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  1. #1
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    Mar 2013
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    Michigan
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    Default Getting my first bees soon!

    Getting my first bees soon (2 packages) and installing them into a couple top-bar hives I built.

    I've been reading lots and I think I'm pretty set, but I just have a couple questions I want to clear up:

    1) Entrance hole - seems like the simplest entrance is just a hole. Is a single 1" hole in the end of the hive enough to start out with? Does it need to be bigger? any reason I really need to cut a slot out?

    2) Feeding - I plan on feeding with a home-made boardman style feeder built in behind the follower, is a 1:1 syrup the right thing to feed a new package? I've read to feed them until you start seeing capped stores, is that reasonable?

    3) Queen release - I know there's a lot of opinions on this, but I'd be happy to hear some more. Mr. Bush if I recall recommends a direct release, I've also read that a normal release (i.e. letting them eat the plug out), but just setting the cage on the bottom of the hive instead of hanging it can work well.

    4) What should I do if the bees start building cross-comb right off the bat (right off the bar? )? Just pull it down until they do it my way? Try to re-orient it somehow? My bars are wedge style with a 35 degree ish wedge.

    5) I've heard I don't really need to smoke them when installing them since they'll be pretty docile from the move. Thoughts?

    6) Anything else I should know/do/watch out for?

    Thanks! I'm pumped!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Hartford, CT
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    607

    Default Re: Getting my first bees soon!

    You will need a large entrance eventually so a slot and a reducer is likely best. Also try to confine the space they need to keep warm too. Maybe section part of it off so they don't need to heat such a large space until its least upper 40s at night.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
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    1,503

    Default Re: Getting my first bees soon!

    There has been a big discussion on entrance location. Basically it seems that anything will work, and it is up to you to decide what is best. No flame wars, please!

    Feed a new package. If they are able to forage they will ignore it, but feed as long as they will take it. Don't use honey bee healthy.

    Queen release is on you. If you decide to not direct release you may want to replace the side without candy with a mini-marshmallow. They will release her very quickly that way. Get the cage out soon.

    With the wedge bars they will probably have it going in the right direction, but it may curve some. If it does very gently cut at the top and align it. The comb will be a little harder then warm butter, so it is easy to break off at this stage.

    No smoke should be necessary.

    Have fun!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Chicagoland, IL, USA
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    71

    Default Re: Getting my first bees soon!

    1) Entrance hole - I cut 3/4" size holes in my hive - three in a row - and put a cork in two of the holes since it's so cold out right now (only 45 day and 20's night).

    2) Feeding - is a 1:1 syrup the right thing to feed a new package? I've read to feed them until you start seeing capped stores, is that reasonable? Yep, that's what we've been doing.

    3) Queen release - Ask if there is a marshmallow included in the package. If not, be prepared! I wasn't. Pulled the cork, peeked in and there she was! NO CANDY! So I quickly put her in the small bunch of bees that came out with her (on the bottom of the hive), and poured everyone else on top. Wasn't what I had planned on doing, but be prepared for anything!


    4) What should I do if the bees start building cross-comb right off the bat (right off the bar? )? Mine have been in for 5 days, one hive has a part of 4 bars started, the other has less than 2 bars started. Give them a little time to make their home. But depends on weather too - it's too cold here for them to forage much.

    5) I've heard I don't really need to smoke them when installing them since they'll be pretty docile from the move. Thoughts? I used sugar syrup in a spritz bottle. The syrup didn't come out really well (I think if I had done a less than 1:1 it'd come out better). Spritz while in package. Spritz the bars. Pour in bees. Bees will fly around you - they're confused. They do settle in pretty well. Today, I used smoke as I had to re-arrange a feeder that had fallen over. Bees didn't really care about the smoke or me. Too busy staying warm!

    6) Anything else I should know/do/watch out for? Be prepared for anything. No matter what you've read, seen on-line, witnessed in class - it NEVER goes the way you think it will! Just stay calm and all will be good.

    And have fun! Bees have been around for a long time, there's little you can do to kill them outright (except freeze them). Enjoy!
    Last edited by Life is Good!; 04-25-2013 at 04:47 PM. Reason: spelling

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Michigan
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    24

    Default Re: Getting my first bees soon!

    Very helpful - thanks!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    46,384

    Default Re: Getting my first bees soon!

    >1) Entrance hole - seems like the simplest entrance is just a hole. Is a single 1" hole in the end of the hive enough to start out with? Does it need to be bigger? any reason I really need to cut a slot out?

    The simplest is no hole at all, just a gap:
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beestopbarhives.htm
    http://www.bushfarms.com/images/TBHEntrance1.JPG
    http://www.bushfarms.com/images/TBHEntrance2.JPG

    >2) Feeding - I plan on feeding with a home-made boardman style feeder built in behind the follower, is a 1:1 syrup the right thing to feed a new package?

    That can work. I'd feed 5:3 as it keeps much better.

    >I've read to feed them until you start seeing capped stores, is that reasonable?

    Yes, that is reasonable.

    >3) Queen release - I know there's a lot of opinions on this, but I'd be happy to hear some more. Mr. Bush if I recall recommends a direct release, I've also read that a normal release (i.e. letting them eat the plug out), but just setting the cage on the bottom of the hive instead of hanging it can work well.

    Putting the queen on the bottom is VERY risky. A cold night will kill her. The bees, on a cold night, will cluster up above, leaving her to die. I would never do that.

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beestopbarhives.htm#superior

    >4) What should I do if the bees start building cross-comb right off the bat (right off the bar? )? Just pull it down until they do it my way? Try to re-orient it somehow? My bars are wedge style with a 35 degree ish wedge.

    I assume you mean they have a bevel on them... "wedge" is usually used to describe the cleat on a "wedge top bar" frame. I would build a frame or two. That way you can tie a crooked comb into the frame. Odds are, if you don't hang the queen cage, you'll get straight combs. Then it's a matter of feeding empty bars between two straight brood combs to get more.

    >5) I've heard I don't really need to smoke them when installing them since they'll be pretty docile from the move. Thoughts?

    I think they need their sense of smell to get organized. I don't smoke when installing packages. I do try to make sure they are NOT hungry. If the can has some weight they are fine. If not, I would feed them first.

    >6) Anything else I should know/do/watch out for?

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beespackages.htm
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Michigan
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    24

    Default Re: Getting my first bees soon!

    I can't stop thinking about bees.

    Does anyone else have this problem?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Lucasville, OH, USA
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    119

    Default Re: Getting my first bees soon!

    Quote Originally Posted by hospadar View Post
    I can't stop thinking about bees.

    Does anyone else have this problem?
    YES!

    Our first package (from Gold Star Honeybees) is due here any day now. The package we ordered from a member of our beekeeper association has been delayed another week due to the poor spring down south delaying the buildup of the supplier's hives.

    We can't wait! It's a bit like Christmas but with a slight uncertainty about when it will arrive.

    Cheers,
    Tom

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Montgomery Twp, PA
    Posts
    160

    Default Re: Getting my first bees soon!

    When do you get the packages?? I got my first one on 4/20 (saturday). Everything is going great so far. We had some issues with the queen in the beginning. DO NOT hang the queen with painters tape. She will fall to the bottom of the hive! lol. Lesson learned. I thought she was dead the next morning, so I picked up another queen. Turns out the first one was just still from the cold. It was such chaos. I returned her to the beekeeper and all was good. I hung the 2nd queen (Sunday) and checked on her a few days later (Wednesday). She was released, but the bees were building comb on her cage. I had to scrape it off and wire it to a bar. I checked the hive againe yesterday (Sunday) to make sure they were building straight and everything looked great in the hive!! They had about 5 bars started and I spotted the queen right away. There was come comb being built on the bottom that I scraped off. Otherwise, they looked great! I've been feeding a sugared bee tea in a chick feeder, and I also have a pollen patty on the bottom of the hive. Now that I know they're doing great, I'll leave them alone until I need to put mure syrup in.

    Good luck!! This is all very exciting. The bees are so relaxing to watch. Their entrance hold is right below our family room window, so I peek on them throughout the day. My family is catching the buzz too. I think my sisters might get hives next spring. My dad's also been watching beekeeping youtube videos.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Lucasville, OH, USA
    Posts
    119

    Default Re: Getting my first bees soon!

    We received our first one today!!!

    I've written about our first hiving experience and will probably post it in a new thread. I tend to get a bit wordy at times!

    We're expecting our second package this weekend. That one is being brought up from Georgia, and has been delayed two weeks so far. We've been told that due to the cold spring the bees have been slow to expand their numbers.

    Glad to hear yours are doing great! We wound up going with a direct release. I hope I don't regret it, but I don't think it will be a problem. My wife is worried about doing it, though.

    After we hived the package and were standing out there watching them I asked Rhonda if I should go get a couple of chairs so we could sit and watch. She decided against it.

    We've not yet had anyone think about getting their own bees, but Rhonda's sister and brother have both said we could put hives at their places if we like. That won't happen right away, though. We need to get a bit of experience before we start on outlying bee yards. I have noticed that those we tell about the bees tend to get excited over the idea!

    Cheers,
    Tom

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,384

    Default Re: Getting my first bees soon!

    >I can't stop thinking about bees.
    >Does anyone else have this problem?

    It's too late for you... you may as well surrender...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Lexington, SC
    Posts
    28

    Default Re: Getting my first bees soon!

    Lol! Neither can I. I just got my first swarm and boy am I nervous! Seems like every night, I am dreaming about bees.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA
    Posts
    81

    Default Re: Getting my first bees soon!

    Quote Originally Posted by hospadar View Post
    6) Anything else I should know/do/watch out for?
    I was always careful to spend the time leveling my top bar hives before introducing the bees and have not had any problems with cross combs, not sure that is the only reason but it can't hurt. I use three round entrance holes on the side toward both ends and plug them with corks depending on the conditions and strength of the colony. I attach the queen cage to an empty bar using a twist-tie or thumb tack the strap of the queen cage up high on the side wall of the hive, that way the queen is in a position where the bees can cluster around her. Would arrange cage so that I could look in through the window and see if the queen had been released. Always worried about the bees absconding if I tried that direct release method.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    24

    Default Re: Getting my first bees soon!

    How does everyone feed a package in a top bar? I'm still sorta considering a feeder built into (behind) the follower, but I'd like to get even simpler than that. I was thinking maybe just a boardman-style mason jar set inside the hive towards the back up on blocks so the bees can get under it. I'd have to open things up to change it, but I'm under the impression that a half-gallon jar of syrup will last a decent amount of time for a package.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
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    1,503

    Default Re: Getting my first bees soon!

    You can use mason jars. I used a half gallon mason style jar this spring. Once it was empty they were on their own. I took it out when it was empty, which took a while as they didn't seem that interested in it compared to whatever the flow was at the time.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA
    Posts
    81

    Default Re: Getting my first bees soon!

    I used the boardman feeder behind the follower and it worked great; fast and easy to swap out a new quart jar of feed without disturbing the bees or the need for a veil or gloves, inexpensive to implement, accessible only to bees within the hive, and I could easily monitor syrup levels through the top bar hive's window. All things considered I don't think you can get much simpler than that.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    24

    Default Re: Getting my first bees soon!

    Just installed my packages last night! Seems like everything went well, I can peep a nice cluster of bees in each hive. The only spot of weirdness: I left the packages sitting on the ground in front of the hives so the stragglers could make it in, and there's a couple little clumps of bees in the packages. I'll probably brush them off into the hive this afternoon if they don't find their own way back?

    I ended up hanging the queen cages with a mini-marshmallow plug, my impression is that the bees only take a couple hours to chew through that, so I can go in this evening and pull out the (hopefully empty) cages?

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Michigan
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    24

    Default Re: Getting my first bees soon!

    Also, I ended up settling on boardman feeder mason jars hung from an extra wide bar right in front of the follower board. I'd really like to have a feeder built into the follower, but I just didn't have time. I'll maybe put up a picture if I can find it.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Missoula, Montana
    Posts
    101

    Default Re: Getting my first bees soon!

    one thing i thought that was important was making note of how many top bars should be in there to start with....

    10 without a feeder and about 15-16 bars to start with depending on the size of the feeder.

    i also made a 2:1 sugar syrup for the feeders....i used a new paint brush and dipped it into the solution and brushed on the wire package.....

    my bees are on their 4th day and seem to be doing well and loving all the blossoms ...cherry, plum, lilac, and crab apple and mackintosh apple oh and lots of dandelions...i've not mowed the lawn and figured keeping the dandelions out would be a nice treat for them...and so far it looks that way.
    Zone4A
    “We can love completely what we cannot completely understand.” -Maclean

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    24

    Default Re: Getting my first bees soon!

    I started with 8 bars as recommended by http://www.amazon.com/Top-Bar-Beekee.../dp/1603584617
    I'm using his hive design, so I figured his starting size would be reasonable, it seems like a pretty wide hive to me. I'll be keeping a close eye on it though to make sure they continue to have plenty of empty space (at least a couple bars I would think?).

    I'm glad I put in windows so I can peep in on them

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