Friday, April 24, 2009


Date: Fri Apr 24, 2009
Time: 2:30 - 4:30pm
Weather: Clear, breeze, lower 80s

I made the split. Actually 2 of them. I moved the parent hive (#1) to a new location. I put one new hive (#2) in the parent's old location. I placed two bars of brood, bees, pollen and honey in #2 and a few shakes of bees. I also placed two brood bars into #3, but they collapsed as I was trimming them to fit the new design. I left them in #3, with some shakes of bees.

I got one sting behind my right thumb as I was trimming side attachments, so I went ahead and got some gloves on. I still didn't see the queen, but there was still plenty of sealed brood, larvae, and a lot more drone brood. I think the queen is still in #1, but I guess we'll see. There's a good flow going right now, so I'm not feeding. Hope everything works out. I gotta get some pics of the new setup.

Lessons learned:
  • To trim comb to fit the new boxes, turn the bar upside down and hold to the comb as you cut. Also, you could shake bees off comb first.
  • Keep on top of cross comb. the bees don't like me cutting their side attachments, either.
I also built a 5 bar nuc from 1/2" plywood. I think it will come in handy as the swarm season kicks in. I gotta get my other two hives built and hopefully get some bees in them before much longer.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New Hive Design and Updates

I have decided on new dimensions for my TBH design. I have a neighbor who owns a sawmill and I can get rough cut 1"x10" lumber from him. Last Saturday, I purchased a few boards and cut out the pieces for four hive boxes and a few top bars. Monday after work, I put together one of the boxes. The new design will have 20" top bars. I painted the new box Tuesday after work with a mixture of boiled linseed oil and beeswax.

I may be able to split my hive this weekend. I would like to get another box built so that I can totally have all of them the same. Now, to make this work, I will have to screw on extensions to the 15" bars that are in the plywood hive. My plan for the split is:
  1. Maybe today or tomorrow, Screw these extensions onto the 15" bars without opening the tbh.
  2. Saturday - inspect the hive and find the queen.
  3. Transfer the queen, a bar of brood, hopefully a bar of pollen and honey, and some shakes of bees to one of the new boxes. I will add about 4 or 5 empty bars to this hive and a divider - sorta like a nuc. I will loosely close the entrance off with some grass.
  4. With the remaining bees, I will simply place the other box in the location of the old hive, shake them all out of the old hive into the new box and add the remaining frames, since this hive will now be queenless and will need to raise a queen as soon as possible.

Also, I was interviewed by a beekeeper in Northern Kentucky for an upcoming episode of the Beekeeping Podcast, hosted by Darcy Pach. Darcy and I had a fun and interesting discussion on my adventures in top bar hive beekeeping. We also compared the top bar hive to the Langstroth hives that he uses. Thanks, Darcy for putting up with my ramblings.

Darcy's podcast and blog can be found here: NKYBeekeeper

Monday, April 13, 2009

Thorough Inspection - Finally

I finally made it thoroughly through my hive on Saturday. I also got my first sting (what a beauty)! Here are my observations:
Date: Saturday, April 11, 2009
Weather: Overcast, breezy, Low 60s

All of the sugar candy was gone. I didn't see the queen, but I did see capped brood & larvae. There were several frames of brood in the middle, 1 frame of drone comb toward the front, but all honeycomb was empty. They were still bringing in some pollen, not as much as the week before. I had several bars cross-combed toward the front. I think I fixed some of them, but not all. I still had to detach the sides again. Maybe I need to scrape those sides clean. Also, I am thinking about a different design that I have seen lately. The top bars are longer than mine, but the box is not as deep. I think it might be easier to manage.

I did get the one sting on the side of my hand. I think the bee just flew into it. They had been crawling all over my hands with no problems. I noticed that sudden movements would cause them to fly off the comb. I did get quite a few pings on the new veil I got. I also got the new smoker and used it. I have mixed feelings about the smoker. I have read that it masks the alarm pheromone. I have also read that it causes the bees to consume their honey, thinking that they may be forced to leave because of fire, which makes them lethargic, fat and not as able to position their abdomens to sting. With this hive, there was no honey to consume, so what were they to do? I think it probably caused more stress. I probably should have gotten more stings.

In such a case as this (if not all the time) I think a sprayer mixed with water and either sugar or some organic apple cider vinegar would have had a totally different effect on the bees. They may have even welcomed it! Last season I used the water/vinegar mix I read about at the forum, and it seemed to work better, for me anyway.

I added a wide top bar in the back of the hive with a hole to accept an inverted jar of sugar water later Saturday. I checked it Sunday afternoon and some was gone. I don't want these bees to get dependent on feeding, but I think it was necessary. This hive had a late start last year, and it was a HUGE swarm (I don't know how many pounds) that the beekeeper captured from one of his hives! My goal is to have bees that ultimately will need little if any of my intervention (intrusion), and maybe just let me have a bar or two of honey now and then. I think Sam Comfort with Anarchy Apiaries said, "Bees know what's best for bees". I agree.
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