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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We just received a very old, neglected hive and could use advice about what is best for the bees at this point. Should it be pertinent, I should say these are our (daughter and myself) first bees so we have zero practical experience.

The hive consists of two deeps which appear to be jammed full with bees, and an empty medium (no frames) that the owner just put on three days ago in anticipation of getting rid of the hive. I'm guessing that space is being filled with comb as the days go by. I don't know for sure, but was told each deep should still have all ten frames inside. We just picked it up last night and have not opened it yet to see. Each of the deeps has a 3" diameter hole drilled in the front for entrances, and there is no gap at the bottom. In fact, right now the "bottom board" is actually an inverted migratory cover. All three boxes need to be replaced for sure as they are damaged and weak, and I'm betting the frames should probably go too. we do have a brand new hive (two deeps, two mediums) and frames for all ready to use.

I realize we may have several things to concern ourselves with as far as disease, pests, re-queening, etc., but right now I'm asking for advice on how to move this colony to the new hive. I'm thinking of treating it like a big split by choosing a number of the best looking, appropriate frames, hopefully including the queen if we can spot her, then install them into a new deep and shake everyone else in before filling with new frames. I may consider actually doing a split at the same time if there are enough resources as we do have a nuc we could use.

As far as direct questions:

Does the "split" idea sound workable?
If so, should we put both deeps on right away if there are enough bees to cover, or start with just one and watch to see when it's nearly filled out?
What other options do we have for this situation?
Does anyone want to come over and hold my hand through this? ;)

Thanks very much for any help.
 

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First of all, welcome to the site. Sure it sounds workable assuming the hive is full of bees. It would be a great way lessen the chances of casting swarms, increase your hives, and learn a little easier. Smaller hives are easier to work though a split can turn into a full size hive very quickly. By that time you'll be feeling a little more confident.

You'll be a whole lot smarter with what you've got when you open up the hives though.
 

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You could drum them out and then work with the empty hive. The description below comes from http://maarec.psu.edu/pdfs/Removing_Bees.pdf for the record this is not a new idea. You can still give them back their good frames. Good luck and let us know how you work this one out.


DRUMMING
Another method of transferring bees is by drumming them out
of the old hive. To drum bees, remove the bottom of the old
hive and turn it upside down. Place a new hive with drawn
comb or foundation on top of the inverted box and close all
openings. Drum vigorously with a rubber mallet, stick or
hammer on the side of the old hive continuously for eight to ten
minutes. This causes the bees and queen to move upward.
Smoking the old colony before drumming is also helpful in
starting the bees upward. When most of the bees have moved
up into the new hive, a queen excluder is then placed between
the new and old equipment and an upper entrance provided.
After several days, the new hive should be checked for evidence
of the queen. If the queen is not above, the queen
excluder must be removed and the drumming process repeated.
Three weeks later, after the queen has been confined above and
all the brood has emerged below, the old hive may be removed
and discarded.
A variation of the above procedure would be to remove the
combs from the old nest immediately after drumming the adult
bees out and piecing the comb into empty frames for the new
hive. This is accomplished by cutting large pieces of brood
comb and then arranging them on a flat surface in empty
frames. The pieces are held in place by wrapping string or
stretching rubber bands around the frames. It is advisable to
transfer only comb containing worker brood. Empty comb or
comb with drone brood should be discarded. Comb with honey
can be cut so the bees may rob it or pieced into frames as above
for worker food.
The advantage of drumming is that it is quick and requires little
manipulation by the beekeeper. When brood comb is cut and
placed into frames the colony will expand quickly in its new
home and have a good chance of winter survival.
 

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I'd strongly recommend finding a mentor in your area (search on beekeeping for a club near you). They can help you examine the colony... if there aren't signs/symptoms of disease, keep the frames that have brood or stores in them! At least for starters. The comb is probably old and dark (and thus a candidate for eventual replacement), but absent illness don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. The split idea is fine too.

Note that this time of year, the whole colony may be in the upper deep and you can just remove the empty bottom deep, put a new bottom board on, add a new box of foundation over the "full" deep and let them move up into it. Bees move upwards, so use that instinct if you want to cull old frames/equipment.
 

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You probably don't have to rush into action here. Take your time to make a decision.

Meet up with someone more experienced as Ben suggests. It will make the whole experience easier.

The empty medium on top is probably still empty. I would remove it or add frames. Leaving it in place and empty could cause more problems.

Then look to see what you have going on in the boxes. If you can get the frames out without too much distruction that would be really nice. If not, it gets more complicated.

You probably don't want to do a split right now. It is a bit early in the season.
 

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i started beekeeping the same way. I was given two hives that had a lot of rotten wood and holes in several places the bees were using as entrances. It was a huge mess.

Here is what I did - maybe you can learn something by reading what I did. I went real slow. Each weekend when I went out I tried to do just a little repair.

1st I tacked up some boards to seal up the other entrances.

2nd, I opened the top and started going through the frames in the top box. Go slow. Several of mine broke and had to be removed and replaced. Once I had all the frames in serviceable condition and removable, then I swapped all the frames into a new box and put it back on. This took like 3 separate weekend trips.

3rd, I then rearranged the hive. I moved the hive to the side and placed a new bottom board in original location. Then I set the repaired upper box on the new bottom, then I placed the former bottom box on top so I could work on it next. 3 more weeks of culling moving and repairing and I had it all done.

Total job took like 8 weeks, but after that the hive was like new with the exception of some old frames which I rotated out over the next season. I lost minimal numbers of bees and it all worked out.
 

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Troy, very cool step by step directions. Logical, simple, and methodical. I'll use it if ever presented with the challenge.

The drumming sounds cool too but is there anyone out there who's actually tried it? I'm not saying it doesn't work I've just never heard of anyone actually doing it. Similar to getting a swarm to go back to the hive by making sharp, loud noises.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Really appreciate the help, everyone. Thank you.

I've since removed the empty medium and replaced it with a new deep full of new frames. Hoping they'll start moving up into it quickly and start making some nice new comb.

We hope to get into it a bit more on Saturday to see what we've really got on our hands, and what we might need to do for these girls. The boxes are in very poor condition so we definitely need to move into the new equipment when we can. We've got an experienced keeper visiting to walk us through this and offer advice. We had joined our local association in January, and my daughter is a member of the beekeeping group in our local 4H so we do have access to mentors.

Top of old box, bottom of new:



Transition to new home begins:

 

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Nice paint job! :applause:
I see you're in southern Cal, already got the salvage hive home on your new stand, in what looks like a garden area, a picture is worth a lot of typing!
The interior of that hive is probably going to look a lot better than the neglected exterior. If it's a strong hive, (new beekeepers seem to not be real good at judging that because all those bees look scary!) then I'd bee prone to simply move the frames from the old super into the new super and place in the same location using a proper bottom board. Don't shuffle the frames around, they've got everything where they want it. Let the bees adapt to their new home.
Next step would be to worry about splitting and getting them onto better comb. After the adrenaline dies down. :D
 

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The drumming sounds cool too but is there anyone out there who's actually tried it? I'm not saying it doesn't work I've just never heard of anyone actually doing it. Similar to getting a swarm to go back to the hive by making sharp, loud noises.
According to his book LL Langstroth made most of his increase by drumming artificial swarms.

I'll drum one up once we get some nice weather and post a thread, maybe with a video. For the record I haven't tried it yet, I'm just assuming it will work based on the fact that others have written about it, and said it works. I can't see why they would fib.
 

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Hi,
I'm in Concord & a member of the mount diablo beekeepers assoc. Its a good time of year for what you're doing. If the hive is packed full of bees you could split the two boxes, & put a new box on top of each. The queenless box would have to raise a new queen, so make sure there are eggs in both boxes.
Feel free to email me.

For the record sf bay area isn't in southern CA. Its about the middle. We actually had a little snow this winter.
 

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Nice photos. If mine, this is what I would do, but accept it as that and please find your own way.

The boxes actually don't look beyond use. Look for dead and slimy brood in the comb and do a sugar roll for mites. If you see significant brood problems, pass and order a package. If your mite count is beyond 80 and the hive looks weak, pass. Don't be discouraged if you find them because today almost all hives have them. Unless it hits you over the head, don't worry too much about smell. Also, since its early, don't worry too much about mold. Last year a couple of hives came through winter both low in numbers and full of green mold. Within a month spring cleaning kicked in an they were fine.

Compared to a single two deep hive, two hives of one deep each is a piece of cake to move. If it can divide into two active seven active drawn frames 4-5 brood frames each, I suspect great success in getting two hives. The one with the queen will build quickly as spring progressives with high likelihood of harvest.

If this was my opportunity, I'd divide the hive where it is using the two new deeps, salvage as many frames as appear usable and make sure that both have freshly laid eggs. Look for a slender white grain of rice at the bottom of the cell. The ones standing on end are that day or not much more. The ones laying on the side are a couple days old. Both should do. They will be much easier to see than the queen.

The queen. For this experience, I don't advise spending too much time on her since this early she may be slimmed and not easy to find. Also the more she is exposed, the greater chance of loss or damage. Best way I found her is to look at the frame in its entirety and watch for unique movement. If you see a longer bee in the middle of that, you found her. Now be careful and promptly secure her within your hive.

The hive without a queen will raise their own. It will obviously build slower and new brood will not appear until she emerges, mates and begins laying. This is a common queen-less split and I experienced success. Just make sure both hives have enough bees to keep warm.

Use the gear you have to get started and only replace the frames too far gone. If you don't get a chance to get two bottoms, keep one of the existing with the hole, they really don't need a landing board. The remaining gear can be cleaned and repaired with the same effort as buying new and a trade-off. You have time to buy more before they outgrow a single deep.

Do all this where the hive is now an let it sit for a day.

In the evening after the girls hunkered down for the evening, securely close the entrance with duct tape, masking tape, #8 hardware cloth or similar. Strap the top, deep and bottom so the hole hive handles like a box. Move that evening or the next day. Give a little time to settle or make sure you wear complete battle gear before opening.

Consider treating with formic acid pads. IMHO they do a great job of knocking down hive with very high mite counts to the teens and below within a couple weeks. It also helps with tracheal mites and show promise in reducing small hive beetle.

If successful, you will be way ahead of a package.

Good luck and enjoy yourself and the honey.
 

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Youre boxs look pretty good.You are already on the right track #1 you have someone who knows what theyre to help you.#2 you found this website. Last year I was given a truckload of eqp. including a live hive that hasnt been opened in 7 years. Trust me your's looks really good .Welcome to beekeeping and Beesource:applause:
 
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