I finally have bees!
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
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    Koeru, Järvamaa, Estonia
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    84

    Default I finally have bees!

    So finally, after hunting for a swarm for the entire previous season and the better part of this one, I managed to catch one thanks to a fellow beekeeper. We took what I now think were three separate swarms (one football sized and two fist sized ones on branches within couple feet of the first one.) At first I thought it was all one swarm but after shaking them into the box there was some fighting and some dead bees.

    Anyhow, after few hours things had calmed down and most of the bees who did not end up in the box at first, merrily made their way inside. Since I could not hive them last night, I followed the beekeepers advice and stored the box in a cool basement. This morning I went out before sunrise and transferred the bees into my TBH. I closed off 2 of the 3 entrance holes and left them alone. I did consider sealing all 3 holes for a day or two just to be sure, but since I do not have a screen floor I was worried about ventilation. They did not seem too alarmed and they did not start pouring out the entrance, so here's to hoping they will not abscond. I have no frames or old comb in the hive, all new top bars with strips of wax coated string for starters.

    Right now I'm contemplating if I should feed them or not. There's flow around here right now but the weather has not been too favorable. Today and the next 3 days all come with a chance of light showers.

    Gonna be in the office today, so I won't know if they decide to stay or not until I get back home in the evening... fingers crossed!

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    May 2017
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    Arlington Hts, IL
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    Default Re: I finally have bees!

    Good luck!

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
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    Denver Metro Area CO, USA
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    Default Re: I finally have bees!

    good luck!
    a swarm carrys quite a bit of honey with it and you say there is a flow on I would let them sit tight for a week or 2 too settle in before fussing with them. Feed is good, much comb needs to be drawn, but I don't tend to feed if there is a flow on, but there is no harm once they have some brood on and playing peak a boo won't cause them to leave .

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
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    Koeru, Järvamaa, Estonia
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    84

    Default Re: I finally have bees!

    Thanks for the suggestions, msl. I'm thinking I'll try and not disturb them for the next week or so and just keep a close eye on their comings and goings. How soon should I see them bringing in pollen and by what time should I be concerned if I do not see them bringing any?

    Also, should I keep the 2 entrances closed for the week?

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2017
    Location
    St. Lawrence County, N.Y.
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    55

    Default Re: I finally have bees!

    I am a first timer and listened to several bee keepers on how to establish and hold a swarm in my bar top. They told me two things of most importance. 1. Feed immediately and do not stop until they have quit building comb. 2. Don't worry about plugging any entrance holes and check for cross combing every two days. I have done exactly that and I have all kinds of comb building and had to break up a small start of cross combing day 10. My bees started making orientation flights the moment I shook them into the new hives. Both hives well established and doing fine. Good luck.

  7. #6
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    Mar 2017
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    Koeru, Järvamaa, Estonia
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    84

    Default Re: I finally have bees!

    I guess there is no harm in feeding, so I'll go set up a feeder on top of the top bars later today. I'll also open up the remaining two entrances. I was out there earlier today watching them come and go and there was a lot of activity. A constant in-out stream of bees. So hopefully they have decided to stay and are busy redecorating their new home.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2017
    Location
    St. Lawrence County, N.Y.
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    Default Re: I finally have bees!

    Ya, it sounds like your bees are doing the same thing mine did and mine love their new homes. I put my feeder inside the hive so the wasps and ants don't get to it. Outside will attract lots of critters besides bees. I have a partition with a 1" hole in it so they go in and out of the feeding chamber and they do not build comb on the flat top of the divider. Most of the experienced bee keepers I have talked to say feed until they quit taking it. Now if I had 500 hives I would probably not say that but I got 2 !!

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    Koeru, Järvamaa, Estonia
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    84

    Default Re: I finally have bees!

    2 days ago, (on day 3) I opened up the hive enough to give them a liter of sugar syrup into the hive and took a quick peek inside while swapping out the follower board. They were all festooning where they needed to be, so I did not disturb them any further and replaced the follower board. I also opened up the remaining 2 entrances - they had been pushing and pulling at the tape I used so it was clear they wanted the entrances open.

    For the past days I've been checking the activity on the hive entrance 3-4 times a day. Morning, day and evening. I have been unable to spot any pollen coming in to the hive and was getting nervous. The weather has been favorable, with some very light rain on couple days, but mostly dry and the girls have been up and about.
    So today I set up a camera to the side of the entrance, keeping an eye on the traffic for me. After recording for an hour I had enough material to do a more thorough check. And lo and behold! I see pollen coming in

    First inspection is scheduled for tomorrow. The plan is to make sure they got the hint I tried to give them with my guide strings, correct the comb if needed and check to see if the queen is laying.
    Last edited by Thucar; 07-07-2017 at 03:49 AM.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
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    Koeru, Järvamaa, Estonia
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    Default Re: I finally have bees!

    Since there is a chance of rain tomorrow, I decided to do the inspection today. The two goals were to check on the progress of comb building and see if I can spot eggs. The comb building was coming along nicely - 3 separate combs in 5 days. However two of the combs shared a bar. So I had to cut the smaller one off and ended up tying it to a new bar with some string. I also tried to push the other comb more towards the center of the bar. It's nerve wrecking to be handling this delicate comb with my clumsy paws...

    I did not see any eggs but as I saw from the video recording this morning, they are starting to bring in pollen. Considering the time of the year (our swarm season is late April to July as much as I have gathered) it is likely the swarm was a secondary and has a virgin queen. So I'm not that worried about not seeing any eggs at this time.

    As for their comb building antics, I'm starting to think I've given them too much space too early. They currently have 13 bars to play with. Considering they have started building on 3 so far, should I maybe reduce their space to around 5-8 top bars?

    This is the proof of work of a newbie in action:
    EU Hardiness Zone 5-6

  11. #10
    Join Date
    May 2017
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    Arlington Hts, IL
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    80

    Default Re: I finally have bees!

    I watched bits and pieces and you look pretty darn experienced doing all that work. I am glad all my comb has been straight and one per bar.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2017
    Location
    Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
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    41

    Default Re: I finally have bees!

    How thick are your bars? Yes, I would reduce the number of bars they have and check on them about every 3 days.

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
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    Koeru, Järvamaa, Estonia
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    Default Re: I finally have bees!

    My bars are all 34mm (about 1 and 11/32 inch) wide. The two combs were built almost exactly on the edges of the bar, protruding just a bit on either side. So if they had just moved half a bar in one direction or the other, they would have been spot on. I'll go in and move the follower board closer a few bars in the afternoon today. There are two contradicting things I'm worried about the most at this point. On one hand, I'm worried of disturbing them too much and not letting them do what they need to do - maybe even cause them to abscond. On the other hand I'm worried about them crosscombing the hive so badly that it would need major surgery and more harm caused later on. I'm well aware that they are way behind schedule in getting their house in order and stocked up for the upcoming winter. We might have about two months of variable nectar flow left and they still have about a month to go until the first batch of brood hatches.
    EU Hardiness Zone 5-6

  14. #13
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
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    Denver Metro Area CO, USA
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    Default Re: I finally have bees!

    Add triangle comb guides to your bars, a bit of wood glue and a staple gun will make it fast, a pneumatic gun with longer staples and sans glue all the better it you have it, they are following the irregularity of were the 2 bars meet, you want them following a center line of the bar,
    Give them the space the cluster is using +2-3 bars till they hit 10+ then keep more bars ahead of them. This is dependent on conditions and inspection rate..place new bars between drawn combs, not at the back, the +2-3 bars is to keep them seeing they have space and help stop swarming, maintain it bigger hives more bars, but expand the brood nest, and the honey stores by checker boarding to give you nice strait combs
    pick up a light color jacket , once they grow up a bit they may get a bit more touchy and dark colors give a threat response
    Last edited by msl; 07-07-2017 at 11:53 PM.

  15. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
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    Koeru, Järvamaa, Estonia
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    84

    Default Re: I finally have bees!

    I failed to get hold of suitable triangle stock to use as guides when I was building the hive. In the end I resorted to wax coated string guides. One inconvenience with my current bars is that they lack any real means to center or lock them in place. They are just straight pieces of wood. I'm now looking to buy a small table saw to be able to cut triangular guides into my current top bars as well as cut a step into each end so the bars would sit the same distance from the hive sides every time I remove and replace them.

    I also reduced the number of space available to 9 bars today. They are festooning on bars up to 8th, so I did not feel comfortable restricting them any further.
    EU Hardiness Zone 5-6

  16. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Hall, Georgia, USA
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    313

    Default Re: I finally have bees!

    Go to the big box home store and look for molding in the back of the lumber section. You should be able to find a shape profile which will work well as a guide. Cut appropriate sections and tack to your top bars.

    You can buy a table saw if you want one and will use one, but buying an 8 foot strip of molding will get you operational in an hour or less.

    Many people swear by the "saw kerf and paint stir stick" guide method, which is worth considering. More than a few do "saw kerf and a foundation strip" as well. You have lots of options. But, if you are buying a table saw, get a SawStop cabinet model and tell me how you like it; I've always wanted one of those! Too bad I spent all my money on bees.

  17. #16
    Join Date
    Jun 2017
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    Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
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    41

    Default Re: I finally have bees!

    Quote Originally Posted by Thucar View Post
    My bars are all 34mm (about 1 and 11/32 inch) wide. The two combs were built almost exactly on the edges of the bar, protruding just a bit on either side. So if they had just moved half a bar in one direction or the other, they would have been spot on. I'll go in and move the follower board closer a few bars in the afternoon today. There are two contradicting things I'm worried about the most at this point. On one hand, I'm worried of disturbing them too much and not letting them do what they need to do - maybe even cause them to abscond. On the other hand I'm worried about them crosscombing the hive so badly that it would need major surgery and more harm caused later on. I'm well aware that they are way behind schedule in getting their house in order and stocked up for the upcoming winter. We might have about two months of variable nectar flow left and they still have about a month to go until the first batch of brood hatches.
    I checked on mine every 3 days and they are fine. You can do a quick mini inspection, where you don't check on all the bars, just the newly built comb to make sure everything is straight. Good luck!!

  18. #17
    Join Date
    Jun 2017
    Location
    St. Lawrence County, N.Y.
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    55

    Default Re: I finally have bees!

    As a side note, I liked your video and I am just wondering if you have ever tried not smoking. I have had my bees for the first time this year for a period of 27 and 13 days respectively for the two bar tops. First one was a caught swarm and second one was a purchased package with a laying queen. I have opened them to feed every two days and inspected entire hive of bars with no smoke ever. I am now opening the hives with no protective equipment except a head net cause I hate them crawling on my bald head! Stung once last week when I crushed a bee between the bar tops when I was putting it down. I deserved it. I just hurried a little and made a mistake. Laugh but I talk to them every day, observe them through the window everyday and may regret not donning everything someday and not smoking but for now I am going to enjoy it with no smoke and just a head net. 27 day hive almost completely combed out on 14 bars and the newer one is half way there. Good luck.

  19. #18
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    Koeru, Järvamaa, Estonia
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    Default Re: I finally have bees!

    blk, this was my very first hive inspection so no, have not tried without the smoker yet However, I was trying to follow Les Crowders advice on using smoke - couple puffs at the entrance, another puff or two at the very back of the hive, and then just have the smoker nearby. Also, as you can see in the video the smoker went out just few minutes in.

    My goal is to lose a lot of the protective gear as I go along. I'm not worried about stings - I'm not allergic to bee venom and it seems to have only minimal effect on me. I got stung twice in two days when trying to capture a swarm before this one (didn't work out, the bees were about 30+ feet up in a tree and it was raining for 3 days straight) and the stings barely left a mark.

    The reason for using gloves and a smoker for now, is the fear of getting caught off guard and dropping a bar or causing some other sort of mess for the bees when I get stung.

    Oh, an interesting thing is - the swarm came from my neighbors hive and he described them as: "Little black mutts with unknown origin. They are hardy and good workers but mean beyond belief." He has 5 hives in total of these bees (langstroth-style). I have yet to experience their mean nature and have marked their temperament as "Exceptional" in my bee journal so far.

    AvatarDad, I've tried the stores around here with little or no luck. We don't really have a lumber section as such, most of the time. All the molding we get is plastic or some pressed cardboard-like material. I'm a tinkerer by nature so a table saw has been on my tools-to-get list for a while and it just got bumped to the top of that list. I wish I could afford something like the SawStop models, but it'll have to be about the cheapest contractor saw I can find on the classifieds.

    beesonja, I keep telling myself to give the girls some space and not bother them too much. Most books I've read suggest not opening the hive for at least a week, maybe even two, after installing the bees. I managed to hold off for 5 days the first time. It's been 4 days since my last inspection and I'm losing another battle with myself. If the weather holds, I'll probably be going into the hive again this afternoon
    EU Hardiness Zone 5-6

  20. #19
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Location
    Geauga, Ohio
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    398

    Default Re: I finally have bees!

    I use the triangular guides, and the bees look at them as a suggestion, not a rule to follow. That bar width - 11/32, very close to 12/32 which is what I did - works well for brood comb but the bees prefer wider comb for honey storage. I have made a lot of spacers about 1/8 to 1/4 and when the bees start building wider comb, I put a spacer between the bars. If they build a wider bit on one upper side, I cut it down (pull up or sideways with hive tool on new comb, don't push down or comb may rip off).

    Also I only add a single bar between existing good comb, near where the bees have brood comb next to a stores comb (nectar and pollen). Les covers that well in his book, and it is a way to speed comb building quite a bit. Of course this isn't possible when you have just installed a swarm and have no comb!

    They will not abscond once they have brood IF: 1) no extreme pesting from ants or other insect fiends, 2) no extreme ventilation issues leading to discomfort, either too little or too much, and 3) no extreme manipulations leading them to think their "bee tree" has been damaged.

    One more thing - you can get a feeling for how quickly they will build a comb - I think it will be 2 a week or so, as a guess, for a Kenyan top bar hive - and time your inspections for that. You can put in 2 empty comb - each nestled between existing comb - and check when they should be done building.

    For whether to feed, the rules I use are these: if they do not have 1 bar of stores for 2 bars of brood (so if 6 bars of brood, 3 bars of stores only away from the entrance), then it is key to feed 1 part sugar to 1 part water by weight to avoid starvation if it gets rainy. If they have stores and are in a nectar flow and are in there first year, I leave them alone and let them build. If we get to late july/early August (beginning of a nectar dearth here) and they do not have near 20 combs drawn out (necessary for my winter), I feed. AND lastly, if we get to mid-late August and they don't have a bar of honey started for EACH bar the bees cover (not brood; they are dialing down already), then I feed 2 parts sugar and 1 part water. They aren't pets and I don't feed for my satisfaction, but always for a purpose. Our winter/no forage starts mid October. I hope that helps give a sense of what feeding can accomplish, so you know when it suits your purpose to feed.

  21. #20
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
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    Koeru, Järvamaa, Estonia
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    Default Re: I finally have bees!

    Ok, so I just got back from doing my second inspection and oh boy have they been busy. 6 new combs in 6 days so they were pretty much out of space to build. They still had insisted on being a little creative in the first part of the hive, where I was fixing things the last time. Had to realign 2 combs again to get them to sit on a single bar. The good thing is - about halfway through they picked up on my hinted string guides and stayed on track from bar 5 onward. All bars are being filled with mostly nectar, some pollen here and there, but no eggs so far. This is day 10 for them, so not too worried still. Just hope the queen gets to have her mating flight and start laying some time soon now.

    I added 4 new bars in between the straight comb and left them to their building. Oh, they are becoming a bit more protective of their new home. Had a guard come and inspect and ping me when I was working on last 2 bars.

    Things are looking good so far.
    EU Hardiness Zone 5-6

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