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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all,

Brand new beekeeper here, please don't be too rough on me. So I installed a new package each into two top bar hives I built. They had screened bottom boards at the advice of a beekeeping friend of mine, I did not cover them. I will know for next time to cover them at least at first. I installed the packages 4/13 by putting the whole package in the hive, minus the queen in her candy plugged cage, hung, at the advice of my friend. I had to go in a couple days later and remove the boxes/shake the rest of the bees. Next time I'm going to just shake them in directly to avoid disturbing them too much. I provided them 1:1 syrup in a jar type feeder within the hive body. They hardly took any of the syrup but both hives seemed busy, happy, bringing in pollen, I'd see the bees on my dandelions, etc. Right after installation we got some unseasonably cold, wet weather, but after it passed, still happy seeming bees, still not taking much/any syrup but all was well. On the 19th, we went in to check the queens had been released. One had (Hive B), and we removed the queen cage. There was NO COMB even though they'd been in there 6 days. Giant cluster of bees. In the other hive (Hive A), the queen had not been released so I pulled the plug and laid the cage on the bottom for her to crawl out at her leisure. Also NO COMB in that hive, but still plenty of bees. We got other cold snaps within the next few days. On the 21st there seemed to be much less activity by the hives. On the 22nd I looked up through the bottom mesh as well as I could. In Hive A, there were only a handful of bees, maybe 50 in all, crawling on a palm-sized bit of comb. In Hive B there was a VERY small cluster of bees, about grapefruit sized. Still no comb, but they had excreted some wax on the cleats in the very beginning of comb building. Also there may have been comb that was covered by the cluster. I looked for a queen or any sign of eggs or anything unusual in Hive A. Nothing. I gifted the comb to hive B as gently as I could, without disturbing any of the bees. I was very hesitant to go poking around in Hive B for fear of disturbing them into absconding. They had taken about two or three cups of syrup since the last time I'd checked (a few days), which is more than they'd previously taken. Each hive had a handful or two of dead bees on the bottom screen. This was not necessarily new as of the sudden population decrease, but had been there since the day or so after installation.

I'm reasonably sure Hive A absconded. Maybe? Would they leave behind bees if they did? Bees were still coming and going from the entrance, but just one or two at a time. So I know the bees left behind/alive were old enough to fly. Hive B, did they freeze to death? Starve? Is there likely a queen still in there somewhere? Any chance of survival? Why aren't they taking feed? It was not that the syrup was too cold, because I'd heat it during cold snaps to keep it from getting below 50 degrees. Should I go in and slide in a bottom board on the mesh or leave it alone and not disturb bees? Help! This is so discouraging :(
 

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Hello all,

Brand new beekeeper here, please don't be too rough on me. So I installed a new package each into two top bar hives I built. They had screened bottom boards at the advice of a beekeeping friend of mine, I did not cover them. I will know for next time to cover them at least at first. I installed the packages 4/13 by putting the whole package in the hive, minus the queen in her candy plugged cage, hung, at the advice of my friend. I had to go in a couple days later and remove the boxes/shake the rest of the bees. Next time I'm going to just shake them in directly to avoid disturbing them too much. I provided them 1:1 syrup in a jar type feeder within the hive body. They hardly took any of the syrup but both hives seemed busy, happy, bringing in pollen, I'd see the bees on my dandelions, etc. Right after installation we got some unseasonably cold, wet weather, but after it passed, still happy seeming bees, still not taking much/any syrup but all was well. On the 19th, we went in to check the queens had been released. One had (Hive B), and we removed the queen cage. There was NO COMB even though they'd been in there 6 days. Giant cluster of bees. In the other hive (Hive A), the queen had not been released so I pulled the plug and laid the cage on the bottom for her to crawl out at her leisure. Also NO COMB in that hive, but still plenty of bees. We got other cold snaps within the next few days. On the 21st there seemed to be much less activity by the hives. On the 22nd I looked up through the bottom mesh as well as I could. In Hive A, there were only a handful of bees, maybe 50 in all, crawling on a palm-sized bit of comb. In Hive B there was a VERY small cluster of bees, about grapefruit sized. Still no comb, but they had excreted some wax on the cleats in the very beginning of comb building. Also there may have been comb that was covered by the cluster. I looked for a queen or any sign of eggs or anything unusual in Hive A. Nothing. I gifted the comb to hive B as gently as I could, without disturbing any of the bees. I was very hesitant to go poking around in Hive B for fear of disturbing them into absconding. They had taken about two or three cups of syrup since the last time I'd checked (a few days), which is more than they'd previously taken. Each hive had a handful or two of dead bees on the bottom screen. This was not necessarily new as of the sudden population decrease, but had been there since the day or so after installation.

I'm reasonably sure Hive A absconded. Maybe? Would they leave behind bees if they did? Bees were still coming and going from the entrance, but just one or two at a time. So I know the bees left behind/alive were old enough to fly. Hive B, did they freeze to death? Starve? Is there likely a queen still in there somewhere? Any chance of survival? Why aren't they taking feed? It was not that the syrup was too cold, because I'd heat it during cold snaps to keep it from getting below 50 degrees. Should I go in and slide in a bottom board on the mesh or leave it alone and not disturb bees? Help! This is so discouraging :(
Hello, and welcome to the beekeeping world, even under trying circumstances!

Our weather patterns have certainly been making things difficult this year, but can you please provide a bit more info to help us out? Where are you geographically located? Are the hives protected from wind? What direction are the entrances facing? Are they in full sun? And the boxes closed down so the new colonies are not inside a huge enclosure to try to keep warm? All of this info can be helpful to determine what might be the best course of action, what I might recommend for southern Michigan might be crazy for somebody in southern Alabama.

But, try not to be discouraged, our buzzy friends may not always be easy to work with or please, so it takes a bit of experience and trial-and-error to find your way. They say nobody ever learns from success, so failing in some ways is the fastest road to greatness. It's called WD-40 because the first 39 formulas didn't work lol. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the response! Here's answers to your questions:

I'm in Roanoke, Virginia.

The hives are mostly protected from wind by trees and etc but there is a little wind that can get through. I suppose.

The entrances are facing south and they get pretty good sun in the morning with some afternoon shade.

I use a top bar hive, there are no boxes :) I have them between two follower boards with ten bars. I'd guess about the size of one lanstroth box-ish?

I guess my biggest questions are...

a) Did either hive abscond? I thought with absconding ALL the bees left. In both hives there are bees old enough to be flying in/out still left. In one hive, there's still a grapefruit size cluster. That doesn't sound like absconding to me, but I don't know anything! DID they abscond? Or freeze/starve to death?

b) Is there possibly still a queen and enough bees to save that second hive, given the small cluster? 91481186_727413272675_3875218372635394048_o.jpg
 

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Thanks for the response! Here's answers to your questions:

I'm in Roanoke, Virginia.

The hives are mostly protected from wind by trees and etc but there is a little wind that can get through. I suppose.

The entrances are facing south and they get pretty good sun in the morning with some afternoon shade.

I use a top bar hive, there are no boxes :) I have them between two follower boards with ten bars. I'd guess about the size of one lanstroth box-ish?

I guess my biggest questions are...

a) Did either hive abscond? I thought with absconding ALL the bees left. In both hives there are bees old enough to be flying in/out still left. In one hive, there's still a grapefruit size cluster. That doesn't sound like absconding to me, but I don't know anything! DID they abscond? Or freeze/starve to death?

b) Is there possibly still a queen and enough bees to save that second hive, given the small cluster? View attachment 54871
Hi Kate, How did you feed? When I feed 1 to 1 some time the holes skim over with Sugar crystals, For me I can shake the jar and make sure it dribbles.
I normally feed new bees over the brood area in the Top bar, did you feed to the side. With 10 frames it could have been too far in the cold.
They could have Absconded. Not all the bees leave.
if they could not get to feed during cold they could have starved. they need 50 degrees or higher to take the 1 to 1 feed generally.
Generally they do not "freeze", Ideally IMO we do not put a package over a screen bottom. they may "think" the opening is too large to defend or propolize over. With out food forage bees may have left to find forage and looked until they dropped. either due to cold or out of fuel.
maybe they were robbed depending on how you fed. robbing bees will fight the local ones for honey or feed, some of each are lost in robbing, Small hive loses.

Did your friend also have top bar? perhaps a comb with stores would have helped.
for package of 3lbs IMO 10 bars is a bit much, not the big cause here. Initially the less space to heat the better. Less heat needed less food required.

And lastly, respectfully, Find a different friend to get advice from, sorry, a double fail has some responsibility in "tactics" and I am trying to be helpful.

Sorry this did not go as expected. If a bit of comb is left on a Bar, leave the hive out , check the swarm trap posts, apply some lure if you can , perhaps you can catch a swarm. Cover the screen bottom with card board taped into place, Generally Swarms do not like "perceived" large openings. 10 Bar partition would be ok for size As a swarm trap.

GG
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you for your reply, Gray Goose!

I will take it all under advisement. I fed on the side, through a follower board with a hole in it. How would I feed from the top with a top bar hive??? When you say brood area, do you mean cluster? I can't picture how I could feed them above the bars as there's no opening they can get through the bars to the feed.

In the future I will cover the bottom screen, leave a fewer bar space for them, and try to feed differently (if I can get some advice on that!)

The hive with a cluster of bees still in it.. do you think I should go in and cover that screened bottom? Look for a queen? I don't want to disturb them too much if they're still possibly viable, don't want to prompt them into leaving. At the same time I want to give them the best chance of survival if there is still a queen there and enough workers to maybe get things rolling.
 

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Thank you for your reply, Gray Goose!

I will take it all under advisement. I fed on the side, through a follower board with a hole in it. How would I feed from the top with a top bar hive??? When you say brood area, do you mean cluster? I can't picture how I could feed them above the bars as there's no opening they can get through the bars to the feed.

In the future I will cover the bottom screen, leave a fewer bar space for them, and try to feed differently (if I can get some advice on that!)

The hive with a cluster of bees still in it.. do you think I should go in and cover that screened bottom? Look for a queen? I don't want to disturb them too much if they're still possibly viable, don't want to prompt them into leaving. At the same time I want to give them the best chance of survival if there is still a queen there and enough workers to maybe get things rolling.
Thanks for the extra info, Yes hard to feed above the cluster in a top bar. With top bar maybe squish them down to 5 bars the feed would i think be closer.

Yes besides the difficulty in heating the nest area, the Screen Bottom , is perceived by bees to be an "opening" there is a thread here on BS with that topic and several folks who had problems with Screened bottom boards.

If is is cool there, the bees should be some what inactive. yes go in and take bars away till you get to the cluster, take an old T shirt, wrapped around a piece of cardboard, about the size of the screen hole. Slide it in from the end, not likely the cluster hangs to the bottom. then put the Divider in so you also shrink the space they need to heat.

that is a small cluster it will be hard to get them ramped up, but do try any way, they may do fine.

Keep in mind it takes 21 days to hatch new bees, once the Queen lays eggs in the comb they build, so you will see shrinkage, until the first brood hatches. Next warm day do a slow inspect, hopefully there is an inch or 2 of comb with eggs and brood, if yes then that is all you can hope for.
No eggs in 2 weeks could mean the Queen is gone either left or perished. For that small of a cluster "baseball size" I'm not sure you should order a replacement queen.

Did you release the queen or hang the cadge? How did she look then? when in for the screen cover, check the cage to see if she is out, I like to release by 48 hours, others have thier own timing. With a small cluster time is not on your side.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
In both hives I hung the queen. In that particular hive, she had released herself through the candy plug sometime between days 2 and 6. I can't say how she looked, I have pretty much no experience to compare to. I can say she was alive! They had built pretty much no comb in that hive at all, but I gave them the comb from the other (totally absconded) hive. Maybe the queen can start laying in that?
 

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Not sure if this is the ideal solution, but you could make a "pressed sugar" board for your hive. I make these for winter feeding, but perhaps it could be beneficial for your case as well, maybe you could put it on the side opposite your current feeder? It's essentially a normal frame with some 1/2" hardware cloth stapled in the center-line like foundation. The, mash a mixture of sugar, a little water, and a little vinegar onto the screen from both sides, until it creates an ~ 1" thick sugar slab. Let it sit overnight, and it'll be remarkably hard by the morning, like a giant sugar cube. Put your follower right on the other side of the sugar.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Hmm, well there are no frames in a TBH but maybe I could rig something similar to what you're talking about using pressed sugar! Thanks :)
 

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In both hives I hung the queen. In that particular hive, she had released herself through the candy plug sometime between days 2 and 6. I can't say how she looked, I have pretty much no experience to compare to. I can say she was alive! They had built pretty much no comb in that hive at all, but I gave them the comb from the other (totally absconded) hive. Maybe the queen can start laying in that?
Ok good feed back if she was alive when you hung her , they would not have released a dead Queen, so Likely she is alive.
Yes now she needs comb. She will use what is available.

GG
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
94489194_2815015771951440_4576693120275578880_n.jpg

Hopefully you can see the image. This is all that was left after yesterday afternoon. Hard to believe there's a queen in that tiny number of bees. Foragers who were out and missed the memo? Guess I need to learn to capture swarms..
 

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Either absconded or queen problem. That is a very small cluster. Can you tell if they have been working on comb or is that all from other hive? When you hung queen at install did you shake some bees on her? I have not installed a package in tbh; I would recommend shaking most bees into (solid) bottom board, and then installing frames with hung queen before they "boil" up into the frame rests. Give about 5 bars. They should all cluster from queen cage. When in doubt, check by pulling back a follower board like you did for the photo. A healthy package will start drawing comb the first day. They often have a little bit of comb in the package. When a package queen fails or they don't accept her the workers will often go join a neighboring hive. I'm not sure why they both failed. Besides the screen, is there anything unusual about your construction or materials? I have seen packages take when they had been installed on screen, though I would not recommend it.... Good luck!!
 

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View attachment 54901

Hopefully you can see the image. This is all that was left after yesterday afternoon. Hard to believe there's a queen in that tiny number of bees. Foragers who were out and missed the memo? Guess I need to learn to capture swarms..
Kate that is a small cluster, besides the thermo regulation for so few bees, even if they covered that comb with brood, the gain is small.

Yes keep an eye out for a swarm, Or someone with similar gear, who can offer a split.

GG
 

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Also, how many # package did you install and what shape were they in / how many dead bees At install? What did you do with sugar can (had they eaten some? Sometimes they are clogged....)
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Either absconded or queen problem. That is a very small cluster. Can you tell if they have been working on comb or is that all from other hive? When you hung queen at install did you shake some bees on her? I have not installed a package in tbh; I would recommend shaking most bees into (solid) bottom board, and then installing frames with hung queen before they "boil" up into the frame rests. Give about 5 bars. They should all cluster from queen cage. When in doubt, check by pulling back a follower board like you did for the photo. A healthy package will start drawing comb the first day. They often have a little bit of comb in the package. When a package queen fails or they don't accept her the workers will often go join a neighboring hive. I'm not sure why they both failed. Besides the screen, is there anything unusual about your construction or materials? I have seen packages take when they had been installed on screen, though I would not recommend it.... Good luck!!
Nothing else unusual about the hives. Both queens had clusters of workers around them when I hung them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
A three pound package in each, very few dead bees at install, they had eaten some sugar but the sugar cans were mostly full. They're sitting in my fridge just because that's where I shoved them. There were more cold/dead bees when I went in to shake the package out a couple days later. Some of them magically resurrected themselves when it got warmer.
 

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Paint was dried etc...? Deffinitely wierd that they did not draw comb. Packages are excellent comb builders. Let us know if they still have a queen and if there is any brood. Tell the story to your supplier, I assume they have experience with more packages than I have! If the other hive is dead dead check the bees to see if the queen died as well. I am assuming absconding. For your next go around see if you can find someone with compatible frames. A frame of brood is really good at preventing absconding but even a frame of honey is good at holding them in place.... Good luck. Sorry for the rough start!
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Paint had long since dried, months ago. I checked the other hive, I think they absconded. I did not see a queen. There is nobody with here that has any wax drawn combs for me (no frames in a top bar hive). Thank you for the well wishes!
 

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Well try the swarm trap and keep a lookout for swarms. I want to experiment with tbh but have not finished building it. I made it the same length top bar as my Langstroths so I could make a split into it: put three top bars into langstroth until they have built some comb but not the whole frames worth to accomodate the sloped sides of tbh. Make split and repeat to get some more resources for new tbh. Or some variation of that.... Do you have a friend with deep langs you could bum a split off of...? You've obviously taken the plunge this year. I'd like to see you have some bees!
 

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KateMonster,

Welcome to BeeScource.

Do you know that bees like the temperature of their hive at 91 - 94 F? When you put them in your fridge they were at 45 F. I don't know about you but I can't last very long at that temp. The Cold snap out side may have been warmer than the fridge. This is how we learn as beekeepers.

When you buy your next package or nuc you will know better. You could probably use a nuc as drawn comb in your top bar hive with a little jury rigging. Not perfect but better than nothing.

Also worker bees only live for 4 - 6 weeks so the number always goes down soon after installation but in this case I suspect you stressed them to much in the fridge.

Sorry for your rough start. Good Luck in the future,
 
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