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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have been trying to raise bees since the spring of 2017. I started with one top bar hive and one box of bees. I fed them as they got established and then let them on their own for the rest of the year. They drew about 10 combs and seemed to be doing well. I did not take any honey because I didn't want to leave them short for their first winter. Over the winter, they left. Checking the hive it appeared they had run out of food. I removed the old comb from the bars and waited for spring. So spring of 2018 I got another box of bees. Again they seemed to do well and made about as much comb as the previous bees. Again I didn't take any honey. This time I fed them starting the first week of January. They survived so I bought 2 additional hives for the spring of 2019, this time 2 box, 10 frame Langstroth hives, and 2 more boxes of bees.

At this point, we suffered the loss of one of my daughters and honestly I didn't put much effort into the hives until now, almost 2 years later. Oh I had made a point to observe them entering and exiting their hives and they seemed to be doing fine as there were always lots of activity at each hive, but I never opened them up. I fed all hives over the winter of 2019/2020 and all 3 survived the winter. This year I did not go into the hives except once when I pulled 1 comb of honey from the top bar hive this past May. I was surprised to find that although there were plenty of bees, they hadn't increased the amount of comb except by 2 bars even though this hive was now 2 years old.

About 2 months ago my top bar bees swarmed and left but the other 2 hives were still looking very active with lots of bees. I did a real quick look in one of the other hives and saw they still had several frames of capped honey. Then last week, the bees in one of the remaining hives left. I checked the hive and to my surprise, they had only used 7 of the 10 frames in the second box to draw honey on after almost 2 years and it seemed obvious they had run out of food before they vacated. I immediately started feeding the remaining hive and hope they survive the winter because I am finally getting back to wanting to do this again.

Were my expectations too high in that after 2 years I expected a lot more drawn comb in the hives? Each hive only had about 7 drawn honey combs and I expected them to be full with lots of honey and I sure didn't expect them to be starving out this early in the season. At that amount I'll never be able to get much honey out of them.
 

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82 colonies +/- mostly Langstroth mediums, a few deeps for nuc production
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Unfortunately the days of putting bees in a box and getting honey are gone. With the current state of bees they are plagued with pests, mites, virus spread by the mites small hive beetles etc.
Leaving in winter does not happen in most cases. More likely they were weakened by mites and died away from the hive so it looked like they left.
Starving is possible but a colony also will get robbed out after the population goes down.
Join a local club.
Learn about the bee biology.
They are livestock and take care and attention on a regular basis.
Sorry to be blunt.
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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Agree with the other two posts. You may also want to make sure there is sufficient forage for the bees. Learn when your flow is and harvest after it ends. Feed the bees from then on to build up stores. Treat for mites.
Also be aware that top bar hives are not known for their honey production.
 
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Were my expectations too high in that after 2 years I expected a lot more drawn comb in the hives?
If you expect the bees to indefinitely be expending and growing, and growing and expending - you are incorrect.

It really goes colony by colony - but in very many (most?) cases, the bees "decide" they have enough of everything they need and will stop growing, at some point they instead want to swarm (not to keep growing).
That is unless you manipulate them to keep expanding and to stop from swarming.
 

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Here are two things you can improve:
"I removed the old comb from the bars and waited for spring. So spring of 2018 I got another box of bees."

Keep the old comb and hive, try to keep pests away from it. Set it up in spring as a bait hive with lure. Local bees you catch will be much better than bees bought in a box.
Treat them with a miticide before fall.

We also lost our older daughter 8/19 after 8 months of severe illness. We will never stop missing them. I hope we never have to experience something that devastating again.
 
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Unfortunately the days of putting bees in a box and getting honey are gone. With the current state of bees they are plagued with pests, mites, virus spread by the mites small hive beetles etc.
Leaving in winter does not happen in most cases. More likely they were weakened by mites and died away from the hive so it looked like they left.
Starving is possible but a colony also will get robbed out after the population goes down.
Join a local club.
Learn about the bee biology.
They are livestock and take care and attention on a regular basis.
Sorry to be blunt.
No need to apologize, blunt is good(y)I will definitely start doing a better job at caring for them. I have so much to learn and appreciate the comments.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Agree with the other two posts. You may also want to make sure there is sufficient forage for the bees. Learn when your flow is and harvest after it ends. Feed the bees from then on to build up stores. Treat for mites.
Also be aware that top bar hives are not known for their honey production.
I knew it was going to be low production on the top bar but it is a fun and very easy beekeeping method :) What surprised me the most was the lack of production in the Langstroth hive. I expected it to be really full. I appreciate your advice and will work on being more observant and hands on and hopefully will start seeing better results this next year.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
If you expect the bees to indefinitely be expending and growing, and growing and expending - you are incorrect.

It really goes colony by colony - but in very many (most?) cases, the bees "decide" they have enough of everything they need and will stop growing, at some point they instead want to swarm (not to keep growing).
That is unless you manipulate them to keep expanding and to stop from swarming.
Yeah, that's kind of what I was expecting, for their numbers to continue growing and adding more boxes to accommodate that growth. As a matter of fact, since I wasn't doing anything with them I was afraid that they were going to outgrow the 2 boxes and added a third box in early May so they would have plenty of room to grow. The second box was about half full with honey and there was still plenty of forage so I didn't want them to feel limited. They did not use the third box at all. I will be removing the third box from the remaining hive to try to make it easier for them to keep warm. Thanks for your comments (y)
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Here are two things you can improve:
"I removed the old comb from the bars and waited for spring. So spring of 2018 I got another box of bees."

Keep the old comb and hive, try to keep pests away from it. Set it up in spring as a bait hive with lure. Local bees you catch will be much better than bees bought in a box.
Treat them with a miticide before fall.

We also lost our older daughter 8/19 after 8 months of severe illness. We will never stop missing them. I hope we never have to experience something that devastating again.
Thanks, I'll try catching some this spring, maybe they'll appreciate a nice home more than the last ones did 😁 I tried using a 10 frame nuc box the first year with no success and never tried again but it's definitely worth a shot.

So sorry about your daughter, it's such an utterly heart shattering thing to go through. It took a long time to even feel any real joy about anything but it does come back. Take as long as you need to grieve, nobody can put a timer on that. You will move forward at your own pace. Peace and comfort to you and your family.
 

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try getting bees from a different source.
look at hive placement, threads. IMO southeast facing, to start early , shaded to the west for cooler afternoons, for less cooling needs.
Each location is different , and often races of bees behave different in the same place. if what you tried did not work shift a little on source or race.

good luck

GG
 

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I started this year with two boxes of bees and blank foundation. I may have pushed a little too hard on trying to get them to produce comb. If there were two frames of brood, I'd slap a blank frame of foundation between them to violate bee space. At the end of the year, I had a decent amount of comb across the two hives and the splits, but they all seemed to be what I would expect to be low on honey.

Somewhere I had heard one pound of comb cost seven pounds of honey.

Could this be part of our problem?
 

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I started this year with two boxes of bees and blank foundation. I may have pushed a little too hard on trying to get them to produce comb. If there were two frames of brood, I'd slap a blank frame of foundation between them to violate bee space. At the end of the year, I had a decent amount of comb across the two hives and the splits, but they all seemed to be what I would expect to be low on honey.

Somewhere I had heard one pound of comb cost seven pounds of honey.

Could this be part of our problem?
Myrdale,, you are lucky you did not chill brood.

Imagine if one day sitting on your chair, the house got chopped in 1/2 and a "empty" room stuffed in the middle.
then as soon as you got that "violation" repaired, it happened again.

I am a supporter of brood nest Integrity, and would not even try this "strategy"
Perhaps other nest disturbers could offer better comment.

so how many total frame did you get drawn? how many did you expect?
what was the flow like in your locale? did you feed during the comb draw?

I may be guessing, but starting with blank frames and expecting a split, and crop , may have been aggressive.

yes the math I recall is 7 pounds of honey or Syrup to make a pound of wax. It is more of a fact than a problem IMO.

For comb drawing, I would recommend, 5 or 8 frame with some 2:1 syrup available. NUC ish size hives draw fairly good comb quickly. Check with locals to understand the flow where you are at, it is possible , there is a dearth or two to manage thru. As well did you use "plastic" some times the bees do not really draw the plastic as well. One could try wax foundation, if you have not.

GG
 

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While I agree with all of the above, one of the most important things you can do to help yourself be successful is join a local bee club and get a mentor. Beekeeping is based on location and you can't get the fine details from books/videos. A local beekeeper can be an invaluable resource... Blessings...........
 
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