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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm posting this in the Treatment-Free forum rather than Beekeeping 101 because that's what I'm going to try to practice with my bees. I've already plagued Michael Bush with questions over email before finding this forum. :)

I've only had these bees for a little over a month. I have rehoused them from a tall painted pine box into a two medium cedar boxes with a regular western top and a screened bottom board (have replaced all but three of the tall/large cell frames with medium/small cell or foundationless frames). Where I live is mostly hot but we do get some cold nights and occasional rain in the winter (hopefully we will this year anyway).

10d62b6979f4192c718d36741bec02c2.jpg

So here are my questions:

Should I get a telescoping cover for winter?

Will a screened bottom board be too cold for them in winter?

Is there a good way to keep ants off the hive? I don't have a problem yet, but I do have ants elsewhere in my yard and don't want them to terrorize the bees.

Thanks in advance for any advice or ideas.
 

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The cover shouldn't make a difference.
There are people in snow country that leave the screened bottom boards open all winter. I never close mine.
Best solution I have found for ants would be to put the legs in tuna cans with a little used motor oil in the cans. I've tried a few different methods & this has been the most reliable for me so far.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
The cover shouldn't make a difference.
There are people in snow country that leave the screened bottom boards open all winter. I never close mine.
Best solution I have found for ants would be to put the legs in tuna cans with a little used motor oil in the cans. I've tried a few different methods & this has been the most reliable for me so far.
Thanks. The motor oil was the first thing I tried but I couldn't handle seeing so many bees dying in it. Have you ever tried cinnamon around the legs? That was suggested to me.
 

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Hi
I'm south of you in North San Diego Co. I've used telescoping lids with inner covers on all our hives. They are easier to maintain and if it ever rains here again, waterproof. The inner cover also lets you have a kind of preview through the center, or to put a couple puffs of smoke before lifting the cover.
As for screened bottomboards. That question always gets alot of pro and con opinions. I built a couple this year and will make up my own mind. The advantages in our area seem compelling.
As for ants. They are a constant bother. Last year I built some long pipe stands on two legs out of 1 1/2 inch galvanized pipe and before I set them in cement I slid on two rubber pipe reducers of different sizes so that one could cover the other without touching and filled the lower one with mineral oil. They come with screw clamps to hold them in place. The upper reducer keeps the bees and rain out. They work great if you keep the weeds and sticks from becoming a ladder to the main part of the stand. Like the previous post I got tired of drowned bees etc. sandras iphone pix 3301.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks, Doug. I'm not particularly handy but it gives me something to think about. Maybe I can figure something out along those lines.
 

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I find Screen boards make ant problems worse. With solids, the bees propolize every crack, and ants are required to attempt a front entrance. With screens, the colony has no physical defense to ant invasion.

Which raises the question, "why use a Screen board at all ?" Los Angeles should not have small hive beetles. What cools a hive is evaporation of water, with the "swamp cooler" air being drawn through the brood frames. A bottom screen short-circuits the air flow, and frantically fanning bees at the entrance are just drawing dry air from below the hive. If hives have water or drying nectar, and a flow path for air to flow over the water, the bees can cool the core in any but the most extreme heat *and* humidity.

Screen Bottoms make hive monitoring easy -- you can detect all sorts of hive conditions by looking at the frass and drop. Where today's eggs are being laid (some always drop on to the board). Where pupa are hatching (look for antenna casts). What types are pollen are being stored and where. And, how many mites are in the hive.

I don't feel that Screen Bottoms materially affect the population explosion of mites in August and September.

The small Argentine sugar ants that bother southern California hives are a difficult issue. You can move the hives -- not every location has these ants. They are worse when hives are being fed, but once induced by feeding, they remain "on target". A sheet of coroplex or ply under the hive with tanglefoot on bottom rim makes a relatively bee-safe barrier.

The oil (cooking oil works too) barriers require constant maintenance, or high cost construction.

Let us know if you have sufficient summer surplus to build foundationless comb. In my region of San Luis Obispo county (with few suburban landscape sources), comb building surplus nectar is a short and abrupt spring season. Summer comb only comes from feed or the erratic years when Toyon blooms. Much of the theory of foundationless comes from areas with continuing summer nectar flows. An urban Los Angeles location may resemble this so let us know.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I find Screen boards make ant problems worse. With solids, the bees propolize every crack, and ants are required to attempt a front entrance. With screens, the colony has no physical defense to ant invasion.

Which raises the question, "why use a Screen board at all ?" Los Angeles should not have small hive beetles. What cools a hive is evaporation of water, with the "swamp cooler" air being drawn through the brood frames. A bottom screen short-circuits the air flow, and frantically fanning bees at the entrance are just drawing dry air from below the hive. If hives have water or drying nectar, and a flow path for air to flow over the water, the bees can cool the core in any but the most extreme heat *and* humidity.

Screen Bottoms make hive monitoring easy -- you can detect all sorts of hive conditions by looking at the frass and drop. Where today's eggs are being laid (some always drop on to the board). Where pupa are hatching (look for antenna casts). What types are pollen are being stored and where. And, how many mites are in the hive.

I don't feel that Screen Bottoms materially affect the population explosion of mites in August and September.

The small Argentine sugar ants that bother southern California hives are a difficult issue. You can move the hives -- not every location has these ants. They are worse when hives are being fed, but once induced by feeding, they remain "on target". A sheet of coroplex or ply under the hive with tanglefoot on bottom rim makes a relatively bee-safe barrier.

The oil (cooking oil works too) barriers require constant maintenance, or high cost construction.

Let us know if you have sufficient summer surplus to build foundationless comb. In my region of San Luis Obispo county (with few suburban landscape sources), comb building surplus nectar is a short and abrupt spring season. Summer comb only comes from feed or the erratic years when Toyon blooms. Much of the theory of foundationless comes from areas with continuing summer nectar flows. An urban Los Angeles location may resemble this so let us know.
JW, thanks for your response. I installed the screened bottom board because in my beekeeping class I observed the beekeeper testing for varroa mites (one of his hives had them) and did some research on the internet, learning about the different ways to try to control them naturally, including regressing the bees, which I'm trying to do now, and screened bottom boards. I am in the process of trying to swap out large cell tall box frames for small cell medium frames, and I overbought foundationless frames (ordered 50 rather than 5). The last time I replaced large cell frames, I alternated between foundationless and small cell foundation guides that cover about a third of the frame, so that's what's in there now. I'm going to do an inspection this weekend and hope it's not disastrous.

Right now I decided to use cinnamon around the feet and so far no ants, but if I notice ants poking around I think I will try the tanglefoot. Thanks for the tip.

In terms of feeding, my yard backs against chaparral hillsides and the "flow" seems to be on - still lots of mustard, deerweed and sage -- and last time I checked, they were making stores. I did get a feeder to give the bees as soon as it dries up. I'm also planting natives in my yard and some of them are in bloom - also my street has lots of gardens, so I think they're ok for now. But thank you so much for your thoughtful post!!!
 

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Stoney, I've used cinnamon successfully to deal with ants also.
Regarding treatment free, a lot of us find our greatest success by using bees that have never been treated, rather than trying to wean our bees off treatments for mites. There seems to be a very expensive "learning curve" to change the bees habits (genetics?) so they can be treatment free. There should be breeders out west who produce truly treatment free bees. You might want to give serious consideration to requeening with one of their queens. Six weeks later your hive is treatment free! :thumbsup: I've used such bees for 9 years, absolutely no mite treatments, colonies survive, and I get good honey crops. Something to think about.
Kindest regards,
Steven
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Stoney, I've used cinnamon successfully to deal with ants also.
Regarding treatment free, a lot of us find our greatest success by using bees that have never been treated, rather than trying to wean our bees off treatments for mites. There seems to be a very expensive "learning curve" to change the bees habits (genetics?) so they can be treatment free. There should be breeders out west who produce truly treatment free bees. You might want to give serious consideration to requeening with one of their queens. Six weeks later your hive is treatment free! :thumbsup: I've used such bees for 9 years, absolutely no mite treatments, colonies survive, and I get good honey crops. Something to think about.
Kindest regards,
Steven
Steven, thanks for letting me know. My bees are so sweet I don't think I could bear to requeen them. So far I've been checking the sticky board and haven't seen any mites yet so fingers crossed (I have found moths in there and have shaken them out a distance away). I'm fairly certain though that the bees didn't come from a treatment-free breeder. I'm still very green when it comes to beekeeping, but I'll do some research and find a treatment free breeder just in case something happens to her.

And good to know that cinnamon has worked for you! Do you recommend sprinkling it around the base or making a bell shape around the hive and surrounding area?

Also, just in the past few days I've noticed some small flies or gnats buzzing around the entrance and the bees seem to be piling up on both sides of the entrance, almost blocking it, maybe to keep them out? Does anyone know if this is normal?
 

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I've started with cinnamon sprinkled on the inner cover. If that isn't enough, the second time I treat the inner cover and also sprinkle a band of cinnamon around the colony. That seems to have worked. I'm working on two hives in two different locations with some big black ants.

No experience with small flies or gnats.
Regards,
Steven
 

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My point of view on screened bottom boards is different. I must have 50 of them, & use them.
If only 3% of mites fall of the bees I'm happy with any natural help I can get.
Since my hive stands have ant protection the SBB don't make any difference in ant intrusions.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks, Steven and KQ6AR.

Now I'm starting to worry that my bees are being robbed. They've been crowding around the top and bottom of the entrance for about a week. I have noticed a lot of young bees possibly taking orientation flights, but today I did see what might be wrestling on the landing area. I'll try to take a picture or a video and post it.

I've been reading threads here about robbing and I'm still not completely sure that's what's happening, but do think I should put a robbing screen on it just to be safe?
 

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Gnats and Flies ?? The only time I see bot flies in my hive is when a mouse nest has died. The tiny Fungus gnats and fruit flies are attracted to rotting syrup. Is the hive actually viable? Is the reported activity simply robbing out after the hive has died?

I would be surprised if the hive is not being robbed. We are in a historic drought.

If the hive is queenright but weak, the robbing needs to be ended immediately. A robbing frenzy may kill the queen in a day. You can move the hive and the robbers will need to relocate the dessert dish . In the meantime, you can close the hive for a day with screen. Then reopen it with a robber screen in place. The theory of robbing screens is the robbers are drawn to the scent, and the house bees locate the serpentine entrance free of attractant scent. Window screen, a stapler, and a bit of cardboard can fabricate a workable model. The key features: lots of "scent area" to keep the robbers interested and focused, and an entrance behind a solid cover (so the scent is deflected). The entrance can be remarkably small, the returning foragers will queue up nicely on the passage.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks both of you.

I put on a makeshift screen this morning (like the interim one dynemd posted) and ordered the below screen from Brushy Mountain. But is the Mann Lake one better?

517movingrobbingscreen.jpg

JW, when you say close the hive, you mean actually trap the bees inside for a whole day with a screen? Or with escape areas for them? I'll open it up when I get home to see if I can locate the queen. I do know they're still a viable hive, hopefully the damage hasn't been too bad yet.
 

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Stone
The idea is to exclude the robbers, and break their imprinting on the resource.
Moving the hive works by making the resource hard to find, and requires the robbers to reorient.
Closing the hive up also gives the colony time to repair the damage and reorganize. If the honey is recapped, the odor and scent is less.

The closed hive needs water and a beach towel draped in a bucket to wick water, and placed where the bee inside can lick it works. I expect you can make this work with your screened bottom.

I have this issue with recently queened nucs -- they are like sitting ducks to the bad bees. These are frequently being fed syrup and sub, and that draws the robbers like crazy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
I did get the bees initially as a package - five frames of brood, honey and bees. Right now I'm in the process of trying to get rid of the old frames and replace with new ones.

For the water, would I just string the wet towel into the entrance?

When I got home today I realized my makeshift screen was a failure. I took it off but here are some pictures. I didn't see any wrestling, but I did see larger bees flying in and out that might be drones from my own hive or intruders. Can you guys please take a look and tell me what you see?

With the screen:
screen.jpg

Without the screen:
entrance.jpg

Drones?
drone3.jpg

Adding a video.

 

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Not robbing.
You see bees fanning (to cool hive).
You see bees washboarding (no idea what drive washboarding, but perhaps the cedar stimulates it).

The larger bees are drones, and drones drift from hive to hive. Sometimes the prescence of queen cells draw them in, but an active hive is going to be visited.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
That's a relief. I think I'll still put the screen cover on when it gets here just to keep them protected until they're stronger -- do you think that's a good idea?

I posted this question to you in the other forum but is it normal for some of them to sleep outside? The is the first time I've seen it happen. It could be that a bunch of bees hatched so maybe they're crowded? I just ordered two mediums but they haven't gotten here yet.
 

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If you've got a group of bees outside all night you're hive could be too crowded. Take a look inside to see how much free room they have and add a super as needed.
 
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