Friday, July 25, 2008

Two Hives Gone - One More Left

The bees from the small nuc finally left. I haven't been home during daylight hours to see if I could find them somewhere. Nevertheless, with the one remaining hive I have, I have to try something to combat the ant problem. Also, a local beek suggested a "bee friendly" ant killer. I looked it up and it looks like the main active ingredient is DE (Diatomaceous Earth). I've got to try something.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bad News - Again

When I got home yesterday evening - catastrophe! The ants robbed this newly transferred colony & they were gone. On top of that, storms had blown the tops off both hives and they were wet. Since the bees were gone, I went ahead and opened it up, looked at the comb and they were thriving. I saw emerging brood, sealed brood - it all looked normal (except for the cross-comb and ants - no honey). So I started investigating and found the cluster in a nearby tree that I could easily access.
Here's what I did: I took the hive, emptied out all the short (15") bars - cross-comb, ants and all. I took a water hose and washed it down & my 17" bars. I then took a towel and dried it the best I could. I then clipped the branch and shook the cluster in. I am almost sure I saw the queen in the hive. Then I commenced to clean up the site. I wiped the concrete blocks of the ants and wet cinnamon left on them and got it ready. I left the hive under the tree until after dark, then I moved it to the blocks. There was a little cluster left on another branch, but I didn't bother them. I hope they will move in, too.
Now - about the ants - something's gotta give. I can continue to pour cinnamon around everything, but by the time I get home, it could be covered up again. Am I gonna have to build a moat around this thing? Anyway, I hope they stay, but I'm afraid they won't have enough time to build back what the ants destroyed. I can only wait and see.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Problems with Small TBH

Well, I transferred the small TBH nuc over to the old abandoned hive yesterday evening. It wasn't pretty. Cross-combed across about 1/2 doz or so bars, HOT, comb breaking, tearing, falling off. Another thing - the bars in the nuc were 15" - the TBH is made for 17" bars - but the 15" will just barely fit. They did have a tendency to try and fall to one side. I wound up just picking up most of the brood nest - bars and all and moving them over. I hope I didn't goof up. From now on I'm gonna use 17" bars on everything. I guess I just need to leave these bees alone until next year and just shake them out next spring with fresh bars.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Back in Business!

Well, guess what? I called the beek Friday eve and he said he had been trying to get in touch with me. He said the last day I talked with him that he hived a swarm in both of the other TBHs (3' plywood & a small nuc) I brought him, and that they have been working in them ever since. So, Saturday evening (after another $100 for the bees) my son and I loaded them up & brought them home.
Yesterday morning b4 church I checked them and they seemed to be doing fine. It didn't take them long to find the abandoned hive I already had and they began robbing what little was left in it. My son wanted to harvest the abandoned combs, so we did (we will melt them down, later).
One 3' hive had a follower about 3/4 back. I could tell that this hive was crowded (he said the swarm was HUGE), and so when we picked up the follower to move it to the rear, there was fully drawn comb on the adjacent bar. I don't know if they started at the front, or the rear. I actually peeked in the nuc Saturday. Looks like they started from the rear & are working towards the front about 1/2 way. I will eventually xfr the nuc to a full TBH. Looks like I am back in business Very Happy!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Quenless - Robbed by Ants!

I am almost sure my hive is queenless. All I have been able to see are drone cells, as per previous inspections. Yesterday I went to check on them and they were all outside the hive - helpless - as small ants were taking over the hive. They had dwindled to little more than a fist-sized clump on the hive. I went in the hive, scraping & brushing ants off the interior and exterior, trying to brush away the ants from the combs that had been built. After this, I misted the clump down, brushed them in a bucket & shook them back in the hive. I reduced it down to just a few bars on either side of the nest, but I'm afraid when I get home today, it won't be a pretty sight.

Observations - Lessons Learned:

  • I should have made a better effort to ensure that the colony was queen-right.
  • I should have controlled the ants with more cinnamon or something else. I knew every time I tried to feed the bees, all the syrup would do is attract ants so I would always remove it after a few days. There was some capped honey left on the combs, but most of the uncapped was gone.
  • I think I messed with them too much. Transferring from the lang. Inspections. Attempts at feeding. Although there are still some foragers, I think the colony has pretty much given up.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Maybe the Last Inspection

I inspected the Top Bar Hive again yesterday, and nothing much has changed. I am almost certain that the larvae is drones, now. About the only thing left to do now is wait and see.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Another Inspection

I looked into the hive again yesterday. It looks like there may be some larvae. Comb building has almost stopped, though, so I still don't know for sure. This may be drone larvae.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Third Inspection

I made my third inspection yesterday. My observations:
  • Bees are still working, but comb-building has slowed
  • There's pollen, nectar, and some capped honey
  • There's still no sign of a queen or brood
I have thought about getting a queen, but the hive is at a state now that it may be too late if it is queenless.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Second Inspection

I made my second inspection about a week after the first. I'm still concerned about the presence of the queen. The beekeeper assured me that there was a queen in there when he captured the swarm, so I'm not giving up hope. The combs are larger and there is pollen and uncapped honey.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The First Inspection

When I transferred the bees to their new home, I put one of the frames from the other hive - upside down - into the Top Bar Hive to encourage these bees to stay. After all, I'm not really keeping them, I'm just trying to create a suitable home and hope they like it enough to stay. After a few days, I removed the frame and noticed that the bees were already building natural comb on the top bars, so it wouldn't be long until I could actually do an inspection. As a note, I didn't see the queen or any evidence of the queen when I did the transfer, so I was hoping that I could see her during my first inspection.

I finally opened the hive up and inspected. During the first inspection, I was mainly just getting a feel for working around the bees and the Top Bar Hive. Still no sign of the queen or brood. All I could do was wait and see. Here's a pic of some of the first natural comb from my Top Bar Hive:

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Video - The Transfer

After a day or so of admiring my new bee colony, I asked in one of the beekeeping forums about transferring the bees to my Top Bar Hive. They advised to go ahead and do it. So I did, yesterday. Here's how it went:
My First TBH Transfer

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Beginning

I constructed my first hive from 3/4" plywood and some other scrap lumber laying around. I then called a few local pest control services and told them that I was a local beekeeper and that if they got any calls for swarms that I would be glad to come and remove them, rather than have the pest control people exterminate them.
I got no calls last year, but I did see an add in the local farmer's bulletin that a beekeeper was selling some of his bees. Turns out, this local beekeeper was letting his hives swarm. He would let you bring your own hive and he would try and catch the swarm in your box, or you could buy one of his hives.
I took my first TBH over and he didn't know what to think at first, but agreed to try and get some bees in it for me. While my son and I were there, he let us watch him catch a swarm for someone else way up in a peach tree. This guy had hundreds of hives and I had a time watching him work. After about a week I called the local beekeeper and he said that he couldn't get any bees to stay in the box I built. I had acquired some lumber from a friend at a local lumber yard and built some more hives along with a smaller version to take to the beekeeper. I took the smaller hive over on May 23, and the beekeeper said that the small box would be more like it.
While I was there I decided to go ahead and purchase one of his boxes with a new swarm that he had captured a few days before. We came over just after dark, placed a strip of masking tape over the entrance, and loaded the box into my pickup. I got the hive home, set it up and my beekeeping journey had begun!

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Welcome to my attempt at a beekeeping blog/journal. I will try to share my experiences with these phenomenal creatures. I am using Top Bar Hives to house these bees for several reasons:
  • Price - you can build one of these with just about any scrap lumber.
  • Natural Comb - since there is no "foundation" on the top bars, the bees build cells the size that they choose.
  • Hive Health - although mites and pests will still get into a Top Bar Hive, the natural cell size seems to be a preventive measure in itself.
I hope you will find some useful info here, and perhaps you can be inspired to begin a beekeeping "journey", too.
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