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I started beekeeping this spring with 2 packages.
Spring here in upstate NJ was cold and wet....
Hive 1 started having issues, no new brood, toward the end of May. The hive replaced the original queen. By the middle of June Hive 1 once again had brood developing. Hive one has 2 brood chambers but has only filled 8 frames in the middle of both brood chambers as of July 16. There is a very good brood pattern throughout the frames. With food sources plentiful, I was thinking the queen would be going full force and laying a large number of brood.
Hive 2 was doing very well until 2 weeks ago when the same thing as in Hive 1 started to happen, no new brood. There are queen cells present and a new queen will be in place soon if not already.

One other point is that the bees in both hives have been slow to draw comb. Currently using Perco black frames and have heard that sometimes bees will be slow to draw. Opinions on this.

I am most likely guilty of mishandling the bees in both hives but it is my first year and I will learn.

I have worked with some local beekeepers who have stated don't expect much your first year your goal is to make it through the winter.

The bees just seem to be slow and other beekeepers have mentioned how some of the package bees are very mellow this year.

Thoughts
 

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Regarding hive 1, I'd say that due to the queen replacement, they were set back during a period of strong flow and as a result are behind the power curve. Hive 2 you say has queen cells, but you didn't say where and how many are present - both are important. If there are more than a couple and are near the bottoms of the frames then they're likely swarm cells. If they are positioned mid-frame then its likely a replacement queen. You did say that both hives have been slow to draw comb, so that would suggest that hive 2 is not likely preparing to swarm, but no guarantee.

The hives are drawing comb slowly because the main flow has probably ended. You didn't mention if you had been feeding, but in absence of a flow you must feed to insure comb building (plastic or wax foundation). If there's no natural or man-made flow then what's their incentive to build comb? Give them plenty of 1:1 sugar water and you'll start to see new comb. Don't stop feeding until the hive has reached your target (probably two deeps for NJ). Of course you don't need to feed during a good fall flow, but you'll know when the bees stop taking sugar water. If you have nearby hives keep an eye out for robbing when you're feed ing them.

> I am most likely guilty of mishandling the bees in both hives but it is my first year and I will learn.

I wouldn't call it mishandling - you're learning, keep it up.

Monitor your mite drops and treat if necessary in the early fall. Hopefully you'll have two healthy booming hives next spring.

[ July 20, 2006, 11:03 AM: Message edited by: AstroBee ]
 

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AstroBee has summed it up very well and I don’t need to elaborate any more. But one question what kind of Bees did you start with? I started four packages of Russians this spring and all four seem to be slow. We have had up and down rainfall this year and I sure it has effected nectar flow. And it’s my understanding that one of the survival traits of Russians is they shut down brood laying quickly when they sense a nectar shortage.

[ July 20, 2006, 09:31 AM: Message edited by: Brent Bean ]
 

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Astrobee, I stopped feeding both hives the beginning of June. I am now planning to put my top feeders back on tomorrow and continue feeding until both brood chambers are full.

The replacement queen cells have all been on the bottom of the frames. Have not observed a large reduction in bee numbers, it seems to be consistent.

Brent Bean, The bees are 3 bands Italian.
 

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Well so much for the Russian theory Astrobee has the best explanation feeding them sounds prudent. Italian’s are known for their good wax building , and my own experience supports this.
 

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We have had nice splits who would rather swarm than build comb, especially if not in a heavy flow. Feeding them is the key to good comb building.
Sheri
 

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Started adding sugar water to both hives on Saturday 7/21. Added about 1\2 gal 1:1 sugar water to each hive. Went back for a peek on Sunday and it was all gone, both hives bone dry. I did not want to bother the bees so I just put the top cover back on and went home to grab some more sugar water. My first thought was the ants cleaned out the sugar water. I have been told that the Burdock plant will keep ants away and my in-laws have plenty of it. On the way back to the hives with the sugar water I picked a handful of Burdock leaves. While adding the sugar water to the plastic hive top feeders I placed the Burdock leaves at the base of the hive as well around the feeder itself covered up the hives and called it a day.
Went back over to the hives this afternoon (Monday) just to have a look at the feeders. As soon as I turned the electric fence off to get into the bee yard I get stung in the face and other bees where quickly joining in on the action. Since I had not planned to go into the hives no smoker, no vial, no gloves, no long pants and a bunch of very angry bees. I was able to borrow a veil from my in-laws and went back to the yard to try to figure what is up.
The first thing I noticed was that there was other types of bees in the yard. The next thing I noticed was that there was no sign of any ants. These other bees where very different from the 3 Band Italians I have. These bees had an almost total black abdomen and seemed to be handled by the hive. Was this a robbing frenzy? I was only able to lift the top cover before I was completely intimidated by the aggressiveness of the bees. Plus the fact I had no gloves. What I noticed there was that there was no ants but what looked to be a bunch of drones in the feeders.
I was only able to check the one hive I will go back again tomorrow - with all my gear to have a better look and will post what I find.
 

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I am ignorant in the ways of bees, as this is my first year with the critters.

Regarding feeding: I won't feed any animal when there is feed to be had by working for it, this goes for two legged critters also. In my narrow sighted pont of view, this just makes for lazy animals, plants too for that matter, in the long run it dosen't help. That is what I am interested in, the long run.

This again, is from an ignorant first year beekeeper that really can't truthfully use that term. I am still just a bee haver, they keep themselves. Ok, I did slip them a half gallon of syrup when I picked up my nuc.

My first thought is to reduce your entrance or stuff put some grass in front of the entrance or both.

Good luck
 

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Yes, this sounds like a robbing frenzy. Its always a gamble to feed small hives in a dearth (I mentioned this in my first post). Reduce the entrance, I'd not close it up entirely due to the chance of overheating. If reducing the entrance doesn't solve the problem either consider building robber screens (search the site for details) or stop feeding all together. If you stop feeding, then its likely that the hives won't be big enough to overwinter, so you will need to assess them in the fall and decide if you need to combine. I'd suggest you get some local advice on what's needed for your area.

Regarding feeding making lazy animals, well I'm sure that in many cases you're right, but for honey bees I'd disagree. Let us know how that works out for you. IMO, feeding a package is not mandatory, but in some cases is your only option, but at times can do more harm than good - you need experience to know when and when not to feed. If its delayed, like the one in this topic, then feeding is a good option, particularly if its started on foundation. I started a package this spring and did not feed at all and is now booming, but I had drawn comb to start them on. Being able to properly gage to progress of bees for your locality is something that will come from experience or a good mentor, so in absence of either then these situations are expected.

You need to take actions to curtail the robbing ASAP. Search the site for robbing to educate yourself on options.
 

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AstroBee wrote:
Regarding feeding making lazy animals, well I'm sure that in many cases you're right, but for honey bees I'd disagree. Let us know how that works out for you.

As I stressed, I am not an experienced BeeKeeper, I just have notions and I am starting to get a feel regarding feeding and the purposes behind it. I read here about people feeding during a flow and it makes no sense to me. I do realize that there are many different thought processes regarding Bees and that is one of the great things about this.

Matt replies:
As I said I only have one colony that I started from a 5 frame nuc on 5-23. I fed a little bit at first and they drew the rest of the frames from foundation. I have 2 supers on and will be adding a third this week. I know that this isn't typical and that I had very little to do with it, they are keeping themselves for the most part and the biggest thing I am doing to help is to let them.
 

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Matt,

Packages are quite different than nucs in how they build-up. For one, nucs already 5 frames pulled out with brood present and ample stores to feed new brood - no break in the brood cycle at the critical spring build-up period. A package has neither. In fact, due to the delay getting comb built, there is actually a rather significant decrease in numbers before they start to increase (due to increased stress and simply natural die off). One of the main reasons for feeding a package after it is introduced is to promote early comb construction so that they can increase in numbers and capitalize on the natural flow. So if you have drawn comb to start a package with then its very likely that you'll not need to feed at all, but with foundation, and I think most will agree, that feeding is an important part in their success. Of course these are wild creatures with lots and lots of variables present, so maybe you'll get lucky maybe you won't. Feeding is certainly a way to increase their odds - isn't that one of our roles as beekeepers? This certainly doesn't mean bringing along the weak that should be culled, but it does imply setting an environment that maximizes their chance for success (of course we all have our own interpretations).

[ July 25, 2006, 09:31 PM: Message edited by: AstroBee ]
 

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>Regarding feeding: I won't feed any animal when there is feed to be had by working for it, this goes for two legged critters also. In my narrow sighted pont of view, this just makes for lazy animals, plants too for that matter, in the long run it dosen't help.

I agree with you. If there's food to be had they should be getting it. If not, I'll feed them.
 

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>I won't feed any animal when there is feed to be had by working for it.

'Cept for pigs and cows headed for the dinner table.
 
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