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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Houston, TX
    Posts
    4

    Default Need advice regarding captured swarm in top bar!

    Hello all.

    My name is Bex and I am bright and shiny and new when it comes to the world of bee-keeping. I was first introduced by my friend, who has been keeping bees in the more traditional Langstroth hives for many years. I decided that I was going to start bees next year, but it seems that fate had different ideas.

    My friend called me two days ago to tell me that one of her hives had thrown a swarm and she had captured it in a bucket, and would I like to have the bees? Of course I would! But I was not planning to start bee-keeping until next year, so I have zero supplies. I originally intended to purchase a Langstroth hive, but I couldn't find one available in my area on short notice. Not wanting to wait until I could get one shipped, I decided to go with a Top Bar, simply because it was the easiest one for my father to build for me on such incredibly short notice, and the materials at my local hardware store cost me a measly $75.

    Unfortunately, even though the bees were in the bucket for less than 24 hours while the hive was being constructed, most of them appeared to be dead when I dumped them from the bucket into the hive. I had attempted to feed them sugar water through the air holes in the bucket (very small amounts, not enough to drown them) the night before. Some were still alive, though I could not determine if any of them were the Queen.

    I opted to leave them, knowing that if there were not enough surviving bees to support a hive, they would not be around for long.

    Imagine my surprise when I went out at sunrise to find that hive a buzz of activity! I have not looked in the hive, and there are still lots of dead bees in the bucket nearby, but it seems that all the living bees are going in and out of the hive. I saw far more bees than I had thought were alive the night before.

    I am not sure how to proceed from here. And I am not sure how to properly feed my bees the sugar syrup in a top bar hive. I currently have a shallow plate full of the stuff resting on top of the hive. My friend let me borrow some boardman feeders (and a bee suit), but they are effectively worthless without the Langstroth hive. I am considering using a mason jar waterer that I normally use for my chickens and filling it with syrup. Any other methods of feeding would be greatly appreciated.

    How long should I give my bees to settle down before attempting to locate the Queen? Should I consider purchasing a Queen from a local supplier?

    I do realize that this was not very well planned and that this swarm of bees may be a complete failure, but I do hope to at least learn something from this, and possibly salvage this hive in the process. :)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,546

    Default Re: Need advice regarding captured swarm in top bar!

    It is best to not fool with them too much since they will have zero resources right now, so no reason not to abscond. Watch for pollen going in the hive. Generally if there is pollen going in they are probably going to stay. They feed that to the brood in the form of bee bread. Swarms are prolific comb builders, so they probably have some comb drawn out.

    I'm not familiar with TX, but I would think that there is probably a flow right now (bee tend to swarm during a flow) so you probably don't need to feed them anything. The thing that you need to worry about on a brand new hive is cross comb. If you don't have a good guide on your bars this can be a big problem. You are not going to know if you have a problem until you go in the hive. You could just peek in from the back of the hive to see what the cluster looks like, but you probably wont be able to see the comb without removing the bars, since at this stage the cluster will be bigger than the comb and they will completely cover it up. I would wait a few more days though before you remove the bars in the brood nest.

    When you do inspect you need to be extremely careful with the bars. The comb seems like it has the consistency of warm butter when they first build it. This is an exaggeration, but not by much. You may want to build a little stand to hold the comb during inspections since at first you may inadvertently twist the bar and snap of the comb.

    You may not be able to find the queen, it is hard particularly if you are new at this. I would recommend that at first you photograph both sides of each comb when inspecting. When you sit down in your house and look at the photos you can find the queen a lot easier. If you see eggs or uncapped brood you will know you have a laying queen.

    I wouldn't replace the queen just to replace the queen. If she has a crappy laying pattern or the hive is hot I would requeen, but I wouldn't unless you know you wanted a particular trait. At this point I don't think you can make that decision. Just go with her and see how the hive is going.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Houston, TX
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: Need advice regarding captured swarm in top bar!

    Thank you so much for the advice. You just reaffirmed my instinct to just leave them alone for a while.

    When you talk about the bars, I think I may have avoided the issue of cross comb. When we built the top bars we cut a channel down the middle of them and filled the channel with melted beeswax. I read that this should guide the bees to build their comb in the right direction?

    Right now I am not sure if there is pollen going into the hive. It's tough to get up close before I start worrying that I am bothering them. lol

    I am actually going out of town for almost a week so I guess I will inspect when I get back to see how they are doing.

    What do you mean when you say "the hive is hot"? I apologize for not being on top of the lingo. I thought I was going to have a whole 'nother year of researching before I actually had any bees.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,546

    Default Re: Need advice regarding captured swarm in top bar!

    I'm not sure where the wax in the channel thing came from, I guess that there are some sites that have that listed as the way to go. Some folks were also doing this thing were they would melt was on strings attached to bars, but this is not that effective either. I think that if you look on the forum Michael Bush listed the best guides in order. This is subjective, but I agree. It was something like this. Don't beat me up guys if I got it wrong, I'm going from memory.

    Plain bar
    Bar with string with wax on it
    Bar with kerf cut
    Bar with kerf cut filled with wax
    Bar with Popsicle stick type guide
    Bar with wedge or something cut into it

    It seems like the first 4 were all about the same as far as getting bees to draw comb straight, so the kerf with wax is not much better than no guide. I like to cut in a wedge, but that is just me. Others like the Popsicle stick type guide.

    Some people say to put wax on the bars, but don't do that. The bees will attach wax to the bar better then when you melt wax to the bar. It would suck to have the comb fall of the bar because it was attached to wax that wasn't attached that well to the bar. The bees will draw down rather nicely from any guide hanging down. I was amazed when I first saw them draw comb to a bar. They would always start by attaching it dead center to the guide on the bar, but if the adjacent bars are off they will pull the bars to match the neighboring bars. Also to from Michael Bush, straight comb makes straight comb, so if the neighboring comb isn't straight the new comb wont be straight either. That is probably the hardest thing about a top bar hive. With a lang the bees will generally pull decent comb if you have foundation and you put your frames up next to each other, but with top bars you don't have foundation, the only guide is the neighboring comb. I think that some folks walk away from TBH's because of problems getting straight comb, but once you get some straight comb you are in decent shape.

    Since you have the bars with the kerfs cut in them you could just put in something like the Popsicle sticks (craft sticks) or something like that to save time. You can also attach strips of moulding or wood strips shaped like a wedge to have the same effect.

    Sorry, by hot hive I mean a mean hive. If you have a mean hive I would requeen, but you really can't do that until they get established.

    You should be able to sit right next to the hive without bothering them, just don't stand in the flight path. If you are next to the opening on the side you should be able to tell what they are bringing in and they won't care. If they do, you may have a hot hive. If you have a hive that is chasing you off when you are near it and you are in a residential area I would suggest you requeen the hive. When you inspect you may get some guard bees hackles up, but not for just being next to the hive. My old man had a hive that would get pissy whenever we got out of the car. I was glad when the mites finally got them. I would suggest that you get a smoker if you don't have one. Just don't go crazy with it. Some times if I'm doing something really quick I don't lite a smoker, but you should have it with you. When you first start working them you will probably spend way to much time in the hive which will upset them somewhat. This is why I recommend photos so you can look closely without upsetting the hive.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Houston, TX
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: Need advice regarding captured swarm in top bar!

    Alrighty,

    I'm back after a few days on vacation and while there is still some activity around the hive it's not nearly how it looked on the first day. At any given point I can only see one or two bees flying around, and none of the ones entering the hive seem to be carrying any pollen.

    I opened it up and removed one of the follower pieces so I could take a look. This is what I saw. Note that the bottom screen is still covered in dead bees. Not sure what to do about that. I took many pictures, but can not seem to locate anything that looks like the Queen bee.

    bees_01_zpseb55f29e.jpg

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,546

    Default Re: Need advice regarding captured swarm in top bar!

    Holy cow there are a lot of dead bees there. This hive isn't going to make it. Just not enough bees. I can't believe the number of dead bees. Did they get overheated or something?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Houston, TX
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: Need advice regarding captured swarm in top bar!

    Quote Originally Posted by shannonswyatt View Post
    Holy cow there are a lot of dead bees there. This hive isn't going to make it. Just not enough bees. I can't believe the number of dead bees. Did they get overheated or something?
    I know. At first I thought that they were all dead but the next day there were some flying around. My friend captured them in a 5 gallon bucket and they were in the bucket for less than 24 hours. I kept the bucket in the house so they were at 75F. I would assume that's not too hot and that the high death rate was simply due to being in the bucket too long.

    Thanks for all your input. I am not surprised at all that this was a failure. Next year I intend to do this properly and purchase bees through BeeWeaver.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,546

    Default Re: Need advice regarding captured swarm in top bar!

    What kind of lid was on the bucket? If it was a plastic lid like the buckets come with my guess is overheating. A package of bees needs a lot of cooling. If I were going to put them in a bucket I would want screen closing the top off, and probably turn it sideways.

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