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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Brand new top bar beekeeper here in Southern California having many difficulties getting bees to stay in hive. First colony of wild bees absconded after 2days. Appears I left viewing window open or small red ants drove them off. Been trying to win battle against the ants ever since. Now have 2nd colony, literally clinging for dear life. They are bearding on the outside for 5 days now after being put back in hive twice. Have not been able to even think of visualizing the queen and I fear there is none. Legs of hive are up on blocks and in tubs of vegetable oil and vasoline has been applied around legs several times. Vasoline melts and oil has hardened allowing ants to invade. Cinnamon sprinkled completely around and some inside. Finding 10 to 20 dead bees in hive a day. Today I emptied hive of about 30 dead bees, added lemon oil drop on cotton and small piece of bees wax inside and sprayed a little sugar water on the still bearding bees.. Now there are a few Beatles around and a yellow jacket inside hive and one outside. Bees are getting smaller in number but won't go in and won't swarm. Help, thinking if only I could get some brood comb that might help? Think colony is just too weak to go in and fight the few ants that make it in.
 

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are you saying they haven't started to build any comb in the hive? For some TBH's the bees just don't seem to like them until they have aged a bit. I like to drizzle melted beeswax on the sides of mine, along with the lemon oil that you have already mentioned. Are you feeding the bees? If not, try that to see if they will start building comb. Get the feeder Inside the hive so they are forced to come in to feed.

You may be correct in that you don't have a queen, and then apart from you buying one, the population will eventually trickle down to nothing.

And you should let the bees clean out their dead in the hive, unless it's hundreds of bees. The constant opening of the hive causes a lot of disturbance in their world.
 

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Definitely put syrup feeder inside the bee area (either a Boardman feeder or slit baggy or whatever). However, the follower board closing off the bee area in the hive must be very snug so the ants can't invade from the other side of the board. One of my hives was besieged with ants of every size and the bees were spending all their time fighting them off. I got some shallow plastic deli containers with lids, filled with a mixture of half sugar and half Borax (laundry booster, available at Walmart); you can also use Boric Acid if you can find it. Shake the mixture in the container, then cut small triangles in the lids for access. Turn the containers *upside* down under the hives with a few small rocks propping up one side (bees can't/won't access). Try to put these on the ant trails. It takes about a week but the ants are gone and the bees could get down to bee business.

Spray the inside of the hive lightly with the sugar water (don't soak it!) and leave the lemon oil cotton ball in there too. Might need more than a "drop." As Ruthiesbees says, you have to resist opening the hive so often...they want a safe, quiet place and opening the hive is an "attack" as far as they're concerned. Make sure the glass/plastic of the viewing window is tightly fitted and don't keep opening the window. If you must, do it when that side of the hive is in shade or toward the evening when the sun is down. You either need to find the queen or get another one right away - as in immediately. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you both, Marysia and ruthiesbees for responding to my plea for help. You have no idea how happy I am to talk things out with someone who has some experience. Just finished my chicken chores this am and went up to check on bees this am. Still a weak trail of very small ants that can get in to anything climbing the legs. I know you said to keep peaking in the window of the hive to a minimum but as they are not inside yet I'd thought I'd peak. There are about 5 yellow jackets and a few honey bees fighting with them and I saw a fight on the ground as we'll. my cluster of bees on the outside are about the size of a Crenshaw melon. They are not giving up and I really want to help them as much as I can.
The reason I got rid of the dead bees is they really smelled bad and was worried it would draw more yellow jackets. And since no bees were in there I took my chances. So thanks to the two of you, the next time I open the hive I have a plan.
1. Since I don't have a feeder, I will lay down a ziplock of sugar water. (I was worried about doing this because I tried this with my first installation and I got confused which side was up and with my fumbling the bag opened and dumped contents everywhere which I felt started the whole ant problem even though I tried to clean it up as much as possible.) should this bag go on floor of hive or lay on top of bars? How does one replace feeders or Baggie in a top bar without opening hive and disturbing bees?
2. Not sure where to buy pure bees wax, I assume hardware store but I will drizzle it down the inside walls of my hive. I have some Boos wax I use on my cutting board, I wonder if that would work.
3. I will spray lightly some sugar water and add a few more drops of lemon oil to my Colton ball. (Hopefully the yellow jackets are gone by this time, if not I will shoo them off I guess.
4. I will switch around my follower boards to find the tightest fit, however these tiny ant could slip through anything. I think I should just leave 10 top bars in place for my size cluster and maybe rub wax on them as well.
5. I will buy a couple wasp traps in town and hang in nearby tree. And make the borax/ sugar traps for ants for under the hive.
6. Call around and see if someone will sell me some brood cells with queen cells or a queen? It may be easier to get another whole bee swarm from a guy I know who extracts bees; anyone know what would happen to the outside cluster if I install a whole new swarm inside?
Thanks again to all! See, answers open up tons more questions! Sorry! I am so happy I found this forum though! This has been all consuming new adventure! Can't do anything else. Really want a hive to winter over with and don't want to wait till spring! But maybe in Southern California it doesn't matter much?




Definitely put syrup feeder inside the bee area (either a Boardman feeder or slit baggy or whatever). However, the follower board closing off the bee area in the hive must be very snug so the ants can't invade from the other side of the board. One of my hives was besieged with ants of every size and the bees were spending all their time fighting them off. I got some shallow plastic deli containers with lids, filled with a mixture of half sugar and half Borax (laundry booster, available at Walmart); you can also use Boric Acid if you can find it. Shake the mixture in the container, then cut small triangles in the lids for access. Turn the containers *upside* down under the hives with a few small rocks propping up one side (bees can't/won't access). Try to put these on the ant trails. It takes about a week but the ants are gone and the bees could get down to bee business.

Spray the inside of the hive lightly with the sugar water (don't soak it!) and leave the lemon oil cotton ball in there too. Might need more than a "drop." As Ruthiesbees says, you have to resist opening the hive so often...they want a safe, quiet place and opening the hive is an "attack" as far as they're concerned. Make sure the glass/plastic of the viewing window is tightly fitted and don't keep opening the window. If you must, do it when that side of the hive is in shade or toward the evening when the sun is down. You either need to find the queen or get another one right away - as in immediately. Good luck!
 

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I would kill the yellow jackets as soon as you find them - smash 'em, squish 'em, however - even if you have to kill one bee that's fighting it. You might have a ground nest of them nearby. What I don't understand is what the y.j's are after if there is no honey/nectar in the hive yet? At any rate, kill them so they can't go back and tell the others - maybe they want the hive for their own home???? Do you have all the entrances closed off except for one small one? A new or weak hive can't defend a big opening or multiple openings. I think you need to open the hive and find the queen or determine there isn't one. I would not try to get another bunch of bees yet - they won't play nice together anyway. Try to salvage this one - put a new queen inside in her queen cage and her pheromones may eventually draw them in. You said you have a piece of bee's wax. I would rub that on the spines (inside) of the top bars, and some on the walls. If you can beg/borrow/steal a small piece of brood comb from someone and put in the hive, leaning against the wall if necessary, that might also bring them inside. Seven or 8 bars should be a big enough space for them, closed off with the follower board. I've never used a Baggy feeder but a lot of people do. Try putting it in whole first, then cut some tiny slits with a scissors while it's lying flat. I use a Boardman feeder, but you can use a Mason jar with some holes punched in the lid and then put that on 2 twigs or thin sticks - enough room so the bees can crawl under to get at the drips. If you use the jar setup, you might need to add 4 more bars to the "bee area" - then you just remove those few bars and pull out the Mason jar and replace with a filled jar. I always keep one for the hive and one filled ready for replacement.
 

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5 yellow jackets inside the hive and very few honeybees? Open the hive and swat all 5 with a fly swatter. No way the bees will move in with constantly having to fight the yellow jackets. And there must be sticky sweet sugar water still in there that the yellow jackets are after. A strong hive can fight them off, a weak one will not, but will sacrifice workers to try and fight them off.

And I don't think dead bees are supposed to smell bad. Is it possible that the swarm was sprayed with chemicals before you got it?

I haven't tried the baggy feeder. I use a mason jar with 2 or 3 tiny nail holes poked in the lid. Fill with sugar water and invert on some small blocks of wood.

We haven't discussed your entrance yet. How big is it? You need to reduce it down to the width of one honey bee so they can defend their turf. I like to use the plastic mesh that you can find at a craft store that is used for needlepoint. Cut a section of it bigger than your entrance holes. Cut out one set of squares to make the hole just big enough. Then duct tape it to the outside of the hive (I know the cluster is hanging there, you're gonna have to put them back inside the hive once you get the yellow jackets out of there.)

Leave this entrance reducer in all winter long so their numbers can build back up.

As for beeswax, you can buy it off ebay in small 1oz bars. I shave off some into a foil muffin liner and stick it in the oven to melt (Beeswax is HIGHLY FLAMMABLE so this really isn't a good idea), then I pour it from the muffin paper down the sides of the hive. If you need beeswax right away, and can't find any at this weekends' farmers market, you can probably use the stuff you have for your cutting board. It may not be 100% pure beeswax, but it's obviously food-grade since you are using it on a cutting board.

I can understand how desperate you are to keep this colony of bees. I was in the same spot last year. Keep trying :)
 

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It's been near 100 degrees in your location for over a week. Is the hive in the sun? Generally the advice is to keep swarms in the shade for the first couple of weeks. We caught four swarms this season, all four we hived in full shade. We anchored two with brood, we left two without brood anchors. All stayed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I have reducer in the entrance, looks like 2 bees width. I guess I'll go kill the yj with something and can't really put cinnamon sticks cause hive sits on cradle of stand. Will make feeder from mason jar but sit it on twigs. Was worried would drip out and draw ants. Hive is in full sun but they don't go in at night, still I'll pick up an umbrella while I'm out today. Wish I had queen or brood comb stat. How often are you opening hive to replace feeding jar? I'll try and get needlepoint plastic thingy too! Better get to work. Was hoping to do all this at sundown but worried about yj now
 

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Will make feeder from mason jar but sit it on twigs. Was worried would drip out and draw ants. ... How often are you opening hive to replace feeding jar?
make sure the holes in the mason jar are very small and just a couple, or it will drip. I use my husband's scrap 1x2's to set it on. How often it has to be refilled is a factor or how quickly they take it.
 

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I am also in so cal and I had a similar problem. Does your hive have a screen bottom? Mine did as soon as I covered it they stayed. Also because mine is in mostly sun I am not using a follower board and my cover leaves about an inch gap for air circulation. I just started my colony a month ago and I have a few bars of brood and one with capped honey. I am using an entrance feeder that I placed inside the hive. I will be placing the follower board back in the hive soon
 

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Once the bees are in the hive (and that's the trick, isn't it?), they will start building at one end of hive near the entrance, and most will stay at that end. I place the jar (doesn't really have to be a Mason jar, you could use a big glass spaghetti sauce jar) at the far end from them, against the follower board. I wait until 11 am or noon on a nice day when I know the cranky foragers will be out of the hive. The nurse bees are busy so don't notice much when I take the bars off to change the jar. I learned that the hard way. When you turn the jar over to put it top down in the hive, do NOT do it over the hive. A lot will come out at first until the suction forms so you don't want all that spilled inside the hive. Don't make the holes too big...it shouldn't be actively drip drip dripping when you turn it over (test in the sink to be sure). I think we are all rooting for you and the homeless bees.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thank you all for your suggestions. I hang on your every word! So yesterday, I made mason jar feeder, first one holes were too big, second one worked. I took it up and gingerly opened the hive as the cluster is collected in corner out and under lid. No yellow jackets, yay! Placed the jar on the bottom left against the follower board on two sticks and plastic lid to an old container to contain drips as I do have a screened bottom. I then smeared sides with bees wax goo, added a few more lemon drops to cotton ball and lightly sprayed sugar water inside.
Today I went up and the cluster is still there but somewhat smaller. I peaked in window and a few bees are drinking at the feeder and I see bees coming and going in the hive slowly. Oh, ya. I reduced the entrance by cutting plastic berry container and taped it from the inside. What a beautiful sight! Hopefully some are out foraging and the girls will get to making some comb. Do you think since they have stayed in that tight cluster for a week now that there may be a queen in there somewhere or should I pursue looking for brood comb/queen from someone local? When I post quick reply, do you all see my post? Schanna, being in full sun and being so hot I was afraid to close the bottom. Maybe if they don't go in I should try. Gosh you guys are so helpful. Thanks a million and I'll keep you posted.
 

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Sounds like progress.

I would close off the screened bottom. All my hives have a screened bottom to let the trash drop through, but I always have the solid board in place underneath it. You should still look for a queen somewhere or get brood from your friend that catches the swarms. Does he have some beehives where he can give you a piece or two of comb that you can wire to the top bars? That would really help things get started.

I've got a queenless hive that continues to stay in their little nuc (and forage) with no queen, so the fact that they stayed overnight doesn't tell you much. I don't have the experience to know if they will build comb without a queen in the group.
 

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I know how you feel, but as soon as I closed the screened bottom they stayed and made it a home. I also provide water for them About 10ft from the hive. I had my doubts also about closing the bottom but it worked for me right off the bat.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I closed off the bottom yesterday evening when it looked like after the rain they had gone in as there were many guards zooming around and a few coming and going in the hive but I didn't peak in. Today I looked and they are gone, sad to say. Just a few honey bees sharing what remains of a mostly empty feeder. No fighting, just sharing but the honey bees are hitting themselves against the hive walls. Strange. Back to the drawing board. Any suggestions how to leave the hive to encourage a swarm to drop in?
 
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