The good thing is you have good comb guides and they are drawing right on the guide. You know you have a queen and she is laying. You can leave them alone for a while if you like. Don't go all inspection crazy!
How often should I check for combs going off straight? Les Crowder's book said every couple days during early part of comb building. We are planning on syrup fill and quick peak on Wednesday after work.
You do need to ensure they are pulling straight comb, but once you have a few straight combs you are on the right path, and they will continue to pull straight comb, unless they get a crazy strong flow and start pulling kooky comb. We don't have those here unfortunately! To keep it straight you can take an empty bar and put it in the middle of the brood nest during times when they are building comb. No reason to do it in October, they are not going to be pulling comb in the fall. If they are pulling good straight comb this week I would probably stay out of it for at least a week. This is a time when having a window is a good thing. You can peak in to check the progress and see if the comb they are pulling is straight without disturbing them. But that doesn't help you now. You probably shouldn't be in their more than once a week. It is hard when it is your first hive though. You want to see what is going on all the time. I think the way to solve that is to get too many hives to inspect!
I'm really very grateful to the many people who have contributed to this thread since I started it. I had asked if anyone thought my hive could possibly be queenless on a couple different threads on this forum and was told I just need to be more patient. I'm glad there was some people here to help! Has been a good looking experience so far.
You will be able to see the comb before too long. the end of the comb will comb to an edge like an ax as they are drawing it out once it gets a bit wider (closer to the window) you will see it. You should be able to see the edge lining up roughly with the bars before too long. If the comb lines up with the bars, you are good. The comb grows in the brood nest, and eventually the comb will be larger than the brood nest since it will be a bit before you have any new bees made. Everyday you lose more bees until you get to hatch out. Then it seems like overnight the hive doubles or triples in size.
jwcarlson, thank you for starting the thread. I was reading it because all my bars are the same size—1 3/8. I'll just have to trust the bees to do the right thing.
I have a very small swarm in my top bar hive. I just passed Day 21. I affirm what Shannon says about seeing the comb through the observation window. For several days it seemed there was just a cluster of bees, then one day, I could see the white of the edges of the comb. That happened around the end of the first week. Now I have five dinner plate-sized comb and a sixth smaller one. I believe I would have more but for a small population of bees.
Weather has been cold and rainy here so I didn't peek this weekend, but the window really tells me what I need to know about the combs being straight. But last weekend I did open the hive and saw eggs, larvae, and capped brood—as well as the queen, so I share your excitement—as well as your first-hand knowledge of how soft that comb is!
Good luck with the girls!
Kate - since 2013, 4 colonies, 3 8-frame Langs, 1 TBH, mostly TF, zone 8b
The bees seemed pretty young for the most part, but even if they were all a week old (which they obviously weren't)... there won't be much left here in a couple weeks.
Unless them basically not flying for about 10 days without a queen will help them live longer.
Last edited by jwcarlson; 04-21-2014 at 08:34 AM.
They will surprise you at times. Take it easy and enjoy them for now. With a little luck and a good queen they will build up enough to make it through the winter.
We build four 12 bar nucs/swarm traps to hopefully populate our second hive sometime this year. Amazing building capability in these bugs. I'm astonished.
You should keep two bars of brood together, so when you get 4 bars of brood put a bar in the middle of them. You don't want to spread it too far, particularly since your numbers are still going down everyday.
That's kind of what I thought so I didn't move it. They've still got a lot of bees thankfully. Everytime I look in the hive I'm worried half will have croaked that day.
Nah, more that 3 percent or so.
> I'll just have to trust the bees to do the right thing.
They always do the "right thing" from their point of view. It does not always agree with the beekeeper's needs... I would not trust them to do the right thing when it comes to having combs on the bars... I would stack the deck as much as is reasonable and fix it when they get off...
Off to a good start but you will need to still keep an eye on curving at the ends of the bars as they build out the combs. The upper outside ends is where they will store nectar and at some point will try to extend the cell walls in that area. Buttering back the cell walls so the next comb can be built fully centered along the bars guide is helpful in maintaining straight and centered combs. Once they have a decent size nest and a growing population. Every new comb that is nearly build across the length of the bar can be shuffle back one between the completed straight centered combs.They have built combs centered and straight down the guide which I am very much thankful for...
It's best not to place empty bars between combs with open nectar cells as they are more inclined to fill that space by lengthening the cell walls of the adjacent combs.
Last edited by Delta Bay; 04-23-2014 at 09:36 AM.
A little update from a post I wrote in another thread.
I installed a package on April 5th. Through a period of about six days and finally a lengthy thread on here with the help of many... we determined the hive to be queenless. On April 16th we installed the replacement queen in the afternoon. She was hanged from a top bar with a decent amount of candy to be chewed through. The following morning it was sunny and my brother noticed that the bees were bringing in pollen (this is something they did not do at all before hanging the queen). We went back in four days later and the bees had started two combs, they were not visible from the observation window at all. When we pulled one out we saw the queen, some stored pollen, and eggs. The weather has been rough here in eastern Iowa, still dropping down to 35 at night. We had a heating pad on the syrup to keep it in the temperatures at which they can take it. We removed it about a week ago... and put it back on tonight. The lows will be dropping into the 30s the next four nights and highs MAYBE in the mid-50s.
Our bees are at a crucial time. I sneaked a peak at them today as they should be capping brood. I saw several capped cells. There were several larva very near being ready to be capped. My calculations put emergence day of the first brood to be May 8th or 9th. Possibly as early as May 6th or 7th depending on when the queen was actually released and started laying. That's 34-35 days since the package was installed. The hive still has a good number of bees, but their numbers are noticeably lower at this point. I don't even know if it's possible for them to make it at this point. But my only hope is that it's not uncommon for a new queen to take two weeks to start laying, and theoretically those hives and still survive.
I noticed what looked like a couple of "drone cell" caps. Would a queen lay a few drones in this situation? It seems like a waste of a valuable open cell. Or is this somewhat common for a new queen? The other possibility I thought of was that the comb isn't built to full width and they're putting a bit of a dome on it to account for too shallow of a cell?
There's quite a bit of big larva and a few at various stages.
Last edited by jwcarlson; 04-29-2014 at 08:16 PM.
I wouldn't worry if it is only a small patch of drones. It sounds like you are back on track. Now you need the weather to cooperate.
When I got the first big batch of brood in the spring I had two drone cells in there. At the same time I expanded the nest with a new bar. They drew it out as drone comb and filled it up.