Hive Not Opened for 10 Years!
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
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    Scottsbluff, Nebraska
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    29

    Default Hive Not Opened for 10 Years!

    I just started my first two hives this year...one is doing well and one is not, but that will be another thread one day. This week, I was asked if I would tend to two hives that had not been opened in at least ten years. This gardener has 10 acres of fruit and flowers and says that the hives have thrived, almost died out and now thrive again. So to make a long story short, I arrived and saw that the hives were dilapidated and in need of repair before they topple over. Bees were busy all around the hive and it took some work just to get the cover off. Both hives had 100s if not 1000s of fire ants and their larvae all over the inner cover. With even greater effort I got the inner cover off. What a mess. Dark brown comb everywhere but bees very active. I didn't notice that the ants were in the comb except for the larvae that fell through the opening in the inner cover. The bees could only come and go thru holes in the top box as the bottom entrance on each hive have been long since clogged. One hive has 4 deeps and the other has 3 and that is it. No excluder, or any thing else. Side note, bees were as mad as I have ever seen bees when I tried to pry the top box off.
    So, what to do. I even wonder if they are able to use the bottom boxes. Can bees coexist peacefully with ants? Is there a way to eradicate the ants without harming the bees? The bees are doing their job of pollinating this property so I don't want to ruin anything. My novice thinking is to put a new bottom box and bottom board, but do I dare take away one or two deeps from them and provide new ones? Queen excluder and honey super yet? Not sure what to do but am thinking some of you have dealt with this situation. I will post some pics if I can figure out how. Thanks, everyone! Bert

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
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    Scottsbluff, Nebraska
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    Default Re: Hive Not Opened for 10 Years!


  4. #3
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    Default Re: Hive Not Opened for 10 Years!


  5. #4
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    Jul 2013
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    Louisville, KY
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    Default Re: Hive Not Opened for 10 Years!

    Wow neat find. If the woodenware is in rough shape...rotted and crumbling. I would transfer over the frames to new boxes. On a new hive its no biggie to do. I am curious to know what has been propolised and to what extent

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Trousdale County, Tennessee
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    681

    Default Re: Hive Not Opened for 10 Years!

    It's a bit late in the year to try to move them totally to a new box. The one box seems to be in decent shape. Why not place a brood box on top and let them move up into it? Next spring they would mostly be in the top and then remove it from the stack and discard the lower old hive. The second set of pics looks pretty shackled, so it looks like getting into it and just seeing what you can do with it as far as salvaging bees will be about your best bet.

  7. #6
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    Jan 2014
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    Manassas, Virginia, USA
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    3,080

    Default Re: Hive Not Opened for 10 Years!

    Can I suggest you breed from this stock? Ten years with no attention?!! Talk about survivor stock ... this is like the wild bees of old.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    Deep Brook, NS, Canada
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    605

    Default Re: Hive Not Opened for 10 Years!

    That's going to be quite a project, and one that not many beeks get to tackle. Just getting the frames apart without rolling the queen is going to be fun. Mean or not, you have some survivor stock there, which might be worth preserving. I thought about approaching it like a cutout, where you remove the side of a box so you can move the frames straight out. It may be better handled with more than one person, too.
    Whatever you do, take lots of pictures and keep us up to date!

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
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    Deep Brook, NS, Canada
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    605

    Default Re: Hive Not Opened for 10 Years!

    For the ants, you can try sprinkling some cinnamon on the inner cover. Other than that, anything that will kill ants will kill the bees too.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    erie, pa
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    204

    Default Re: Hive Not Opened for 10 Years!

    Quote Originally Posted by gezellig View Post
    It's a bit late in the year to try to move them totally to a new box. The one box seems to be in decent shape. Why not place a brood box on top and let them move up into it? Next spring they would mostly be in the top and then remove it from the stack and discard the lower old hive. The second set of pics looks pretty shackled, so it looks like getting into it and just seeing what you can do with it as far as salvaging bees will be about your best bet.
    Why would it be too late to move them to new box? The frames look as thought hey could be transferred for the most part without a whole lot of hassle. . Does the box make that much of a different to the time of year? I don't get it!

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
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    Bellflower, Montgomery,Mo,USA
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    Default Re: Hive Not Opened for 10 Years!

    Most of my hives take care of ants pretty well. I have a swarm that I got about 2 months ago that the ants are inbetween the inner and outer cover. They only have about 5 frames filled out now. We've had rain for the last 3 months and there's not many places for the ants to go. I figure live and let live.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
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    Scottsbluff, Nebraska
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    Default Re: Hive Not Opened for 10 Years!

    Thanks, everyone for the replies. Keep the ideas coming! I'm still not sure what to do but I've read some good ideas from y'all. Cinnamon? Very interesting.

  13. #12
    Join Date
    May 2012
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    Hillsboro, Wisconsin, USA
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    Default Re: Hive Not Opened for 10 Years!

    Wow. Enjoy the experience. Wish I had more of those...er, maybe not. :-)

  14. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
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    Scottsbluff, Nebraska
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    Default Re: Hive Not Opened for 10 Years!

    Thanks, Ben. Enjoying my bees I got from you this spring!

  15. #14
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    May 2012
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    Hillsboro, Wisconsin, USA
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    Default Re: Hive Not Opened for 10 Years!

    Good deal!

  16. #15
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    Jul 2014
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    Cazadero, California
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    Default Re: Hive Not Opened for 10 Years!

    I'm too new to give any advice but I like gezellig's idea of adding a new box. Wait till the queen moves up there out of harms way before you dig into the existing frames.

  17. #16
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    Jan 2014
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    Louisville, Colorado, USA
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    Default Re: Hive Not Opened for 10 Years!

    That's going to be a project. You may find that the bees mellow out a little as they get used to you working with them

    If you think they can take the weight I would second the opinion of gezellig and add a brood box with frames and foundation on top. If they draw out the comb you will have something to start with next spring as you work on transferring them to new equipment.

    My buddy picked up a couple hives like that..... just old and gnarly. But, little by little we have been able to get them into new boxes with new comb. The queens love the new comb!!

    Take it slow. And be ready for anything.... the frames will likely pull apart in your hand, the boxes might break as you try to pry them apart. Have extra equipment on hand for emergency.

    That's a cool find, also kind of sad for the bees living in such dilapidated houses.

    Last, that is fantastic stock for you to raise some queens from!

  18. #17
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
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    Utica, NY
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    Default Re: Hive Not Opened for 10 Years!

    Nobody is going to like this suggestion...

    Strap the one that looks like it will topple over and move it 5 ft away. Place two boxes with drawn comb in its places and then bust apart the hive you just moved leaving it wide open like a bear attack. The next day look for the queen or a clump of bees surrounding the queen and put her in the new box. Let the bees rob out the old comb.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  19. #18
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    May 2012
    Location
    Rockford, MI
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    Default Re: Hive Not Opened for 10 Years!

    They look pretty good for ten year old hives with no human intervention. What keeps the grass from growing up all around the hive? The landowner?
    Ants can certainly upset a hive. They will keep alot of the bees in defense mode 24/7. This will make a hive, at least the guard bees quite defensive.
    Either way it will be a good learning experience. Keep us posted.

  20. #19
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    Mar 2011
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    Default Re: Hive Not Opened for 10 Years!

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr.Beeman View Post
    Ants can certainly upset a hive. They will keep alot of the bees in defense mode 24/7. This will make a hive, at least the guard bees quite defensive.

    I have three hives. One is a package, one and overwintered hive and one a split from the overwintered hive. The package is the only one that has a solid inner cover (no hand hole). It is also the only one that has ants on top of the cover by the thousands. Of course every time I open the cover I shovel off all the eggs and ants before I pry up the inner cover but when I do the ant are running for their life is seems. The bees do not seem to be affected by the ants being on top of the inner cover. There has to be differences between what type of ant it is whether it affects the hive or not.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  21. #20
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
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    Kirksville, Missouri USA
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    Default Re: Hive Not Opened for 10 Years!

    Maybe I missed the answer to my question, but who gets the bees when everything is all restored and going well?

    I like the idea of letting them expand into new equipment and eventually discarding the old stuff.

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