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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Roxbury, MA
    Posts
    81

    Default Hive Getting Full, but not organized

    My topbar hive is getting pretty packed - I was away for three weeks and came home to find them super packed in on 20 bars and my hive is 28 bars wide. I gave them 4 more and made sure there were no swarm cells (which there weren't) - so I have 4 bars left available and no bars are 100% honey and removable. Is there any way to help coax them into organizing a bit? What would you do with a hive like this in the Northeast at this time of year?
    HoneyintheRox.wordpress.com
    1 KTBH / 4 Foundationless Lang / 1 Warre

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Montgomery Twp, PA
    Posts
    160

    Default Re: Hive Getting Full, but not organized

    I am having the same issue, although my hive is 4'. Are the bees from a package? Have you been feeding non-stop? I think I have been feeding so much, that they have gone crazy with brood and comb building. I haven't been able to keep up with feeding them. They go through 5 cups of sugar water in a mater of hours, so I quit! I'm hoping the brood nest starts slowing down and they concentrate on honey production. I'll be interested to hear a "solution".

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    bucks county, pennsylvania, usa
    Posts
    24

    Default Re: Hive Getting Full, but not organized

    Seems like many of us are in the same boat. I too have a lot of brood cells and not much capped honey. I have a 4 foot top bar and just opened the whole thing up by removing the follower board. this is a first year hive. i'm in s.e. pa. and am worried about the winter without honey stores. if they don't start storing a lot of honey soon i'm worried the will not make it through the winter.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Montgomery Twp, PA
    Posts
    160

    Default Re: Hive Getting Full, but not organized

    This is my first year, so I don't know too much about these things, but from what I've read, 1:1 syrup is for comb building and brood rearing. I was feeding constantly until last week. Have the both of you been feeding also?? I think this was my big problem. I'm holding off on food until the summer heat passes, then I'll feed 2:1 so they can store it away for winter.

    I'm doing a hive inspection tomorrow. My hive is packed, and I'm worried they're going to swarm. I think they closed up two queen cells this week. Depending on what I see tomorrow, I may have to give them another bar or two in the brood area. It's something I was hoping I wouldn't have to do. This first year of beekeeping has been crazy! I'm constantly on the edge of my seat in a state of panic.

    Coffedad - I sent you a PM. I'm very close to you! Are you in the Bucks Co Beekeeping Assoc?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Montgomery Twp, PA
    Posts
    160

    Default Re: Hive Getting Full, but not organized

    I just finished up a hive inspection. There was a capped queen cell and lots of drones. I'm praying they don't swarm. I put an empty bar in during the last inspection, but since I stopped feeding, they haven't drawn out any new comb. The first 4 bars are now being used for pollen storage, and the last 3 are being used for honey.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Whigham, Georgia
    Posts
    17

    Default Re: Hive Getting Full, but not organized

    I had two topbar hives when I started 3 years back. I soon moved one colony to a langstroth hive, but the other I kept until this year. My was about 48" in length, and the one I kept, did well, making comb and filling out the whole box. I never did see this colony have combs totally used for just honey that numbered over 3 or 4. There were at least 28 frames in this topbar. This colony was also prone to making double comb, which I allowed to continue thru my inexperience. Finally in a last ditch attempt, I cut a hole in the top to accommodate a medium honey super, hoping to somehow get some honey. The second year they finally filled out three medium frames full, and a couple more bout half full. After we hit a late summer dearth, they apparently either ate this honey, or had it robbed. While it was fun and I learned a few things, I finally moved the bees to a langstroth. Never did get any honey from that thing. I also meant to say, the colony did winter well for two years, even though it seemed to never have much honey in storage. I did make sure to feed it though, even though we have mild winters in south Georgia.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Montgomery Twp, PA
    Posts
    160

    Default Re: Hive Getting Full, but not organized

    Boy am I glad you responded. How did you transfer the TBH to a lang? I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Among lots of other things (difficulty treating), I like the standardization and compactness of a lang.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Whigham, Georgia
    Posts
    17

    Default Re: Hive Getting Full, but not organized

    It aint easy. Don't laugh, in hindsight I now know better. I took a long hard route. I actually built an offsize box, similar to a lang. Same width, but a different length to accommodate the length of the topbars. Then I nailed a strip across the end of this box, so the lang would not have a overhang gap. I was trying to salvage all the natural comb, plus I did not want to lose the brood and stores that were in the comb. The depth of the topbar comb was too long, so I trimmed the bottoms during the transfer, losing maybe 1 to 1 1/2" across the bottom.
    I also built an off size bottom board to fit my custom box, but could use a regular top as the lang sat on top of the custom box. I have a wood shop, so the extra box making was no big deal. My thinking was, let the bees use the natural comb in the lower custom boxes, and to harvest the honey from the lang. However, still no such luck. I ended up getting maybe 18 bars into two custom boxes, sitting on top of each other, similar to two deep brood boxes. They have been in this arrangement since February of this year. They seemed to adapt well, starting getting even stronger, so I had a super on the two custom boxes. They never seemed to move up, like the transition from their natural edged comb to wood lang frames was causing a problem. They started going downhill three or four weeks ago, so I moved the super. I added a brood frame each week for two weeks, this morning I found the whole thing full of SHB larvae and wax moth larvae. Broke it all down, shook and brushed the bees into a nuc on new frames and foundation. I imagine the queen is gone, but will check in a few days. The whole thing has been time consuming, but interesting. There may be a better way, sure hated losing all the comb and this time, they had actually had a lot of honey stored. More than I ever saw on the topbar hive.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Whigham, Georgia
    Posts
    17

    Default Re: Hive Getting Full, but not organized

    I had to catch my breath. By moving the topbars to a box, I probably violated every space rule that makes a Langstroth work. I now know that my initial problem with double combs had a lot to do with the fact that my topbar frames were two wide, allowing room for the bees to add that extra comb. By moving these same too wide bars to a box, I allowed this double comb making too continue. This made inspecting difficult and insured that I did not inspect as often as I should have. I never could find my queen, always had to depend on other signs to know a queen was present. I have 9 Langstroth hives and get way better results for way less time. I keep the topbars around, set up for swarms or emergency housing, if I am short on equipment. But will not leave them there.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Montgomery Twp, PA
    Posts
    160

    Default Re: Hive Getting Full, but not organized

    haha. Well, I won't be using that method!! I haven't had any lucky with rubber banding comb. It's the only other method I currently know of.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,497

    Default Re: Hive Getting Full, but not organized

    If you want to go from a top bar to a lang I would do a cut out. Unless you have really large bars it should be easy to put the comb in a lang frame and secure it with rubber bands. TBH's are not for everyone. There is a steep learning curve and bad things can happen fast. I tell my friends that want to get a beehive so they can get free honey to save there money and purchase there honey!

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Montgomery Twp, PA
    Posts
    160

    Default Re: Hive Getting Full, but not organized

    The TBH has definitely been easy to work. It was good to start with, b/c I could build it on my own without a huge financial investment. I have multiple problems with it though. 1st - The same that most of us are experiencing on this thread. Lots of brood, but barely any capped honey. 2nd - It's huge! It's very obvious to my bee-hating neighbors. Adding a 2nd hive would send them through the roof. They wont have as much clue what is going on with lots of mediums stacked on top of each other. I could even put a lang on my deck without them seeing at all. 3rd - Difficulty treating for mites. I get that most people with a TBH won't be treating, but I want the option. Not being able to remove the honey bars is a big downside. Sorry to get off topic, but the lack of stored honey is just another thing that has swayed my to go to a lang next year.


    Shannonswyatt - When would you recommend doing the cutout? In the spring or fall?

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,497

    Default Re: Hive Getting Full, but not organized

    Spring is always best. If you cut the comb off you won't be able to move the honey as it will not be easy to attach to a frame and the open honey will entice robbing. Plus you will have fewer bars with stuff on them, so cutting them into a lang will be easier. Any suplus honey you have you would want to feed back to them in a feeder or keep for yourself and feed them sugar and the natural nectar flows.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    St. Louis, Missouri, USA
    Posts
    626

    Default Re: Hive Getting Full, but not organized

    I rubber banded a few combs into Deep Lang frames to start a nuc. (The combs fit the deep frames really well.) Readied the frames with rubber bands on both ends then I stood the frame up and put the bottom of the comb on the frame bottom. On two I just rotated the bar a little to break the comb off where it meets the bar, the third had a lot of honey stored at the top plus had a queen cell I didn't want to risk damaging so I cut it off with a sharp knife. Moved the rubber bands in and DONE! It was extremely easy and they seem to be doing well. It was amazing how fast they set about attaching the combs to the frames. Queen hatched and now waiting for her to mate.

    I don't know when would be the best time to do your entire hive but I would guess spring when your flow starts so they can draw the rest of the frames out quickly. (The comb from my TBH only fills half the frame.) If you had a queen and could feed them you could start a nuc to overwinter which would give you a head start on the transition in spring. You would then have some frames already fully drawn and an extra queen to give the second hive you will have.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Roxbury, MA
    Posts
    81

    Default Re: Hive Getting Full, but not organized

    Quote Originally Posted by coffeedad View Post
    Seems like many of us are in the same boat. I too have a lot of brood cells and not much capped honey. I have a 4 foot top bar and just opened the whole thing up by removing the follower board. this is a first year hive. i'm in s.e. pa. and am worried about the winter without honey stores. if they don't start storing a lot of honey soon i'm worried the will not make it through the winter.
    They are from a package - but I only fed on install. They shouldn't really need feeding past May or June in this part of the country. Also if you keep feeding, you may find them storing syrup in comb rather than honey. Mine have TONS of honey, just no pure honey bars that I can take out.

    Also, if you have queen cells, adding more bars isn't going to stop them from swarming - if I were you, I'd pull the bar with queen cells and put it in a new hive with all the bees on it, plus 3-4 more bars covered in bees and let them do their queen rearing thing. You can either nuc them for the winter or recombine them with the original hive and let the queens duke it out.
    HoneyintheRox.wordpress.com
    1 KTBH / 4 Foundationless Lang / 1 Warre

  16. #16
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,497

    Default Re: Hive Getting Full, but not organized

    If you do a split you may want to move the split to another location. Otherwise you may find that all the bees from the split head back to the parent and you just ended up killing the brood and queen cells.

    If you move the queen you can probably get away with keeping the split in the bee yard. The the parent hive raise the new queen. The workers will end up back in the parent but the nurse bees should stick with the queen.

    It is probably always best to move nucs to another location if you can.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Montgomery Twp, PA
    Posts
    160

    Default Re: Hive Getting Full, but not organized

    I haven't split the hive yet... and if I did, I'm not sure they'd be strong enough to make it through the winter.

    What do you think about destroying the queen cells and letting them be? I have stopped feeding, so they have stopped building comb, and I'm assuming the queen will not be laying as much.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,497

    Default Re: Hive Getting Full, but not organized

    Some folks are advocates of crushing queen cells, other say that if the hive wants to swarm they may just take the queen and split without a heir to take over.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Montgomery Twp, PA
    Posts
    160

    Default Re: Hive Getting Full, but not organized

    I went into the hive today and saw 4 more capped queen cells. I was crushed at the prospect of a swarm. I'm not ready to do a split. Anyway, I saw a virgin twitting around. And then as I was cleaning out the bottom of the hive, I saw my dead queen! They killed her! I was actually relieved. I just can't believe that they superceded already. They superceded in May, and the queen was doing great!! I'm not sure if it had anything to do with the large comb of drone or the hop treatment I did. What a relief!! I also saw a few drones with DWV. :-( I'm going to try and do my first sugar roll tomorrow, and then probably put in a treatment.

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