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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
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    Ventura, CA
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    132

    Default My Bees aren't building comb (2nd colony in a row)

    Hi Guys--

    I'm a new beekeeper, and I've searched long and far to find a reason for what I'm going through... I have a lot "book" knowledge on the subject, but no direct beekeeping experience (3 weeks worth). The one veteran beekeeper I know isn't exactly sure what going on either, but here's the scoop:

    I captured my first swarm and their transport and installation went without issue. After a few days I noticed they weren't foraging at all, and they just stayed in a ball (window view).... after a week, I knew something was wrong.. They had no comb built, no foraging, and I noticed they were dying fairly quickly. My friend said that I probably didn't have a queen and they were confused and probably distraught I immediately moved them to the back of the hive, installed a divider, and planned on getting another swarm (with a queen) and try to integrate them... Only thing is, days later, i SAW the queen from my first colony... just chilling there... took a pic and confirmed it with my buddy. So now I have no idea why they decided to give up on life and literally die by the thousands. As of today, that colony is completely gone.

    I found another (larger) swarm and it's been 7 days since their installation. They began foraging right away, but still no comb building... ZERO... This colony isn't dying like the old one did... Within a week, the first colony had lost thousands of workers... I only counted 8 dead bees from my second (which as about 3 times bigger than the first).

    I've now lost a lot of hope for being a bee keeper. I'm wondering if I've done something horribly wrong, or just have had really bad luck twice in a row. Any advice would be immensely appreciated. I plan on being on the forums a lot as I gain experience. Forums like this helped me when I got in to saltwater fish tanks, and I was able to pass on knowledge as I gained experience. I hope the same can happen here as this is a hobby I've wanted to get into for the LONGEST time and finally live in a house where I am able to. Again, thank you in advance for your help.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Rochester, MN
    Posts
    12

    Default Re: My Bees aren't building comb (2nd colony in a row)

    I'm having a similar problem. I installed two packages. One colony has not built any comb on day five. I was not able to spot the queen, but she is not in her cage and the bees are foraging. Is this normal? The other colony has built a small comb and stored some pollen. No eggs though.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Newberry, Florida, USA
    Posts
    168

    Default Re: My Bees aren't building comb (2nd colony in a row)

    Hi, Dakota. I can't provide beekeeping wisdom, but did want to chime in with how valuable forums are. I made huge use of nano-reef when I started my tank a couple of years ago. I hope you find your answers soon! Something I heard on the radio today -- there were a LOT of colony deaths after the almond season this year. Apparently, growers were not pacing pesticide application, but combining several to save time ("tanking"). The CA beekeepers have asked the EPA to advise better pesticide practices in order for both sides to benefit. I seem to remember they mentioned something about swarms being affected, too -- any chance that your swarms caught the bad end of that pesticide blast?
    1 TBH, started 4/09/14

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Fort Gay, WV, USA
    Posts
    1,079

    Default Re: My Bees aren't building comb (2nd colony in a row)

    Dakota - I need to know if you have fed your bees anything at all so far in the line of syrup? Please respond with haste.
    Thomas Bartram - Since 2013, 43 - 8 F langs, 22 Italian & 21 Russian

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Hyattsville, MD
    Posts
    46

    Default Re: My Bees aren't building comb (2nd colony in a row)

    Did you feed either of these swarms 1:1 syrup? What has the weather been like after hiving the swarms?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Rochester, MN
    Posts
    12

    Default Re: My Bees aren't building comb (2nd colony in a row)

    Weather has been rainy for 2 days and sunny for 1.5 here. I've given them some 1:1 syrup and dry sugar which they are eating.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Ventura, CA
    Posts
    132

    Default Re: My Bees aren't building comb (2nd colony in a row)

    Quote Originally Posted by drlonzo View Post
    Dakota - I need to know if you have fed your bees anything at all so far in the line of syrup? Please respond with haste.
    The first colony didn't eat, even when I gave them syrup...

    I put some syrup in a bowl with some rocks for the new one outside the hive, and they are ignoring it completely. I was thinking about getting a "legit" feeder (entrance type) but I'm under the impression they would have found it and ate it if they really wanted to, but the are foraging in and out of the hive.

    Quote Originally Posted by MacNachtan View Post
    Did you feed either of these swarms 1:1 syrup? What has the weather been like after hiving the swarms?
    It's been beautiful. Sunny, highs in the 70s (or high 60s) lows in the mid 50s.

    Quote Originally Posted by msscha View Post
    I seem to remember they mentioned something about swarms being affected, too -- any chance that your swarms caught the bad end of that pesticide blast?
    I wouldn't be surprised if my first swarm was contaminated with pesticides... they died quick, plentiful, and a lot had their tongues sticking out.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Spokane, Washington, USA
    Posts
    772

    Default Re: My Bees aren't building comb (2nd colony in a row)

    Your hive most likely died from starvation. Tongues sticking out is a sign of starvation. They need energy to go outside and get that syrup so its best to have syrup right next to them,

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Ventura, CA
    Posts
    132

    Default Re: My Bees aren't building comb (2nd colony in a row)

    Quote Originally Posted by RAK View Post
    Your hive most likely died from starvation. Tongues sticking out is a sign of starvation. They need energy to go outside and get that syrup so its best to have syrup right next to them,
    The syrup was inside the hive with them. Plus, they weren't even eating it OR foraging. But that would still mean they starved.

    The current colony is at least actively foraging, but they aren't touching the syrup either.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Hyattsville, MD
    Posts
    46

    Default Re: My Bees aren't building comb (2nd colony in a row)

    Give this a shot in the back of your TBH. It will be close to the bees and easy for them to use. Use 1:1 syrup made with regular granulated sugar.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdr05UtUnes

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Ventura, CA
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    132

    Default Re: My Bees aren't building comb (2nd colony in a row)

    Are we all under the assumption they need to be fed? I don't think that is the issue. I mean, the first colony didn't touch the sugar syrup, and neither has the 2nd, but at this point, the current colony is still in a good shape as far as their population, so I'm pretty sure they are getting food for themselves.

  12. #12
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    Apr 2014
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    Ventura, CA
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    132

    Default Re: My Bees aren't building comb (2nd colony in a row)

    Okay, so I moved the feeder inside to the back of the hive. I don't know how long it usually takes for them to find it, but we'll see if that encourages them to do anything. It's been windy this morning (rained last night) but the bees are actively in and out today.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Millbury, MA, USA
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    1,890

    Default Re: My Bees aren't building comb (2nd colony in a row)

    If the feed is directly over the bees they will take it much better. I put an empty hive body over the top bars when I had some TBH's. Then fed with a jar, Worked well.

  14. #14
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    Apr 2014
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    Ventura, CA
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    132

    Default Re: My Bees aren't building comb (2nd colony in a row)

    Quote Originally Posted by camero7 View Post
    If the feed is directly over the bees they will take it much better. I put an empty hive body over the top bars when I had some TBH's. Then fed with a jar, Worked well.
    How will they get to it easier? I mean, in a langstroth I can see how, but they'd have to leave the hive to get to in in a TBH (which is where I had it before, and I have hive bodies). Now, all they have to do is bump into is while surveying the bottom of the hive.

  15. #15
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    Sep 2009
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    Millbury, MA, USA
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    Default Re: My Bees aren't building comb (2nd colony in a row)

    I had 1/4" spacers between my 1" bars. Just pulled a couple of spacers out and put the box on the hive with the syrup. Bees like to be able to access the syrup from the cluster, particularly in cold windy weather.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
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    Tucson, Arizona, USA
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    5,408

    Default Re: My Bees aren't building comb (2nd colony in a row)

    Despite that your daytime temperatures are in the 60's and 70'sF, I would guess that your 1:1 syrup is less than 50F. It isn't that honey bees won't take syrup that is below 50F, they cannot. It is best if you warm the syrup for them, at least every morning. I recommend warming it to at least 100F, though it likely won't be that warm by the time it reaches the bees. Also, with Top Bar hives, I find that they can access syrup best when I use an inverted feeder, above the Top Bars - I push open a 1/4" gap between Top Bars, right where the bees are below, then place the inverted jar with small holes in its lid, propped up so there is a 1/4" crawl space between the Top Bars and feeder lid, then cover with a box, and sometimes I pack a few rags into the box, around the feeder, to help it stay warm while the bees are feeding there.

    1:1, warm sugar syrup is what they need, not dry granulated sugar.

    -----------------
    I initially began beekeeping, not too far from Ventura. In Lompoc, in 1966. I wasn't using Top Bars then, but still had similar feeding issues to deal with.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Ventura, CA
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    132

    Default Re: My Bees aren't building comb (2nd colony in a row)

    I'll give that a try. Just a cardboard box to cover it? This morning, I actually saw more dead bees on the bottom that ever (with this colony) so I fear now it's a downward slope. No activity on the feeder inside at this time, so hopefully putting it above them will help (as they always seem to want to crawl upwards when removing bars. I'm so depressed over this...

  18. #18
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    Feb 2005
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    Tucson, Arizona, USA
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    Default Re: My Bees aren't building comb (2nd colony in a row)

    Don't forget, warm the syrup, too.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
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    Ventura, CA
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    132

    Default Re: My Bees aren't building comb (2nd colony in a row)

    Okay.. So this is kind of encouraging... I warmed the syrup, and as soon as I split up one of the top bars, it immeditaley occurred to me how well this might work. I saw HUNDREDS of tiny eyes looking up at me. I put the syrup down for them, covered the space with a box, and 30 minutes later... they're eating!

    Here's my question, though: Wouldn't they have at least STARTED building comb right away, even if they couldn't find sugar syrup? I mean, they were foraging right away, so why didn't they even START building comb, even if they would have had to stop for lack of more food??

  20. #20
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    Feb 2005
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    Tucson, Arizona, USA
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    5,408

    Default Re: My Bees aren't building comb (2nd colony in a row)

    They need lots and lots of nectar (weak sugar syrup solution), and very warm temperatures (around their festooning bodies), in order to produce wax, and similar conditions in order to use the wax to build comb. Without enough warmth, sugar syrup, and festooning bee bodies - they can't make wax or build comb.

    Bottom line --> not enough food, no wax and no comb.

    ----------
    If you were a carpenter and tasked to build wooden framing for walls. Would it be possible to do that, without any wood? To build those walls, you're first going to need a supply of wood of the necessary dimensions.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

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