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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Randolph County, NC
    Posts
    26

    Default Package bees absconding - Help me figure out what I did wrong.

    First off, I am new to this. So I knew it would be a learning experience. Having done a ton of reading and research, I kinda thought my success level would be a little higher than it has been so far. I don't mind constructive criticism, I hope to learn what happened so I can improve my chances of future success.

    Sorry if this is a bit long winded.. I'll start from the beginning and give as much info as possible so that perhaps someone can help me see what I did wrong.

    I made my hives (10 frame medium boxes, SBB, telescopic cover, inner cover, natural size foundation-less frames with beveled top bar). The frames are made from pine, and rest is made from western red cedar. Glued with titebond III. The hives have been assembled for several weeks now, and the frames have been assembled for a week or so. So.. I really don't think there should be any bad smell from the glue or anything.



    Wanting to test various methods I have read, I decided to try my first two packages as follows:

    Hive 1:
    11 Foundationless frames
    direct release queen


    Hive 2:
    9 foundationless frames
    2 standard frames with foundation
    caged queen between the two sheets of foundation


    (The hive on the left is currently empty, the one on the right is what I am calling hive 2)

    I marked both queens (red elmers painters marker - which I had read here and other places was safe to use)
    Both hives had mason jar feeders (2:1 cane sugar:water), upside down on the inner cover with an extra medium ontop of that, and then the telescopic cover.
    I also put the syrup cans that came in the packages upside down between two bricks so that it would not be wasted (but they leaked on the lids, and killed a few bees because they got stuck in it).
    One stupid thing I did do, which might have caused a problem was... not thinking.. I removed the syrup cans from the covers and put them on the stand... which was a treated 4x4. I realized the stupidity of having bees lick syrup off treated lumber the following day, and I am not sure.. but thought that could be related to my issues below.


    The first 3 days were fairly chilly with the high in the upper 40s to mid 50s. Both hives seemed fairly normal and active, with bees flying when it was over about 45.


    On day 3 I opened up both hives to inspect them. Both hives were very active and had lots of bees flying. It was about 60 degrees. I smoked both lightly using some wood pellets. Smoke was not hot.

    hive 1

    only drank maybe an inch of the quart of syrup
    bees hanging in sheets from the frames
    no noticeable amount of comb
    didn't see the queen, but didn't look either, since there were just masses of bees all hanging

    hive2
    drank about half of the quart of syrup
    bees hanging from frames and covering the foundation
    very slight amount of wax, mostly just gluing the queen cage to the foundation
    did see the queen just as I was putting the inner cover on.


    Day 4,
    hive 2 is very active, and hive 1 is nearly silent. After realizing something was surely wrong, I opened hive 1 to find about 20 bees in there. Probably about 20 dead in the bottom, but they may have been there since I dumped the package in.

    Day 6 (today) it was 70 degrees out, and hive 2 was much less active than I expected it to be. I didn't want to disturb it, but looking through the SBB I could see that there are alot fewer bees in there than there should be. I could see about 1/3 of a drawn frame with only 1-2 bees on the open side, and what looked to be many bees between that and the frame with foundation.

    Not sure where to go from here. I am hoping hive 2 will be okay.. and I want to get more bees (in fact, I built 6 hives, and already have 2 more packages that I am supposed to pick up later this month).. but I am pretty worried with my results so far. As far as I can tell, the only thing that I did that I think could have caused this was maybe disturbing them too much - but inspecting after 3 or so days seems to be common practice. Or the syrup getting on the treated wood making them get sick or maybe perceive it as a bad location.

    Any tips, ideas, suggestions, and criticisms welcome ;)

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
    Posts
    2,974

    Default Re: Package bees absconding - Help me figure out what I did wrong.

    I would think having no comb to get things started in hive 1 contributed to it absconding. They had nothing to move onto except a bunch of dead space and it's not exactly a swarm that's ready to produce a lot of wax depending on the composition of the package.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Bloomington In
    Posts
    788

    Default Re: Package bees absconding - Help me figure out what I did wrong.

    It happens, they have a mind of there own. The treated lumber is treated for rot and decay, its not treated for bugs. I would let the bees release the queen, that way they will have a couple of days to build comb.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Randolph County, NC
    Posts
    26

    Default Re: Package bees absconding - Help me figure out what I did wrong.

    Yeah, I have heard from multiple sources that they will often draw comb on foundationless faster than foundation(which they seem to be doing in hive 2) so I wanted to try that. But I think you are correct that maybe they just didn't have enough surface area.. but then again they have no problem in a hollow tree.. but maybe since it was cool and they were less active, combined with the loose queen, and then me disturbing them before they had any comb built... just a bad combination of things..

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Randolph County, NC
    Posts
    26

    Default Re: Package bees absconding - Help me figure out what I did wrong.

    Unfortunately.. I was looking into it some and wood is treated for bugs. Which, along with fungus is what causes rot and decay. This is mainly to prevent wood eating/boring bugs though.. so I'm not sure how eating off the surface would affect them.

    Alkaline Copper Quaternary (also known as ACQ) is a water based wood preservative method. The treatment is made up of copper, a fungicide, and a quaternary ammonium compound (quat), an insecticide which also augments the fungicidal treatment is a wood preservative...

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Council Bluffs, IA
    Posts
    127

    Default Re: Package bees absconding - Help me figure out what I did wrong.

    There it is. At least to me it seems plausible. Are you saying some of your hive woodwork is treated?

    That would explain your slow death of bees in the bottom, and the others deciding that "this place doesn't work so well".

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Livermore, CA
    Posts
    1,408

    Default Re: Package bees absconding - Help me figure out what I did wrong.

    I don't think I would have released the queen so soon. I would let the bees release her, as it also kinda locks them down to the hive a bit and gives them time to start drawing comb. Then when it's time to release her, she will have a place to start laying.

    I started my first package out on plastic foundation and fed 1:1 syrup, I could be wrong, but 2:1 is over kill this time of year, that's more of a ration to put on winter stores if they are lite.

    Bees are bees, I've caught swarms and put them on drawn comb over night only to have them abscond the next day..........that sucks!

    Don't give up, that's for sure! And I also wouldn't worry about the wood scaring them off, bees can live in a lot worse conditions than a nice wooden hive!
    Coyote Creek Bees

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Suffolk, VA
    Posts
    2,731

    Default Re: Package bees absconding - Help me figure out what I did wrong.

    Several things. First, I not a big fan of starting packages foundationless. This combined with the direct release produces some "free electrons" as they have little vested interest in your offering. They may like it, or in this case not. Lastly, do not mark package queens upon introduction. Give the queens time to settle in and then later go in and mark her. Who knows, she may be superseded before you get the chance. Packages are very traumatic on bees, so keep it simple. As mentioned by JRG13, packages are not swarms and need to be treated differently. Bottom line, stick to the basics until you get some more experience. Provide at least some foundation to start. If you object to foundation, then simply move it out over time. Do not direct release queens unless you're providing some drawn comb. Further, for beginners, I suggest that you don't ream out the candy. All this "quick release" stuff buys you 3 days, but keep in mind that in the life of a colony 3 days is nothing. Again, once you've gained more experience, you can start to experiment, but for now, get the basics in order.
    Horseshoe Point Honey -- http://localvahoney.com/

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Evansville, IN
    Posts
    2,539

    Default Re: Package bees absconding - Help me figure out what I did wrong.

    I will second not putting a package into a hive with nothing but empty frames, there is nothing keeping them there especially with the queen free.

    Best is a hive full of used brood comb, second best is all drawn with some brood comb, and third best is all foundation. All foundation is vastly better than empty, they need somewhere to build comb and are much happier with all ten sheets (or eleven if you are using narrow frames), it feels much more like home to them.

    Use a hive top feeder full of 1:1 syrup and put a protein patty on (actually, a quarter to half patty, a whole pound is too much). All that food in close proximity will help convince them to get started on drawing comb and raising new bees instead of looking for a better place.

    Your hives look nice, but I'm curious whether the smell of fresh cedar might be a bit much. I've got a bunch of frames made with cedar top bars -- it was in the scrap pile at Menards for 29 cents a four foot 2x8, it was really hard to pass up. Hopefully the bees will think it smells nice instead of indicating it's time to move one -- I'll find out when I try to hive some swarms this year. I've got old brood comb to temp them to call it home though.

    Peter

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Arlee MT USA
    Posts
    548

    Default Re: Package bees absconding - Help me figure out what I did wrong.

    Is an SBB a screened bottom board or a solid bottom board? I've heard a lot about screened bottom boards and bees absconding so that could bee your problem right there.

    Last year I start four hives, all foundationless in mediums. One hive was an accidental direct release, the other three I used marshmallow plugs. Every hive took without problem. I did use 1:1, I have only heard of using 2:1 for emergency fall build up.

    I didn't use treated lumber. Temps where very cold, 30's at night, 40's during the first couple days.

    Four days in this is what I had built on the frames:



    After one week, this was actually a double comb that I had to fix, instead of starting on the center guide they started two combs side by side anchored off the frame corners.





    As to what went wrong these are just my theories since I have never lost bees in this way, but for what its worth:

    Treated wood hives seem like bad idea to me.

    I would never ever smoke a new package. I almost never smoke period but smoking bees before they have anything in their hive to try and defend just seems like a great way to chase them off.

    The smoke combined with the treated wood seems like it could make a hive that doesn't smell like a bee hive and before they had a chance to start drawing comb and creating hive smell they decided they where in a burning chemical factory and bugged out.

    Solely judging from my experience I would not think the foundationless is part of the problem, in my hives they seemed to have no problem festooning on the bottom of the frames. Only other difference I can think of is that I used baggy feeders for the first two days and then switched to entrance feeders for the rest of the spring but I don't see that being a big factor either way.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Randolph County, NC
    Posts
    26

    Default Re: Package bees absconding - Help me figure out what I did wrong.

    Killervector, no. none of the hive is treated, just the hive stand where some syrup was leaked on.

    In hind sight, I think you guys are right about not releasing the queen. I knew from the beginning that was a "test". But I also know there are some very experienced bee keepers that do.. but that is just that... they are experienced and I am not.

    I read somewhere that 2:1 was a good ratio for building wax. But I don't know if that is right or not.

    Interesting about not marking the queen immediately. It had crossed my mind, but it seemed like since she was already separate it would be a good time.

    Thanks for the replies and insight.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
    Posts
    2,974

    Default Re: Package bees absconding - Help me figure out what I did wrong.

    2:1 is more for storing, 1:1 is better for wax stimulation. It sounds like your bees festooned fine but just did not build comb. I know Aerindel has good luck with foundationless, moreso than most people as far as starting hives with all foundationless frames. I still think having at least 1-2 frames of foundation would've made the difference, especially on a direct release as the queen is now free to do whatever, including leaving. All bees are different though, just gotta keep that in mind, everyone's mileage varies and there's no one correct plausible explanation most of the time why bees did something.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Location
    San Mateo, CA
    Posts
    4,989

    Default Re: Package bees absconding - Help me figure out what I did wrong.

    Packages sometimes drift to another hive, especially if they are queenless. As a new beekeeper possibly you damaged a queen marking her and one package merged with the other. Marking expensive queens should be left to persons more experienced. I installed four packages and a swarm in foundationless Warre hives recently with no abandonment.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Arlee MT USA
    Posts
    548

    Default Re: Package bees absconding - Help me figure out what I did wrong.

    As a new beekeeper possibly you damaged a queen marking her and one package merged with the other.
    I forgot to mention but that was something that I thought of as well. Its not something I would be brave enough to try myself. I've heard if you get paint between the abdomen and thorax it will cripple them.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,584

    Default Re: Package bees absconding - Help me figure out what I did wrong.

    In recent years I have seen a lot of packages move next door. I think the queens are either virgins or very poorly mated. This is even with old combs in the hives, so it's not that the hive isn't attractive to them, just the queen that isn't...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Randolph County, NC
    Posts
    26

    Default Re: Package bees absconding - Help me figure out what I did wrong.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aerindel View Post
    I forgot to mention but that was something that I thought of as well. Its not something I would be brave enough to try myself. I've heard if you get paint between the abdomen and thorax it will cripple them.
    Interesting. Seemed very straight forward and easy to do to me using the proper equipment. I am quite certain that neither queen was damaged.

    They were both very young, and may have had issues before I got them. But I can see that the added stress on them probably didn't help things.


    Unfortunately, the bees did not migrate to hive 2, as the numbers in that hive are considerably down as well.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    6,574

    Default Re: Package bees absconding - Help me figure out what I did wrong.

    When I hived my packages into an empty hive with no comb, I had earlier put a couple of drops of lemongrass oil directly onto the wood. My theory was if it was suitable for swarm traps, it should also be OK for hives. Also, I would close off the screened bottoms, at least til the bees are established. An open screen lets in a considerable amount of light.
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    havana fl
    Posts
    1,358

    Default Re: Package bees absconding - Help me figure out what I did wrong.

    Yep close the bottom boards it has been stated by some that too much of a draft coming into a hive of packaged bees will increase chances of them leaving. A friend of mine lost 2 last year on sbb one left in 2 days and one left after a week with eggs in the cells. Never can tell with bees.
    Im really not that serious

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Randolph County, NC
    Posts
    26

    Default Re: Package bees absconding - Help me figure out what I did wrong.

    Interesting. I hadn't read many negatives on the screened bottom boards. I will try that.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Coatesville, Pa, USA
    Posts
    839

    Default Re: Package bees absconding - Help me figure out what I did wrong.

    When I first read your post I thought SBB's the problem. They like it dark. Once they're established you can open them up if you like, but then they'll be able to have it dark as the comb will be to the bottom. I understand that the queen is hesitant to lay in the bottom of the frames when the SBB's open. Michael Bush I think has also said that he releases the queen right away if it's a package because the bees have already been queenless for a few days so they're "ready" to accept her.

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