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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
OK, so I installed my 4-lb packages into their foundationless hives 1 week ago today.

Each hive has been consuming an average of one pint of syrup per day from a top (mason jar) feeder. I'm seeing more and more foragers returning to the hive laden with pollen, and the pollen is of three different colors; there's tons of scotch broom in blossom, along with a wide variety of other stuff. The weather has been mostly cool and cloudy, with spells of rain every day.

Being a new beekeeper with foundationless hives, (using Kelley's comb-guide frames), I find that some of the standard advice is confusing to apply. For instance, how do you check on a new foundationless hive? I tried opening up one hive three days after installation, to see if the queen had been released, and there was a ball of bees more or less hanging off the cover. I managed to clear a way to the queen cage, which was empty, but since almost the whole colony was all in a big clump there was no way to actually look for the queen. I didn't want to manipulate things too much in case I accidentally disturbed her part of the clump.

I haven't even tried to open the other hive. I figure that until some comb is built out, there's no point in trying to inspect because all I'll see are giant amorphous blobs of bees. Plus, inspecting seems to be so acutely disruptive before the bees have surfaces to spread out on.

So, I guess my questions are:

1) What is a reasonable time to wait with a foundationless hive before it's worthwhile trying to inspect? What should I expect to see?

2) Do I keep on feeding until the bees stop accepting the syrup? I understand that with foundationless hives, more food energy is needed up front because the bees have to start from scratch with comb-building.

3) With the queen cage still in the second hive, the frame spacing isn't exactly even. Is it worth going into the hive to even everything out?

4) Since finding the queen won't be possible for some time, is there a way I can read the hive's behavior and know that the queen is in there and all is well?

Thanks for any helpful advice from folks accustomed to working without foundation.
 

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I have foundationless hives also, but I find it no harder to inspect them. To answer some of your questions, yes feed them until they wont take anymore syrup. They know what they need and if they are still taking syrup, there isnt enough flow to meet their comb building needs. Also checking for eggs in comb will tell you that your queen was there no more that 3 days ago, which is a good sign. Queen cells,( look like little peanuts) on the bottom of frames indicate swarming, and queen cells in the middle of frames indicate supersedure. When your bees have built out 6-7 frames( if using 8 frame equipment) or 8-9 frames ( if using 10 frame) add another hive body, but keep the syrup on them, as they may continue to take it.

Good luck!!!!!!!!
 

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>>>there was a ball of bees more or less hanging off the cover.

Do you have an empty box as the top box of the hive, maybe containing feeder jars? If so a ball of bees hanging off the cover is bad news.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
odfrank: no, I don't have an empty box on top. I just made a hole in the hive cover which is exactly the size of the jar lid, and then inverted the jar and stuck it tightly into the hole. The body of the jar sticks up above the roof of the hive like a chimney. (It's clean and doesn't leak, so it hasn't attracted any pests.) My hive covers are temporary plywood ones, while I construct the permanent telescoping covers with metal on them. Right now there's probably about 1 1/2 inches of space between the inside surface of the cover and the tops of the frames, but I plan to put in the inner covers tomorrow. Hopefully they haven't filled that 1 1/2 inches with too much extra comb!

My hive setup became jumbled because the supplier sent me the wrong components and I'm having to more or less make my outer covers from scratch.
 

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I can't quite picture what kind of cover you have there, but the 1 1/2 inch space between the inside of the cover and the top of the frames is not what you want, you probably know that already. Any more than the bee space and bees will build burr comb. Sounds like the bulk of the colony is in that space, probably building some comb. Get a cover that only allows the proper bee space (1/4"-3/8") above the frames, remove several of the frames, then gently shake or brush the bees down into the hive off the incorrect cover you made. Replace the frames back gently into the hive and close it up. Make sure they still have access to a feeder. I would check back in about a week and a half and look for eggs or young larvae, that will tell you the queen is o.k. and laying.
 

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>>>> Any more than the bee space and bees will build burr comb.

Yes, you have committed a mortal mistake. Never exceed the beespace, especially at the top of a hive with a new swarm. Bees have been starting their combs hanging from the top of empty spaces for a few hundred million years. You can't change their habits.
 

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You are getting good advice here.

The bees will cluster from the top of the hive....that 1.5" space is a problem, one that should be corrected eariler rather than later for many reasons:

1. once the comb is buit from the inside of the cover, you will have to destroy it to make the hive "work" properly (ie, meets the bee's needs, and meets your need to be able to inspect).

2. the older the brood is on this comb, the more investment of resources the bees have put into them...more of a waste when you do finally cut it out.

3. the package will need brood, and the longer it takes to correct this situaion, the longer it will be before they get their broodnest established.

a piece of plywood DIRECTLY ON THE TOP BOX with a hole for feeding will work (you must have a shim or something for that 1.5" to be there). the bees will cluster under the feeder, and you want them on the frames, not above them.

once the bees are clustered below the top bars, inspection should be easy...no problem gently removing frames and breaking up the cluster....just be sure to leave the frames in their original position unless you have a good reason to do otherwise.

deknow
 

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Inspection pretty much requires comb, right now I'd just peek to see whether there is any, and make sure it's following the guide.

3) Get that cage out of there! Push the frames tightly together, don't be surprised if there is comb hanging from the cage, remove it too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I'm appreciative of the advice; it makes perfect sense. Right now I'm looking out the window at a solid curtain of rain pelting down, just imagining all the comb that the hivebound bees are building on that badly placed cover. I'll put the inner cover in there as soon as there's a rain break that lasts longer than 5 minutes! Thank you, everybody!
 
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