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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Blanco County Texas USA
    Posts
    4

    Default Help! bees building comb in gabled roof of top bar hive

    We are new beekeepers and just installed 6 packages of italian bees into top bar beehives. Phil Chandler's design, with the addition of a gabled roof. Installation seemed to go fine. On 5 of the hives, the bees began building comb quickly and after less than a week have beautiful straight comb on multiple bars. We don't have much in bloom yet here in this part of Central Texas, but they are emptying two quart jars of syrup within a few days and we can see orange/yellow spots in the cells.

    However, the bees on the 6th hive have been behaving erratically. They didn't eat much at first and didn't start building comb when the other hives did. At one point about 4 days after installation, the mass of bees down at the end was mostly dispersed and there were lots of bees hanging out on top of the top bars. We figured they had swarmed or the workers had left a weak queen for one of the other hives.

    Then today, 6 days after installation, the mass of bees is back in the hive, but there are also masses of bees on the inside of the gabled roof and they are building comb there! The roof overhangs the hive in such a way that the bees can definitely access the roof space easily. They have also started eating more. What should we do? Is there likely to be a queen in there somewhere? We have been unsuccessful at identifying queens because we are afraid of having the hives open long enough for us to find them. (yes we're new). What should we do? Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Carthage ,TN, USA
    Posts
    26

    Default Re: Help! bees building comb in gabled roof of top bar hive

    I would take the bees in the top and put them back in the hive, they seemed to be confused. It is a little difficult to find the queen until she has a little comb to run over and the bees are spread out more. Good luck.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Canada BC Delta
    Posts
    421

    Default Re: Help! bees building comb in gabled roof of top bar hive

    It seems odd that the package would split into two locations. I wonder it that package came with an extra queen. One caged and the other shaken in with the worker bees.

    Try placing the roof upside down on the ground and see if the bees will disperse over time. Look for a queen as well.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Concord, CA
    Posts
    4,119

    Default Re: Help! bees building comb in gabled roof of top bar hive

    The bees aren't supposed to be able to get above the top bars. You should be able to open the roof & bees can't get out of the hive unless you remove a bar.
    You probably have a gap someplace.
    Dan

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Calhoun Co, Texas, USA
    Posts
    1,310

    Default Re: Help! bees building comb in gabled roof of top bar hive

    I would recommend that you close off (a piece of 1/4" plywood & a can of "Great Stuff" spray foam works wonders) whatever portion of the gabled roof they haven't already built comb in, then leave a "bee space" between a couple of top bars immediately below where they've been building in the roof. This way, in the *very* likely even that your queen is on this comb you've discovered, and laying eggs there, you won't risk killing her, and all of their brood. Then, in a few weeks, once they've run out of space above the bars, and have built a nice brood nest hanging FROM the bars like you want, you'll be able to "safely" remove the combs from inside the roof & seal up that section so they can't return there. At that point in time, even if you *do* inadvertently injure/kill the queen, they'll at least have enough bees, and enough brood, to raise a replacement queen for themselves

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Blanco County Texas USA
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: Help! bees building comb in gabled roof of top bar hive

    Thanks to you all. It's not that the bees can necessarily get directly out of the hive into the roof space. But they can go out of the entrance hole and then crawl up the side of the hive and into the roof space. That is, there is definitely beespace there because the roof doesn't fit that tightly. There is overhang. I guess I didn't realize that was a problem because many hives don't even have a bottom and seems like the bees could access the roof area right through the hive in the beginning when all the top bars are not in use. Do we need to retrofit our roofs to fit more tightly? It doesn't seem to be a problem except on this hive.

    We have moved the bees in the roof back into the hive and we will see what happens next. I have never used a discussion forum of any kind before and really appreciate this quick help.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Blanco County Texas USA
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: Help! bees building comb in gabled roof of top bar hive

    Oh, just saw this. I guess it came in while I was typing my previous reply. I sure hope we didn't hurt our queen. If they go back into the roof following our attempt earlier this morning to move them into the hive, this seems like a good thing to try. Just limit their growing space in the roof so they naturally move on down into the hive, right? This is all amazing. The bees, the help, all of it.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Chicagoland, IL, USA
    Posts
    71

    Default Re: Help! bees building comb in gabled roof of top bar hive

    Thank you for posting this question....our newly installed package moved into the roof instead of their hive also. I suspect the weather has come into play on this one - flooding rains yesterday and today it's cold, but sunny.

    I too have a hive that the gabled roof has a bit of 'wiggle room' in it. I know the wood will swell, so I built it 1/4" extra all the way around. Now, if I didn't attach it properly, that would provide just enough bee space to get through and into the gable.

    So, tonight at dusk (but not dark), I took my chicken feed scoop (plastic) and literally, gently, scooped the bees into it and returned them into their 'proper' hive. As it's much cooler, they've clustered on the solid bottom board, but I know they'll be ok for the night. Not everyone wanted to move down, so a small cluster remains in the deepest recesses of the corner of the roof interior. I did leave a bee space for those who were still on the top of the bars. They were slow to move down and I had to shut the hive and tend to chicken duty before dark (ever try to find a black hen in the dark?! Only once.....). So, I'll have to go back in later to close the hive up tight for the night.

    I'm putting more sugar syrup in tomorrow, so hopefully, the food will entice them down into the hive. (I'm putting a tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar with the mother in it into the syrup also....yummy stuff!) If not, tomorrow night, I'll try to remove this cluster again. Yeesh, didn't the bees get the memo? Their home is INSIDE the hive!
    Last edited by Life is Good!; 04-20-2013 at 07:21 PM. Reason: edited for grammar errors

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Calhoun Co, Texas, USA
    Posts
    1,310

    Default Re: Help! bees building comb in gabled roof of top bar hive

    Quote Originally Posted by Beelanco View Post
    ... Just limit their growing space in the roof so they naturally move on down into the hive, right?
    Yes, that's the general idea...limit their space above, and allow them to consider that space, AND the hive space you want them in as only one hive (by leaving an open bee space between two bars)...then they'll naturally eventually expand into the open space below, and they generally tend to move the brood section down as they build comb, and fill in the top with honey; so that'll work out great for our purposes here...get only honey up in the roof, and it won't hurt your new hive's growth at all when you remove it

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Blanco County Texas USA
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: Help! bees building comb in gabled roof of top bar hive

    Just wanted to report in that physically moving the mass of bees from the gabled roof into the hive seemed to work. The hive is still behind the other five that we installed at the same time. It has only made comb on 5 bars as opposed to about 7 on all the others, but it seems relatively normal otherwise. Of course I would be happier if we could ever see the queen. Thanks again for all the suggestions.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Calhoun Co, Texas, USA
    Posts
    1,310

    Default Re: Help! bees building comb in gabled roof of top bar hive

    Sounds good, let us know how they do...always exciting the first time you actually spot the queen, too!

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Chicagoland, IL, USA
    Posts
    71

    Default Re: Help! bees building comb in gabled roof of top bar hive

    Quote Originally Posted by Beelanco View Post
    Just wanted to report in that physically moving the mass of bees from the gabled roof into the hive seemed to work. The hive is still behind the other five that we installed at the same time. It has only made comb on 5 bars as opposed to about 7 on all the others, but it seems relatively normal otherwise.
    Interesting, as our hive that moved into the gabled roof is also behind it's sister hive. I try not to compare - but it's really hard! The hive who 'got it' right from the start has nearly double the amount of comb, figured out their sugar syrup feeding system (and took it all) and is going along swimmingly. This hive (that moved into their roof, not their hive body) has only 7 half-width bars of comb built out, didn't find their feeder or didn't take more than 1/2 of it - and seems to be struggling. They also built an 'extra' comb for me to play with to get onto a top bar with hair-clip combs....what happened with this bunch?!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,470

    Default Re: Help! bees building comb in gabled roof of top bar hive

    Some bees just do better than others.

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