Beesource Beekeeping Forums banner

1 - 7 of 7 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
32 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My very first bees ever, installed as 4-lb packages in late April; it hasn't even been two months yet!

They were not overcrowded; each hive had mostly filled one medium eight-frame box. I'm running all medium 8-frame boxes, using Kelley's foundationless frames.

One of the hives had two boxes, (the mostly-filled box being the top one) and the other hive had three boxes, (the filled one being in the middle.) So each hive had plenty of room for expansion.

My ability to check the hives was limited by the fact that the bees got ahead of me with building wild comb. I went in and straightened out one hive before they had gotten too far with comb-building, but then we had an extended stretch of cold wet weather and the bees were left to themselves. By the time I could check again, it was too late. Both main brood boxes were all full of perpendicular comb that I couldn't look at. (But what I could see was full of lots of beautiful capped brood, and larva, and pollen, and nectar.) So I concentrated on the empty boxes, which they had just barely begun to expand into. About a week ago, I fixed one comb in a new box with rubber bands.

I'm away from home this week, but my husband called me today and told me both hives had swarmed this afternoon, high into nearby trees. He says there are still bees going in and out of the hive boxes.

Why would they have swarmed so soon? I didn't bother them very often -- not even often enough to straighten out their comb. I fed them til they stopped taking the syrup. I gave them water. They were bringing back lots of pollen.

Now what do I do??
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
173 Posts
The first thing to do is tell your husband to put his gear on and capture those two swarms in your trees first thing in the morning, if they are still there, and hive them! At least then you won't be out any bees. And you can combine them back together after swarm season is over (after blackberries). Doing it right now might not work as both the swarms and the colonies they came from are still thinking "swarm!". You couldn't get in cut out those swarm cells anyway, so don't bother. I'd just keep them as two more new hives and count myself lucky.

As the combs were all helter skelter in the first brood box and you kept feeding them until they wouldn't take it, I wonder if they had backfilled all brood volume with syrup and you couldn't tell. Some bees will stop taking syrup when there are just ok floral sources. Other bees will just keep packing it away until they backfill the brood nest and then swarm on you. That's my guess.

So, next time get into them a little more often even if the weather is a little cool. Our weather (I'm in Seattle) has been really crappy, no doubt, but it hasn't been so bad that much more than a week has gone by where you couldn't have opened up a hive for 5 minutes to prevent misaligned comb. And you're in the banana belt! ;)

I've been in and out of my hives, doing removals from walls of houses, catching swarms, etc. without impacting my colonies at all. I'm not suggesting that you open them up when it's raining, but getting into them will not only fix your comb problem, but you'll know if it's time to stop feeding. Once the bees have capped stores across the top or you see that they are backfilling the brood nest with syrup, it's well past time to removed the feed bag.

As today was a pretty nice day for us compared to the rest of the week, it's not surprising that they picked today to swarm. Same thing happened weekend before last and boom, swarms calls.

Now that they've swarmed what you shouldn't do it dig into those hives. But that sounds problematic with all the screwy comb anyway. Assuming they swarmed and didn't abscond, they left behind queen cells that you don't want to damage.

I run modest apiary of 13 hives foundationless. I don't know how you started your packages, but having both guides on your frames AND a frame of drawn comb (or foundation) to suggest to the bees which way to draw the comb has worked for me without fail. They might step the comb over 1/2 inch from time to time, but never at angles to the frames.

So, again, capture those swarms pronto! Put one of those frames of comb you wired up in the center of a nuc or brood box if that's all you have, and start over. With the blackberry flow in near full swing you will not need to feed them at all. I captured 2 swarms the weekend before last and they are building about a full frame worth of comb ever other day with no feed whatsoever. Give the swarms 2 days alone and then check the combs for straightness. Give them another 4 days or so and check again. If all is well I then check every week just to not miss something. After they get rolling you can feed combs into the center of the broodnest (one at a time) between two fully drawn frames and you will get perfectly straight comb (assuming you hive box is perfectly level in both directions). But don't do it until the population is high enough to fill the gap that the empty frame created.

~Reid
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
32 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks so much for your detailed reply.

So, the two swarms (which camped out for a while 50 feet up in a couple trees) have headed out.

The hives, containing the stay-behind bees, appear (from the outside) to be going about business as usual. How long should I wait before opening them up?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
355 Posts
id open them up right away and fix the misaligned comb. the sooner you fix it the more time they have to settle in before winter. i wonder if they maxed out the first box and wern't anxoius to start on the new boxes because of the lack of one or two drawn frames moved up to the new box. I have learned that my bees are hesitant to move into the new box without a frame or two of drawn comb. when bees are drawing foundationless frames i would peek in every couple of days when they are starting to draw a new box insuring that it is going ok. also dont forget to shove all the frames tight togather in the middle of the box or they will mess them up.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
32 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
After they swarmed, I was much less hesitant about going in and fixing all the wild comb. Once I straightened them all out, then they built beautiful regular comb from then on. The left-behind bees raised queens which have (so far) worked out fine, although it took me a while to realize what was happening. At first I feared that one of the hives had been left queenless and I ordered a new queen right away. By time she arrived, I realized that I didn't need her -- but I couldn't bear to kill a queen, so I split the larger of my two hives so that the new queen would have a place to be. So far, the three hives are wintering over well. I've given them pollen patties and dry sugar as needed, and when the weather is mild they come out on brief cleansing flights. We'll see if they make it to spring.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,526 Posts
Betsy, sounds like you did a good job of trying to straighten everything out.
I wish you luck with your bees making through the winter! I'm hoping on my two hives too. It's hard to wait!
 
1 - 7 of 7 Posts
Top