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Discussion Starter #1
Hi,

This is my first hive. I installed my package on Monday evening so I haven't even been able to open things up to inspect the queen cage or check for comb or the levels on the feeder in the empty second hive body.

I go out several times a day to observe the bees' behavior and up until this afternoon things seemed okay (as much as I could tell, being new to this). I was originally trying to see if any were returning with pollen yet, when I saw two bees fighting on the ground in front of the hive. Then I noticed a couple more. Am I being robbed already? One of my worries is that I made an error when putting everything together before installing the package.

I ordered the basic unassembled kit but thought it came with a screened, not solid, bottom board. Having run out of time to order the IPM screened board (the package pickup date got bumped up by two weeks) I cut the appropriate sized hole in the plywood and realized that no store around me had 1/8" hardware cloth or metal screening so I found some hardware cloth in the cellar and used that. I have now realized that I used 1/4" hardware cloth on the bottom board.

Have I just given other bees unfettered access to my hive?
How would I even go about getting the bottom board back to put the right screening on it?

I cut a piece of 1/4" ply and slid it under the bottom board to block the screen altogether, until I can figure this out. There are a dozen or so dead bees beneath the hive. Is that just from them house-cleaning, or are those the ones who 'fell in battle'?

Gah! These bees are making me so anxious!

Any words of wisdom will be welcomed.

~Erin
 

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Welcome to Beesource!


> that I used 1/4" hardware cloth on the bottom board.

As you found, that could be a problem. Honeybees can fit through a 1/4"screen, so it is an open invitation to anyone who wants in.


Frankly, I suggest leaving the screen blocked, or converting the whole bottom board to an oil tray style board. Open screened bottoms make it very difficult for the bees to cool the hive (partly through evaporation of water) when the ambient temperature exceeds 94 degrees.


If you want to change things around, I'd suggest making/buying the kind of bottom board you really want, and then swapping the two boards. Just set the new bottom board in place, then restack the boxes on the new board. But, wait til your package is more established to do any rearranging.

And don't worry about having two bottom boards and only one hive. :) If you are going to be successful at keeping bees, most likely you will soon see the value in having at least two hives. With two hives, you can borrow resources from one to fix a problem with the other. With only one hive, you will be between a rock and a hard place! :rolleyes:
 

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Discussion Starter #3
So, now that I have effectively blocked the bottom of the hive from intruders, do I have to worry about my bees getting hung up on this too big hardware cloth? I had a nagging feeling that I was making the wrong choice as I was stapling the 1/4" in place.

How long should I wait before swapping out this board for a new one?

Since I installed the package on Monday evening I was considering doing the first inspection on Friday afternoon to check for the queen. Because of this bottom board issue, is there anything else that I should be keeping an eye out for-- either on the inside or on the outside?

Thanks so much for the help.

~Erin
 

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Checking to see that the queen is released is relatively unintrusive. I would wait to swap the bottom board at least til there is multiple combs drawn and some brood.


Note also that there are plenty of reports on Beesource of new packages absconding from hives with open screen bottoms. This seems to be more of a problem with top bar hives, but happens with Lang hives as well. If you do switch to an open screened bottom (with #8 screen), I suggest keeping the closure/count board in place most of the time.
 

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> I have now realized that I used 1/4" hardware cloth on the bottom board.
> Have I just given other bees unfettered access to my hive?

Yes.

>How would I even go about getting the bottom board back to put the right screening on it?

Put #8 on it?

>I cut a piece of 1/4" ply and slid it under the bottom board to block the screen altogether, until I can figure this out. There are a dozen or so dead bees beneath the hive. Is that just from them house-cleaning, or are those the ones who 'fell in battle'?

There were probably some dead ones in the package...

A package is much better off without an open SBB causing too much ventilation and confusion.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
My question about how to swap bottom boards is connected to my lack of knowledge about what exactly is going on in the hive. I can't imagine what will happen when I lift the bottom deep off of the bottom board to either pull the staples and put on the correct gauge screening or pull the old one away to put the new one in its place. Do bees generally hang out on the bottom board anyways?

The piece of ply that I cut fits snugly so I'm going to leave it like that until I can put a screened one with a drawer in its place.

I went out and watched them this morning and I didn't see any fighting. Everything was orderly... several bees in and several out at a time through the 1" opening and what I'm guessing are guard bees on the landing board.

I feel like an idiot for causing the problem in the first place. Thanks for the advice.

~Erin
 

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>My question about how to swap bottom boards is connected to my lack of knowledge about what exactly is going on in the hive. I can't imagine what will happen when I lift the bottom deep off of the bottom board to either pull the staples and put on the correct gauge screening or pull the old one away to put the new one in its place. Do bees generally hang out on the bottom board anyways?

There may be some bees on the bottom. If so, knock them off into the hive. Just hold the bottom board with your hand and hit your hand with your other hand. It's all about surprise.

>The piece of ply that I cut fits snugly so I'm going to leave it like that until I can put a screened one with a drawer in its place.

I'd just leave it forever... but you can do as you like.

>I went out and watched them this morning and I didn't see any fighting. Everything was orderly... several bees in and several out at a time through the 1" opening and what I'm guessing are guard bees on the landing board.

Yes.

>I feel like an idiot for causing the problem in the first place.

If you are going to keep bees you should get used to unforeseen problems that you cause... and just keep learning...
 

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A package is much better off without an open SBB causing too much ventilation and confusion.
Can you elaborate a bit on too much ventilation and confusion.

I just learned that my screen bottoms might be the reason some of my packages are clustering under my hive(smelling the Queen from there and not going to the entrance).

I thought screened bottoms were great for hive ventilation and disease prevention, which outweighed the reasons for solid bottoms. Thanks, juzzer
 

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Juzzer,
I agree that I'm a bit confused. I took a beekeeping course through my local beekeepers' association and it was stressed that verroa mites are a real problem and that an IPS bottom board was an important measure in handling them. That was the reason that I panicked when I saw that the one that came in the kit was solid.
But now, it makes perfect sense that having an open bottom would be confusing to a bee-- that likes to make its home in a hollow tree cavity.
~Erin
 

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Well, feeling like an idiot about your bees means you're a beekeepeer - congratulations, you're in the club!

No, your bees won't get their little paws caught on the too-large screen mesh. They're far too clever for that.

Order up, or make, the board you want, get it painted and prepped and hang on to it. In a month or so, on day when you feel like having a bolder bee-adventure do this:

Choose a nice sunny, mild, calm day.

Suit up and smoke the hive.

Take the top off, inner cover, etc.

Turn the lid upside down on a flat, stable place near you.

Pry at the corners of the box to loosen it from the bottom board. (Your girls will have stuck it down very tightly.)

When ready, lift the whole box up and set it catty-corner on the upturned lid's edges. Catty corner means there is less direct contact between the lid and the bottom edges of the box, so fewer chances to squish bees, though some will get squished. If you're feeling nervous about the queen "falling out" while the box is off its stand (unlikely, but I know the feeling), you could set a queen excluder frame underneath the box (obviously catty-corner, as well) which will prevent her from exiting, though allow (some) bees to leave if they feel like it. They won't go far, and won't get lost from the hive. Though they may come over to you to offer their opinion on your intrusion.

Now, if the idea of the open box spewing enraged, confused bees out the top at you is too strong, counter that by laying a soft dark cloth down over the box. It will quiet them down nicely, allow ventilation, etc., while you work.

With the bottom box off the stand, remove and replace the bottom board with new one. Now's the time for any little changes in placement you want to make. Then uncover the bottom box, lift it back up to its new bottom board, restack the cover assembly, and you're done.

The sticky point is this one: getting the heavy box back down on its stand without squishing bees between the boxes. There are as many techniques for doing that as there are beekeepers. I'm a small, older, woman and full-ish box, especially a deep, is at the limit of my controlable lift capacity. So before I move the box I set up four sets of doubled-up paint-stirrer sticks, one pair diagonally across each corner of the bottom board, one or two inches in. These are just barely less than bee-height which allows them to (mostly) wiggle away when the meeting edges of the boxes are being lined up, before they are crushed. Then one by one I go around and looking at both adjoining meeting surfaces I pull the paint sticks out. It helps to blow at the bees to discourage them from keeping on tryng to get out. But don't make it an extended process, just get it done as safely and smoothly and promptly as you can.

As MB says, don't worry about the to be removed, and soon to be replaced board. There will be no end of uses for it. For instance, directly that it is out of commission as a bottom board, you will have another place to use as a temporary parking place for removed boxes. In the months ahead you will figure out how to make it back into a working part of your (next) hive assembly.

As far as whether you are seeing robbing: perhaps, but most likely you are seeing mortuary bees at work. They are hauling out dead ones and while doing so are very aerodynamically unstable and often seem like they are tussling with their burdens. I've found the key to differentiating these activities is this: robbing/brawling/fighting bees will keep at it, whereas mortuary bees just dump the corpse and fly calmly back to the hive. So watch to see what happens when the bees hit the ground. If they keep rolling over and over - it's fighting. If the live bee just flies home, it's housekeeping. Also I see housekeeping most often in the morning hours whereas robbing, unless it's an all-out assualt happens later (after mid-morning) in the day.

When you order up your new bottom board, think about adding a robbing screen to your order. Having one on hand is reassuring as you can slap it on and then after the confusion clears a bit reassess whether it's truly robbing, or something else.

BTW, If you ordered a solid board, you could remodel the orginal board into a varroa monitor screen affair and then stack it on top of the solid board. Then you've got both (plus monitoring capacity) options available. (And your teachers were correct having an IPM board is the easiest way to begin to get a handle on mites.) Make sure you set it up so the sticky board slot faces the back of the hive, not the front.

I am north of Albany and have that set-up and am very satisfied with it. It provides monitoring, plus the options of both closed-up tightness, and additional ventilation when need, seasonally. My three hives stayed warm, dry, well-ventilated and most importantly, alive despite this past fierce winter.

Have fun with your bees. Occasionally they will lighten up on you and you will feel an addicting glimpse of bee-keeping competence. There's nothing else like it!

Enj.
 

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>Can you elaborate a bit on too much ventilation and confusion.

The bees smell the other bees through the screen and they can't get in there. The ventilation makes them think (correctly) that it isn't very well protected and they can't control the environment. They have to keep the brood nest 93 F through cold and heat and they can't do that with the bottom wide open and the number of bees they just started with. This sometimes causes them to abscond.

> I just learned that my screen bottoms might be the reason some of my packages are clustering under my hive(smelling the Queen from there and not going to the entrance).

It is exactly the reason.

>I thought screened bottoms were great for hive ventilation and disease prevention, which outweighed the reasons for solid bottoms.

Ventilation is good in the right amounts at the right time. A lot of ventilation is not always good. It's not good for installing a package. It's not good when the temperature outside exceeds 93 F and they are trying to cool it. I don't see any difference in Varroa with screened or solid bottoms. There was a lot of excitement when someone came out with a study that showed a 30% decrease in Varroa, but that has not been the case in practice. There have since been some studies that show a SBB increases Varroa by decreasing the temperature in the brood nest...

>I agree that I'm a bit confused. I took a beekeeping course through my local beekeepers' association and it was stressed that verroa mites are a real problem and that an IPS bottom board was an important measure in handling them.

It is certainly helpful in measuring them. It is also helpful if you are treating as many Varroa that fall from a treatment survive on a solid board and climb back up and fall out with a SBB.

Most of the bottoms in most of the kits are solid.
 

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It's not good when the temperature outside exceeds 93 F and they are trying to cool it.
Most of the bottoms in most of the kits are solid.
When they try to cool the hive if outside temperatures are above 93 degrees, putting a piece of corrugated plastic in a screened bottom will help keep the cooling(air) inside??? I would think keeping the screen open when it's 93 degrees would keep a cooler temperature in the hive then closing it up and making it all hot and stuffy inside?? Thanks, juzzer
 

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Back before humans had real air conditioners available, evaporative coolers (swamp coolers) were used in homes and businesses. These worked by drawing air through a wet pad, thereby cooling the air (although making it more humid). Using this technique it is possible to lower the temperature of the air out of the swamp cooler, whereas a fan that just circulates the air does nothing to actually cool the air.

When the outside temperature exceeds 94 degrees, the bees in a hive haul water to cool the interior when necessary, in a manner similar to a swamp cooler in a house. But if they cannot control airflow (because of a screened bottom), then their efforts at keeping the brood nest temperature no higher than 94 degrees will not work very well.

It like trying to cool a house with a swamp cooler with all the windows open - it doesn't work well.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I just want to thank everyone who has offered up very thoughtful discussion in relation to my questions. I'm only five days into this and I have already learned so much just from my one mistake.
If I keep making mistakes, I'll get to know quite a bit. :)
~Erin
 

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>When they try to cool the hive if outside temperatures are above 93 degrees, putting a piece of corrugated plastic in a screened bottom will help keep the cooling(air) inside??? I would think keeping the screen open when it's 93 degrees would keep a cooler temperature in the hive then closing it up and making it all hot and stuffy inside??

You sweat. It's how you cool off. More air means you will be cooler because your skin is covered with water when it's overly hot. The bees don't sweat and they can't just coat the brood with water so they sweat. Instead they cool the air inside the hive by evaporating water. With no control over the amount of air, the air inside will simply be the same as the air outside (plus whatever gain from the sun beating on it). With control they can cool the air by evaporation and blow that cooled air throughout the hive and then move the moisture out so they can evaporate more water to cool more air... Of course, the other extreme is if they can't move any air, then they can't move the moisture outside so they can evaporate more water and the air gets saturated and they can't cool anything because the water will no longer evaporate...
 
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