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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We're in the middle of blackberry right now (I'm told it's our major flow for the year) so I left my topbar hive alone hoping that they'd pack away stores (first year hive from package). Every few days I'd check through the widow and they've been drawing out fresh comb so I figured it was all honey. I checked today and it looks like every bar is brood! thats half of a 4' long TBH full of brood with not a single cell of capped honey. should I be worried? Also there is lot of it is drone comb, and they have been putting some nectar in vacant cells in the brood area (is that what people call back filling?). Over all there is uncapped nectar on every bar so they won't starve right away.

Is there anything I can or should do? Should I expect to have to feed syrup in the fall?
 

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What you are describing is pretty normal for a first year package. While there is still a lot of room in the hive for more combs, that doesn't necessarily mean that the bees will continue to draw them out. The trouble is that if they don't draw out more combs they will essentially run out of room and want to swarm. You might want to add an empty bar to the brood nest to help encourage them to draw one out there.
 

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I'm a long way from you, so take anything I say with a grain of salt. Sounds like you have a really healthy TBH. Here blackberry season is swarm season, so my advice is to keep the brood nest open to help prevent swarming, or if you want more bees split them. It takes a lot of resources to make bees, that is why you don't have excess honey. If honey is your main goal you can put a frame that has young open brood, honey and some pollen, place it in an empty hive box with as much drawn comb as you can, move the old hive away at least fifty yards and place the new hive box at the old location, you will have all the foragers and almost no brood to feed, the hive should make a new queen, when she starts laying go in and take the honey, how much depends on how strong your colony is. Good Luck
 

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I have three 4" hives that were brand new this year all started from swarms and every one filled up all but a few bars with brood comb. This is my first year also so I don't know if that's normal or not but thought that you might like to know that you are not the only one.
 

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We call those bees: "meat bees". Some bee strains are very fertile and produce a lot of bees. But fail to store nectar. Even if it is a package just started, some breeds buildup stores right away while others turn the good honey into bee flesh. All you find is combs of brood.

You can see the differences when feeding for wintering, too. If you feed slowly from summer to autumn, some hives turn every drop of food into bees, going into winter with light stores. While others buildup a nice winter honey dome and still have a huge population. It sometimes depends on a particular queen but mostly it is the breed.

Local queens and breeds usually perform best.
 

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We call those bees: "meat bees". Some bee strains are very fertile and produce a lot of bees. But fail to store nectar. Even if it is a package just started, some breeds buildup stores right away while others turn the good honey into bee flesh. All you find is combs of brood.

You can see the differences when feeding for wintering, too. If you feed slowly from summer to autumn, some hives turn every drop of food into bees, going into winter with light stores. While others buildup a nice winter honey dome and still have a huge population. It sometimes depends on a particular queen but mostly it is the breed.

Local queens and breeds usually perform best.
I don't think I ever heard the description "meat bees" before, but I like it. I had some like that last year. If I fed them a quart at a time, they just made more bees. But if I fed them a lot and fast (I used several gallons in open feeders) they stored it for winter.
 

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I have all the same kind of bees in forty hives, half are in TBH and half are in Langs. The ones in the Langs produce brood, pollen and honey in about the same ratio as other beeks' bees that are in Langs.
The bees in my TBH hives will fill the entire hive box with brood if you keep the brood nest open, and if you don't, they will put a couple of frames of honey on the front and back and swarm because they are honey bound. I can only get a reasonable amount of honey by intense manipulation, by harvesting the combs as soon as they are filled.
In short, I produce honey and Lang nucs in Langs, I produce bees in my TBH hives which I use to populate the Langs . I think it has something to do with the TBH being horizontal, JMO
 

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I do not start hives from packages but I do start them from mated queens nucs or swarms. For me their are definite stages that a colony goes through. and I manage them to complete each stage well.

The part that would not apply to you that I do is queen production mating nuc management and build up to 5 frame nuc. So that takes care o the first three stages.

Now you can replace nuc with a package.

The first business of a nuc is to build up to a full size colony. A package is not a full size colony.even if the bees are foraging they are not making honey from it they are making brood, just as you see in your hive. On average in my colonies I see 14 fraems of brood during this time. Now this brood may be partial fraems spread out over 20 to 30 fraems (bars in your case) but it will in total amount to on average 14 full fraems. this is just building up their basic population.

Now this build up is intended to result in swarming. but the colony may or may not make it to swarm strength in time. if they do not they do not swarm but then convert to the honey production stage. It is unlikely a package will reach swarming strength in time but it is common for a nuc to. At the very least you want to become familiar with how swarming looks and how to manage it just in case. At some point during this build up that I believe you are seeing now in your hive they will begin to build up some stores. eventually filing in much of what you see now as brood with honey.

In all I would be adding new empty bars between their drawn bars simply to encourage them to continue to build more comb. the more comb they have when they start making honey the faster they can get it done. The goal in this first year in the way of honey is enough for them to get through the winter on.

Next spring when they already have comb honey pollen and a work force. how they build up will look much different. Probably be earlier int eh season and they will be far more ready to make honey even at this time of the year than they are this year.

You may be able to get a small amount of honey from them by the end of this season. I usually can get about a medium box of honey from a first year swarm or nuc. A package has a lot of additional work to do in drawing comb and getting a nest started than a nuc has. and a swarm seems to be supercharged in getting comb started.

Just remember they have to make the bees to forage before they can make honey. The drones are due to all this brood making in the bees mind is about swarming.

I do not concern myself with drone production in my colonies. I manage my bees to do all things well. I want to see my bees produce a lot of drones in that stage. I don't think you can have bees that do poorly when it is time to make drones and queen cells. and then expect them to do well when it comes time to make honey. all things in tier time. and I want to always see my bees doing what it is time to do well.

A colony that has a very strong build up in teh spring is a colony that is indicating it can make a strong honey crop. A colony that is strong and certain to swarm making an abundant number of queen cells also indicates it is strong enough to make abundant honey. Now the trick is to let them swarm or let them think they swarmed but not loose the honey making strength. Bees will not swarm without a queen. so simply don't let them have a queen during the swarming period. New small colonies also do not swarm even if they have a queen. so what to do with the queen is pretty obvious to figure out.

Even the production of large numbers of drones is another indication my bees are capable of abundant production. I do not believe that if the bees want to make drone I can convince them to make honey. so at best i can simply assure that they do what hey are doing to do well. and I want to see abundant drones. Eventually it will come the time for the bees to make honey. and if they have done all other things well. they should also do honey making well. provided the environment has done it's part.

On that note. this year we are in a drought. so I have not kept my bees to make honey. we have used them to make more colonies. If conditions are not good for making honey bees are not capable of changing that. so they make other things bees can make. and if that is more colonies then that is what I use them for. Hopefully they will do so in time to be sent to Almonds and then they can do something else bees can do and I can get paid for it.
 

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I did an equal split of my hive in late may. Each side got three bars of brood, and four of stores. The queenright side was at 16 bars of brood on saturday. I found a full topbar comb that was front and back full of eggs. This I had to donate to the other side of the split which ended up queenless after throwing off cast swarms. They however have built up stores because they have had no brood to look after. I have no idea what to do with them at the moment I will see how they winter and judge what manipulations are needed next year.
 

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Cnt, I am in Bellevue and have the same issue you do. I was so concerned that I started feeding again. This is my first year in 4 years of beekeeping that they have produced absolutely nothing during the blackberry flow! Last year I started 2 brand new TBHs and by July 1 had 4 combs of capped honey in both hives. This year, same hives with a great beginning, lots of bees and brood but no capped honey at all. Even my Langstroth hives have no capped stores either. And yes, when the blackberry season is over you will need to feed. There will be nothing until the knotweed season begins in the fall.

FYI, there is a local forum for your area that might be helpful. http://wabeekeepersforum.proboards.com/
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Wow some great info guys! Thanks!

Yesterday evening after reading the first couple of posts I went ahead and put in two new bars in the brood nest. This morning (around 10am) I checked through the window and was blown away. That space was FULL of bees and you wouldn't be able to tell there was no comb there.

Since about week 4 they have been building queen cups (visible on the side of comb through the window) and I've been watching them carefully. The cups seem to come and go but are never used, I'm told that's normal for some hives so I'm not sweating that.

I am a bit worried about swarming especially since one of my neighbors is not happy about the bees (not sure which one, they just called animal control on us, animal control then said everything was fine and left). I'll continue to add bars to keep the brood nest open until they decide they stop looking like their over flowing.
 

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Is there anywhere in your area you could place a few bait hives.
If there is somewhere for them to go if they swarm at least they won't be a "nuisance".
My yard is a 5 minute walk from my house so I keep a bait hive on the roof of my shed. When I get home from work I glance up and see if there is any scout bee activity. If there is I check my hives to see if it from them. The day I split my bees the bait hive was so busy I thought a swarm had moved in. The day after the split it was a ghost town. Obviously you might also end up with some else's bees.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I had a bait hive out for a while but the animal control guy said to take it down so the neighbor wasn't as worried :( Maybe I can make a new one and disguise it...
 

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I had a bait hive out for a while but the animal control guy said to take it down so the neighbor wasn't as worried :( Maybe I can make a new one and disguise it...
Don't tell him they attract swarms, tell him you have one there in case there is a swarm in the area they go in to that instead of someone's roof etc. All part of the local beekeeper service. Our towns are lucky to have us :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Yeah. I didn't talk to the guy, my wife did (fortunately it was her day off). Had I been there that's probably what I would have told him.

I'm told the animal control guy was surly at first but my wife won him over and he started to give her advice on bee keeping and gardening ;)

Apparently the guy was also impressed that it wasn't "one of those delapidated box hives". I made special care to make my TBH look good with a shingled roof and nice paint thinking the neighbors that ended up seeing it would accept it better if it was nice looing.
 

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I had a bait hive out for a while but the animal control guy said to take it down so the neighbor wasn't as worried :( Maybe I can make a new one and disguise it...
To heck with him. Put it back up. If it's on your property, do what you want. More govt interference. Jeeeeez! If he (animal control) knew anything than he shoulda known this type of bait box would help in that a swarm would hopefully go there and not your neighbors attic. Who's to say a swarm would come from yours anyway?
 
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