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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Good morning, everyone!

Yesterday, my husband and i completed the third inspection of our backyard top bar hives, and i thought i'd share some highlights!

May 31st, 38 Days After Installation, 2 Packages of Italian Honeybees in 2 New Top Bar Hives

First Hive - No Cross-Combing, Queenright
At the risk of droning on about drones, this was the inspection where the drone bee became easily identifiable. There wasn't a huge number of them in either hive, but the ones that were there were impossible to miss. They're blimpy little bees with thick, black goggles that remind me of Snoopy as the World War I Flying Ace. The girls seem to be tolerating them just fine.

After fretting for two weeks about the possibility of chilled brood, it was a relief to see things in such good shape. At this point, brood rearing is the apparent priority in both hives, with larvae and covered brood dominating the combs.

More drone cells? Is this normal? No wonder she's tired ...

Is it too much to ask for a little privacy?

I remember reading somewhere that it's a good thing if there's a diverse palette of pollen in the hive. Not too many colors here, but the season is young!

Nectar and stored pollen?


Second Hive - No Cross-Combing, Queenright, Possible Queen Cup
The combs in the second hive looked pretty healthy as well.


The Queen was on one of the newer combs, scooting around so quickly that her attendants could hardly keep up with her!

We did see our first "odd" cell during this inspection. This cell was situated on the side of a comb, larger than a drone cell, with the opening facing down.

Is the start of a queen cup? Is it something to worry about?

It's been fascinating to watch the bees transform their soft white comb into something rigid, fibrous and substantial. These older cells contain three stages of a bee on the diagonal line; egg, small larvae, and plump larvae! My ever-observant husband gets the credit for this shot.


As always, feedback from experienced beekeepers would be deeply appreciated. Minus the lack of stores (which does concern me), does everything seem on track for our hives this time of year?

Happy Beekeeping!
 

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Feral colonies will contain about 15 percent drone. Top bars are like feral hives in that aspect, they will have a good number of drones, unless you get rid of some. Which they will promptly replace. Let them do their thing.

That is a queen cup, but as long as there is no royal jelly in it nothing to worry about it. Not a bad idea to document the location so next time you can check it for sure. You can use thumbtacks for this. If they extend it then you will need to split the hive. First year hives do swarm at times, so you need to check each week, particularly if there is a flow going on. Make a small box for doing splits.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you, Shannonswyatt! Fortunately, that queen cup is in front of the observation window, so i'll be able to see its development on a daily basis. Splitting the hive is something i hadn't even seriously considered yet, so you're right - i'd better get cracking on learning how to do it!

Things happen so fast in beekeeping ...
 

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Sometimes but generally no. If the decision to swarm has already been made by the colony removing the cups won't help. Better to closely manage hive so as to prevent swarming. Lots of drones during swarm season is normal.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Yea, my husband and i are going to err on the side of minimal intervention at this point, so removing the queen cup is not something we're comfortable with. We'll just see what happens at this point, and reassess as necessary.

Thanks for your feedback, everyone! Isn't it so much fun?
 

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Thank you, Shannonswyatt! Fortunately, that queen cup is in front of the observation window, so i'll be able to see its development on a daily basis. Splitting the hive is something i hadn't even seriously considered yet, so you're right - i'd better get cracking on learning how to do it!

Things happen so fast in beekeeping ...
Last year was my first top bar and my April 9 package swarmed on June 14. I wasn't ready--couldn't get an empty nuc made in time-- Plus my mind was already overloaded with new beek info. But I ended up happy that I got a "wild" bred daughter queen that the package made themselves. That was a great learning experience Too that had me on pins and needles for over a month!haha.. She made it through the winter and one never knows if package queens will...free bred may not make it either; but the odds seem "better". This year hive #1 is packed again but I did split them. I now have 3 hives because I started #2 hive with a new package and made a full size hive for my split(first into a nuc for a month). Like you said!!! It's SO much fun!!! HB
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Thank you, Scorpionmain! The cup hasn't changed much since Saturday's inspection, though the girls poke their snoots into it from time to time. We shall see!

HappyBeeing, i'm so impressed with your progress! Splits and everything! I'm still in the "information overload" phase of beekeeping, but i'm trying to not become so supersaturated that it's impossible to relax and enjoy them. Nothing compares to "hands-on" experience as issues come up anyway. They really are so meditative to watch; so purposeful about everything they do. I just love them.

Fruitveggirl, thank you very much for the thumbs up! I always appreciate it when experienced eyes tell me everything's looking good.
 

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Those are absolutely beautiful. I see everything I'd like to see..
My favorite is #3 - the queen & her court - textbook!
Queen cups are as normal as drones. Nothing to worry about, especially since they put it by the window for you to keep an eye on.
Yes - honey & pollen in #6,
'Nice pic of even capped brood in #7 (healthy queen),
healthy white larvae in #8.

Nice - good job. Are any of the "outer" frames "heavier"? Those would normally have more honey stores.

Thanks again for the pictures.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Colobee, thank you so much for your detailed response! It's very reassuring. We didn't notice that any one comb had more heft to it than the others. There are about 7 combs of mature size in each hive, and it seems to me they're almost exclusively brood combs. Since we're at the start of our big blackberry flow here in the Pacific Northwest, we removed the feeders in spite of the apparent lack of stores. I hope this was the right move. I'll be watching very closely for hungry bees with extended tongues. :)

Thebalvenie, thank you very much! We're having so much fun.
 

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As they have combs to build, there would be nothing wrong with feeding them a pint a day, every other day, if they'll take it. Consider adding Vit C or vinegar when/if making syrup. Inferred from Bush's Practical BK, recipe, about 1500mg/gallon (Vit C) will lower the syrup to the ph range of honey.
 

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Don't over-inspect your hive. There is a non-zero chance of crushing the queen everytime you wave the comb around. Nothing the humans do at this point actually helps the insects. Let them be.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Thank you, Bird Dog One! The pictures are basically what my husband and i use to inspect the hives. We can lift a bar, snap a shot, and return the bar to the hive. It seems to be working really well.

Colobee, thank you again! I already had a batch of syrup prepared when i read your post. While we may slow the syrup down a bit, it just doesn't feel "right" in our guts at the moment to stop feeding altogether. Even though they've made so much progress, it still feels in some ways like they're just getting started ...

Given what you said about vinegar, i think i'll add a cap full of apple cider vinegar to the beebath today. It's been a while since i did that, so it's probably 100% water at this point. :)

JWChesnut, thanks for your comment. We inspect every two weeks, which i think is about right for new beekeepers with new top bar hives. And no-no-never-ever do we "wave" the combs around! Slow and smooth and always above the hive.
 
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