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Discussion Starter #1
Hello, I'm new to beekeeping, so any thoughts or advice would be appreciated.
I received my bees (Italian) at the end of May. Throughout this month I have checked and fed them ~once a week. Everything seemed to be going well.
Yesterday I went in to check the top box. I discovered that in 2 weeks time they were already starting to draw out the 9th and 10th frame of this top box. Upon closer inspection, I discovered what I now know are drone cells (LOTS of large, bulbous, brown cells near the bottoms of the frames), a lot of larvae, and what I assume are queen cells hanging from the bottom. Having sorted through many of the posts on this site and information in my book, I knew this could be a sign of an oncoming swarm.
Today I met with my bee supplier, Harold, to buy a super and queen excluder. I mentioned the peanut-shaped queen cells (2-4 all lumped together???) hanging from the bottom. The largest clump had a large hole in the back that bees were crawling in and out of. I'm not sure if the queen cells were "capped" or not. Harold's advice was to look carefully for eggs in both of my boxes. If I find eggs, go ahead and scrape off the queen and drone cells hanging from the bottoms. If I don't find egg cells, the bees maybe trying to make a new queen, so just leave them.
When I got home I geared up and when in again. I took the top box off the bottom box and started pulling out frames from the bottom box for the first time since I put the top box on. It was difficult. There were bees everywhere in/on the bottom frames. They were not happy with my intrusion and acted aggressively. I had trouble pulling the heavy, sticky frames out, and through the process of taking them in and out and putting the top box back on, I unfortunately crushed a lot of my bees. :cry: What I discovered on those bottom frames I did manage to pull out, is that there are a handful of MORE long queen cells hanging from the bottom of the middle frames. It sounds like this is not a good sign. Prepare for swarm. BUT, my inexperienced eye did not find any eggs. Of course I was sucking in smoke, nervous about the angry bees, fretting about crushing them, and struggling with the hive parts... so I could be wrong about the absence of eggs.
Out of curiosity I scraped a cluster of drone cells/queen cells? off the bottom of one of these frames. I replaced the frames and boxes, and added the super and excluder to the top.
I guess my questions are:
1) what do you think about the possible lack of eggs, the excess number of drones, and the handful of queen cells hanging from the bottom? Is there anything can do, or should I sit back and let nature take its course?
2) Is it typical to kill some bees each time you work with them? I feel terrible about this. When I brush them away they seem to fly around me angrily and more bees just take their place before I can do anything.
2) While searching through the middle frames from the bottom box, I came across half dozen or so bees in a circle with their heads facing in towards one cell (near a top corner of a frame). It was very distinct. Could the queen have been in there? Were they protecting her from me? I hope I didn't crush them with my sloppy gloved finger when pulling out that frame :doh:
I have posted on here once before, and the response was helpful. This is such a wonderful tool. Thanks for taking the time to read this and respond!
Jesse
 

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from one newbee to another, first, make sure you have a queen, maybe that is why the bees may seem ornery because there is no queen. if you have no queen they are building themselves one. good luck gonna reread your thread and see what else is going on, besided back to work, cheers
 

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Hi Jesse,

Let me phrase what Harold said to you a bit differently and see if it makes any more sense:

If you can be sure that you have a queen, and that you're taking corrective action to open up the brood nest to relieve congestion - then you can *probably* go ahead and scrape the queen cells without any drastic consequence.

Before you get your hive tool ready to scrape, you need to "read" your hive: Have the bees already swarmed? (In other words has your Queen done an Elvis imitation and left the building?) If you think they have swarmed, you do not want to scrape/cut the queen cells. What you'd be doing is causing a queenless hive to remain queenless.

Seeing larvae is a sign the queen was there recently - eggs are proof of more recent presence. It may be beyond your ability to see / know if you're seeing eggs.

Based on your posted observations I don't think they have swarmed yet and that you do have a queen. So you are probably ok in cutting the queen cells - just be prepared to go back to Harold for a Queen in a few weeks.

There is a learning curve to Beekeeping and it sounds like your enjoying more learning right now than you'd like to. So it goes. If you'd like to have a look in another set of hives you're welcome to come down to an Open Hive at my house in Southwest Harbor on Sunday July 11th.

As for squishing bees - it's going to happen. As you become more experienced hopefully the number you do in will decrease.

And yes I know and respect Harold and his bee experience very much!

(I'll let other folks answer your other questions.)
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Yes, Harold is wonderful! I think you're right, I don't get the sense that there has been a swarm, and I'm hoping the queen is fine. There is so much information out there, and I have so little experience, my mind races while I try to determine if I see eggs, if there is robbing going on, if my bees are congregating in the entrance too much, if a swarm is coming, if a swarm has happened, if it's too damp, too hot, etc. etc. I have nothing to compare things to, so I'm not sure if I'll know it when I see it. Hopefully many of these things are obvious.
Thank you for the invitation. I will be out of town that weekend. I will be keeping :) my eye out for more things like that. Will there be another open hive later in the summer?
Thanks for the response!
 

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"...I have nothing to compare things to..."
thats why beginners are encouraged to start with 2 hives. is there a club nearby? if you cant find someone near to help you inspect, find someone far and help THEM.
good luck,mike
 

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I'm just a newbee too, but in only a few months I have learned that my girls HATE the bee brush. Not sure if this is the "brushing" that you're talking about or not. I've had good luck just using smoke and putting the frames back slowly.
 

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"...my girls HATE the bee brush...."
dont use it like a brush for paint or a broom for the floor. use it to "flik" the bees off the comb. they'll buzz you but not be as mad.
 

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Instead of a brush try using a large feather. Brushing always makes my bees mad too - much less with a feather.
 

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What Andrew said.

I would like to add:

To relieve the congestion, it is not enough to place the excluder on and then the honey super. Bees have an aversion to the excluder if there is nothing above. You need to coax them there. Frames with honey and one frame with brood is a good start.
You will need to pull up some frames of honey and give them a good couple of shakes to make sure the queen stays down below. Place the frames in the honey super and add preferably drawn frames into the brood chamber. Or atleast one drawn and the rest foundation. If Elvis did indeed not leave the building, by making room in the brood nest, you have given the bees the illusion of swarming. If you do not do this, they will continue to build swarm cells.
By your first post, i am assuming the hive is honey bound since everything is so hard to work. This is the reason they want to swarm. The queen has no room.

To find eggs, have the sun at your back and tilt the frame so you can see the bottom of the cells with the sunlight shining in. The eggs will stand and look like a really small grain of rice...really small...for a mouse kind of small.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thank you for the great information. I have a question about bringing frames of honey up to the super. My super frames are so much smaller. The frames from the bottom boxes would not fit. Is there another way to draw the bees up? My supplier (who has been working bees for a very long time) showed me how to turn the excluder sideways (perpendicular to the super) so that bees can come up the sides of the boxes without having to go through the excluder. He said he has rarely ever seen a queen come up into the super by doing it this way. Does this make sense? Do you think this might help draw them up there?
Just another thought, what if I put some sugar water on top of the frames in the super?
Thanks again.
 

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Particularly if the honey frames are undrawn, skip the excluder. I rarely use them no matter if I'm trying to draw comb or not. Our flow is so short hereabouts that I don't want to do anything to keep bees out of the supers. Spraying the combs with sugar water may not help a bunch but it certainly won't hurt.

If you send me your e-mail in a Private Message I'll see that you get added to the distribution list for the Tri-County Beekeepers. There will be at least one more open hive after the one at my house this summer - but I don't know the details. (yet!)
 

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>1) what do you think about the possible lack of eggs, the excess number of drones, and the handful of queen cells hanging from the bottom? Is there anything can do, or should I sit back and let nature take its course?

They probably already swarmed.

>2) Is it typical to kill some bees each time you work with them?

Some yes.

> I feel terrible about this. When I brush them away they seem to fly around me angrily and more bees just take their place before I can do anything.

Brushing gently should never be done. Brushing should be done briskly and suddenly. A flick works for brushing, but to get lids on etc. put it on at an angle, slowly, and then rotate it into position slowly...

>2) While searching through the middle frames from the bottom box, I came across half dozen or so bees in a circle with their heads facing in towards one cell (near a top corner of a frame). It was very distinct. Could the queen have been in there?

More likely they were sharing food or eating food, but it could be the queen if you see her in the middle. Most of these circles, with no bee in the center are just sharing food.

> Were they protecting her from me?

No.

> I hope I didn't crush them with my sloppy gloved finger when pulling out that frame

Always a possibility which is why you should always minimize damage.
 
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