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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
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    Palos Verdes, CA, USA
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    Default Accidental beekeeper in Los Angeles!

    3 years ago bees colonized the wall of my unused chicken coop. My neighbors were complaining about the bee flow (it's next to their pool area) so I brought in Backwards Beekeepers to do a cutout (I'll link the video when I have privileges), and they took my bees off to Topanga.

    That wall must be a great place for a hive, because it promptly got re-colonized, so 2 weeks ago I brought the same master beekeeper out for a cutout, with me assisting , and this time I kept the bees!

    It was a decent sized colony, and we filled a deep body with 9 frames of brood and a little honey. On top I put a medium with empty frames (just popsicle sticks glued into the top groove and painted with wax).

    I crushed and strained the excess comb to yield about 10 lbs of tasty honey, and it all measures <18% on my spiffy new $29 refractometer from amazon.

    We went back in a week later to check on them, and while we didn't look hard enough to see fresh eggs, there was enough new comb and other healthy activity that my mentor declared it queenright. There seems to be good bee flow in front of the hive during the day, and in the evening there's a nice hum if I put my ear (gently) up to the size of the bottom body.

    My environment is semi-suburban. Home are typically on 1/2 acre lots (plus or minus), and the nearest Starbucks is more than a mile away as the bee flies .

    So how do I keep myself from opening up and checking it every day? What's the longest I should wait before checking to see if should add another super?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    Default Re: Accidental beekeeper in Los Angeles!

    Well done sounds like you are off to a good start.

    How often should you check? You will get answers ranging from "leave the bees alone to do their own thing", to "keep a close eye on them they may swarm soon".

    My opinion for beginners, you learn by doing, so do. As often as you like. One qualifier, do not kill the queen. It's amazing how often new beekeepers will accidentally kill queens, I know this because I sell queens to these folks. So when working in the brood area, a less experienced beekeeper should start by taking out, very gently, the outside comb, and lean it on the outside of the hive. This makes room so that other frames can be spread apart widely, before taking one out, so there is no way bees can get rolled while pulling the comb, or risk of killing the queen. Other than that, don't allow robbing to start, and those are the two main basics.

    A comment on adding the foundationless super. Bees start building combs from the top. If you add a foundationless super, there is a big empty gap between the bee cluster, and the top of the next box. Result, it is majorly difficult for the bees to get a cluster up there & start comb building, they may even swarm before venturing to the new super. What they need is a bridge. That is, 2 or 3 fully built combs in the new super, that are built right down as far as the bee cluster. The bees will take to these combs, and work their way up to the top of the super & then start building new combs. Start by having the bridge combs in the centre of the new super, then after enough time has passed for the bees to be established on these combs and working on them, you can start spreading the combs putting empty frames between, one at a time at first, to encourage the bees to build new comb.

    You will eventually get a "feel" for your bees, and not need to refer to advice such as I have just given, you will look at the hive & just know what they need, and be able to do it based on your own experience.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
    Posts
    714

    Default Re: Accidental beekeeper in Los Angeles!

    Congratulations from a fellow "Accidental Beekeeper".

    Last Spring I got three new colonies from my barn wall cavities put into proper hives and they have done very well, even surviving our extraordinarily early, long, and fiercely cold winter up here in northern NY. They have built up splendidly this year and are now in huge 5 to 7 box stacks. We are just about to start our main nectar/honey flow (black locust) and they are positively humming with energy. Before I got the hives set up I was just thinking that it was the "right thing to do" for the bees' sakes given all the challenges they are having. Little did I know that I would fall head over heels in love with them. I hope you have as much pleasure from your bees as I have with mine.

    Here is something that you can get set up and it will give something useful to "do" for your bees that will be satisfying and still very non-disruptive to them. Buy or order on line a varroa monitoring board and the necessary screen bottom board to go with it and start testing for varroa mites. Set the screened bottom board up so it is on top of your solid bottom board and so the open slot for the sticky board faces the back of the hive. That way you can insert/remove the board any time of day, even at night when you ordinarily wouldn't want to mess around with the girls. Knowing your mite levels will give you a heads up on one of the main challenges to bees right now. You don't need to decide beforehand what approach you want to take about treating them, but if you know the mite levels a big, important question is answered whenever you think you may have a problem.

    If you decide to take my advice and get a varroa monitoring sticky board, post back here and I will walk you through the test procedures I use. I have learned far more than just the mite levels from doing testing all year. There's lots to be learned about bees by studying what falls down through the bottom screen. And, speaking as a someone who started with bees, first - and like you with no advance planning - and only afterward began to study and learn about them, I found varroa testing an excellent way to develop a feel for my hives' well-being.

    You can tell your girls how lucky they are that they don't live here where a winter overcoat like this is necessary:
    Bee-Snug 3.jpg

    Enjambres

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Alachua County, FL, USA
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    7,108

    Default Re: Accidental beekeeper in Los Angeles!

    Welcome!
    americasbeekeeper.com
    beekeeper@americasbeekeeper.com

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Palos Verdes, CA, USA
    Posts
    97

    Default Re: Accidental beekeeper in Los Angeles!

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    My opinion for beginners, you learn by doing, so do. As often as you like. One qualifier, do not kill the queen.
    I suppose the need for caution should be obvious, but I never underestimate the power of my own ignorance. Tip duly noted.

    A comment on adding the foundationless super. Bees start building combs from the top. If you add a foundationless super, there is a big empty gap between the bee cluster, and the top of the next box. Result, it is majorly difficult for the bees to get a cluster up there & start comb building, they may even swarm before venturing to the new super. What they need is a bridge.
    Thank you for that, as well. I will check the hive on Saturday and see how they're doing. I was advised to (and therefore did) use a deep body with a medium super, so I can't transplant frames from one to the other. Are there other options for providing this bridge?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    Default Re: Accidental beekeeper in Los Angeles!

    Yes. Remove an outside frame from the deep to make room, then prise the combs apart at the middle of the box to hang a medium frame in there, smack in the middle of the brood nest. Depending on flow or feeding, the bees will build comb in that frame & once it is done it can be moved to the top super. Replace it with another medium in the middle of the bottom super & do this till you have 3 drawn medium frames in the medium box, then put your deep frame back into the bottom super.

    Yes it's a lot of hassling around but as a nuub you can learn a lot about how bees work by doing these kinds of manipulations.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Palos Verdes, CA, USA
    Posts
    97

    Default Re: Accidental beekeeper in Los Angeles!

    Thanks! I suppose the solution is obvious once you've been shown how.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
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    Palos Verdes, CA, USA
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    97

    Default Re: Accidental beekeeper in Los Angeles!

    I've been told that I'm _not_ restricted from posting photos and links, despite my newbeeness, so here goes.

    This was the 2011 cutout:



    and here's that same shed again, in 2014:

    Attached Images Attached Images
    What on earth have I gotten myself into?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Palos Verdes, CA, USA
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    Default Re: Accidental beekeeper in Los Angeles!

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    Yes. Remove an outside frame from the deep to make room, then prise the combs apart at the middle of the box to hang a medium frame in there, smack in the middle of the brood nest. Depending on flow or feeding, the bees will build comb in that frame & once it is done it can be moved to the top super. Replace it with another medium in the middle of the bottom super & do this till you have 3 drawn medium frames in the medium box, then put your deep frame back into the bottom super.
    Thanks again for this tip! I put a medium frame with wax/wire foundation in the bottom deep, and swapped it out a week later. It had comb drawn out about 3/4 depth (I think; I'm so new at this!) across about 3/4 of the area.

    I did this again last week (about the same coverage), and if the third one also draws properly I will do the final swap and put the deep frame back in this Friday.

    Then I'll leave for a week, and when I come back I'll see if they've started doing anything significant in the upper medium.

    The frames in the bottom deep are getting heavy with honey, so there is some nectar flow going on, but right now there is still little or no activity in the top box. There are some bees milling around up there, but they're not building or filling.

    I did leave the deep (foundation-less) frame sitting out in the open for a few days; it had some drone comb and some regular comb built on it. Then I put it in my shed.

    Should I remove the drone comb? And do I need to worry about any comb that I leave on it? Could it have been infested with something during the 3-4 days it was out?
    What on earth have I gotten myself into?

  10. #10
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    Jul 2010
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    Default Re: Accidental beekeeper in Los Angeles!

    If the bees are allowed to build their own comb they will build roughly 20% of it as drone comb. So if the hive will be mainly foundationless there is little point removing the drone comb, cos the bees will just build more till they think they have enough.

    Your outside comb will not have contracted anything. When you put it back, put it in the middle, so if there is anything wrong with it the bees will clean it up straight away.

    Once you have the 3 drawn combs in the top box leave them in the middle till there's a decent amount of bees on them working them, and once there is you can start spreading them, there must be enough bees up there to draw the comb you put between them.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Concord, CA
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    Default Re: Accidental beekeeper in Los Angeles!

    Be careful with those Backwards Beekeepers they have a reputation for keeping AHB instead of destroying them.
    Their reputation even precedes them all the way up here in the SF area. One of our local universities uses them as a bad example of beekeeping in an AHB area.
    Dan

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Palos Verdes, CA, USA
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    Default Re: Accidental beekeeper in Los Angeles!

    Putting the medium frames in the bottom deep worked out very well! I rotated the third one back up, and I now have 3 reasonably well-drawn frames up there. They're drawing the bees up there, too, as the first one now has some uncapped honey and some uncapped brood.

    Re: interleaving them with new foundation, I'd read in other threads that that can sometimes lead to "overdrawing" on the drawn frames with nothing on the new foundation. Or am I confusing that with a different scenario?

    I put that one deep frame back in the middle of the bottom deep. Based on their activity so far I suspect they'll have it all built out by the time I get back next week.
    What on earth have I gotten myself into?

  13. #13
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    Jun 2014
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    Palos Verdes, CA, USA
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    Default Re: Accidental beekeeper in Los Angeles!

    Quote Originally Posted by KQ6AR View Post
    Be careful with those Backwards Beekeepers they have a reputation for keeping AHB instead of destroying them.
    Their reputation even precedes them all the way up here in the SF area. One of our local universities uses them as a bad example of beekeeping in an AHB area.
    It's a bit of a moot point, as Backwards Beekeepers disbanded as an organization about a year ago. But yes, the particular beek who did my cutout (twice) is very AHB-tolerant in his approach, which I'm OK with.

    My feral colony is moderately tempered. They buzz me pretty much continuously while the hive is open, but as soon as I close it up and walk away they calm down. One or two of them might follow me for 5 minutes, but I've never had a cloud of them follow me.
    What on earth have I gotten myself into?

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2008
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    Concord, CA
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    4,194

    Default Re: Accidental beekeeper in Los Angeles!

    I'm glad you have more common sense then some of them had. Enjoy the bees!
    Dan

  15. #15
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    Jun 2014
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    Palos Verdes, CA, USA
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    Default Re: Accidental beekeeper in Los Angeles!

    Quote Originally Posted by IAmTheWaterbug View Post
    I put that one deep frame back in the middle of the bottom deep. Based on their activity so far I suspect they'll have it all built out by the time I get back next week.
    Looks like I was a tad optimistic :-/

    The frameless deep frame I put back into the bottom deep 2 weeks ago still isn't fully built out.

    The wired wax medium on top isn't much further along either. The first three frames that I had in the bottom deep for a week each (now staggered in the upper medium) are getting filled with honey and some capped brood, but the interleaved empty foundation frames have very, very little drawn out comb. There's a little bit, so the bees are at least paying them some attention, but they're not doing much.

    Giving our complete lack of rainfall here in Los Angeles, maybe they're just not getting enough nectar to do both.

    Should I think about feeding? Or should I just let nature take its course? I'm not expecting a harvest this year; I just want them to be happy .
    What on earth have I gotten myself into?

  16. #16
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    Jul 2010
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    Default Re: Accidental beekeeper in Los Angeles!

    They may just be short on enough bees to do the job, could you post a pic or two of the open hive including how much honey they are storing?
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  17. #17
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    Jun 2014
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    Palos Verdes, CA, USA
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    Default Re: Accidental beekeeper in Los Angeles!

    I keep forgetting to take pictures when I'm in the hive! But there seem to be plenty of bees in the bottom deep. Whenever I pull a frame, both sides are pretty much covered with bees. And they're all busy as . . . bees , and there's always plenty of capped and uncapped brood. So the bottom box is reasonably healthy.

    I did my first sugar shake today, and I only counted 6 mites, so I don't think there's a lot of mite pressure right now.

    But there aren't many bees in the upper medium at all. And they've drawn zero additional comb in the last 3 weeks.

    We get zero rain here in Los Angeles from about May to September, so there's not a lot of nectar, so this might even be normal. But this is my first year, so I don't know.

    Should I think about feeding, just to get the upper medium fully drawn out and filled?
    What on earth have I gotten myself into?

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Accidental beekeeper in Los Angeles!

    Yes. They will only build comb if surplus nectar (or sugar syrup) is coming in.

    Sounds like the bees are doing well, so feed them some syrup and you will be amazed how comb building takes off.

    A jar of syrup won't do it, give them a gallon or two, and if they have room repeat in a couple of weeks.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  19. #19
    Join Date
    May 2008
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    Concord, CA
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    4,194

    Default Re: Accidental beekeeper in Los Angeles!

    Watch out for ants, we use cups with a little motor oil under the legs of the hive stand.
    Dan

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Santa Monica, CA, USA
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    1,544

    Default Re: Accidental beekeeper in Los Angeles!

    Quote Originally Posted by KQ6AR View Post
    Be careful with those Backwards Beekeepers they have a reputation for keeping AHB instead of destroying them.
    Their reputation even precedes them all the way up here in the SF area. One of our local universities uses them as a bad example of beekeeping in an AHB area.
    Waterbug
    O, yes!
    Sounds familiar. When I just started, the people like this "ordered" me to re-queen (from reputable source!) my feral bees because of AHB concerns. The entire bee-club was about re-queening and use of nasty chemicals on bees ... did you treat? you must treat! You should treat NOW!!!!! Ridiculous! So far, my bees are doing great without any treatment and without re-queening. They are definitely africanized (to degree). They are prolific and happy (I hope so). So, to me, the Backwards Beekeeping works perfectly! PM to me if you want to stop by to see my bees in Santa Monica! Good luck with your bees!
    Серёжа, Sergey

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