combs mostly full of capped brood. This should give them a good boost in numbers, and help with the new queen. I think she is laying slow right now because the hive has such low numbers.
So at the end of the day, I guess there was a silver lining to the dogs wiping out one of my hives. I discovered a laying queen, and my sisters got a little more education than they bargained for. One of my sisters (a 7th grade science teacher) took the opportunity to throw on my extra veil/jacket, and came out to take a video. Here it is for a good laugh. http://youtu.be/fjoVS4lHQIE. Enjoy!