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Top Bar Hive, Big Ball of Bees

 
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DavidG
New Bee


Joined: 28 Mar 2014
Posts: 3
Location: Canada

PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 5:47 pm    Post subject: Top Bar Hive, Big Ball of Bees Reply with quote

I've recently returned to bee-keeping, and to my top-bar hives.

I started with a package of bees a two weeks back, and so-far, so-good.

I've been looking in the hive when the weather has been good and the bees are flying, making sure there is still feed and that nothing is going terribly wrong. I keep looking for new comb, but all I see are bees.

It was sunny yesterday, so I thought I would check the hive. Inside, it's still a large ball of bees, hanging on the top-bars. I can't see inside this ball to see what sort of comb they are building.

I've read that other people see multiple combs after a week. All I see is bees.

I'm afraid of disturbing the ball, as I could injure or kill the queen. But if I let them go too long without checking, I could get some bad comb.

I'm also a little suspicious about the location of the bees - they are off-center, close to the side of the top hive, right above the entrances. They could be building along the bars, or they could be building across the bars.

Anyone have suggestions or thoughts?
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zaunreiter
Moderator Bee


Joined: 26 Nov 2007
Posts: 3097
Location: Germany, NorthWest

PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 7:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Difficult to say. Too early to start a package on plain topbars I'd say. How are the ambient temperatures right now? After two weeks comb should be there. Did you release the queen?

Usually it is not good when the cluster sits at the sides and not in the center. But if they cluster there must be a queen. Or it is very cold. Then they cluster because it is cold.

Pictures would help.
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DavidG
New Bee


Joined: 28 Mar 2014
Posts: 3
Location: Canada

PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the reply. I'll see what I can do about pictures.

Our climate is temperate - it's 9-12 Celsius during the day, and 4-8 Celsius overnight.

I saw a bee come in with two good-sized pollen sacks yesterday - several shrubs are blooming, cherry is just starting to bloom.

I put a very small amount of candy to block the cage, and I set it down against the side of the hive (not the side the bees are balling around). She was out the next day.

I'll see what I can do about pictures.
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J Smith
Foraging Bee


Joined: 13 Jan 2014
Posts: 169
Location: New Zealand, South Island, Southland, Riversdale.

PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 7:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How are your top bars constructed?
What kind of "starter" do they have to build from?

Could it be you have a package of quite old bees? Young bees are the better wax producers, your Queen (if mated) needs comb in which to lay and produce young bees to produce more fresh comb.
At the moment you might be in a "catch 22" situation, you need new comb but may not have the bees to produce it?

Is there another keeper somewhere near by you know of that could supply a small amount of empty comb? I know there are problems associated with introducing comb from another hive and possible disease transfer, but I would be looking at removing at least one bar and introducing some comb to it, before adding the bar back into the hive close to the cluster.
At the very least I would think about adding foundation strips (maybe 1" deep) to 3-4 bars near the entrance to give them a directional head start.

If you are seeing pollen coming in, I am willing to bet there is a small section or sections of comb somewhere in that cluster, but it may not be enough for them to really get going.
Personally, I would think seriously about feeding within or close to the hive with a rich syrup to encourage comb building (suggest a false nectar flow and stimulate comb making) and take a good look/inspection inside on a calm warm day when most of the foragers are flying, just to see for yourself what is what.
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rmcpb
Scout Bee


Joined: 17 Jul 2011
Posts: 447
Location: Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia

PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 8:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good advice from the Kiwi.
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DavidG
New Bee


Joined: 28 Mar 2014
Posts: 3
Location: Canada

PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 9:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Boy - lots to respond to.

My top-bars were based on Phil's plans, a few years back. Standard sizes, I believe. I cut a kerf in the top bar and glued in a wooden strip, and then "painted" with wax. Many of these top bars did have comb built on them before.

The package came from New Zealand - where we in Canada get our packages. Expensive, and a winter cluster, but that's our only option typically.

I don't think anyone close by keeps top-bar hives. And typically comb is removed full of honey, and crushed. I will look, but it's unlikely.

I am feeding with 1-1 sugar/water syrup - I wouldn't assume that they would have enough food this time of year.

Unfort, we don't have what I would call "warm" days yet - IE it's not t-shirt weather yet, and may not be for another month...
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J Smith
Foraging Bee


Joined: 13 Jan 2014
Posts: 169
Location: New Zealand, South Island, Southland, Riversdale.

PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 10:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well there is half your problem- jetlagged upside down bees! Laughing

Seriously though, sounds like your bars are of a type they should enjoy. I am guessing all old comb was removed from them before you introduced the package, but there is still some remnant and the melted wax "guide", so they should be happy enough.
If you are feeding (and they are taking it), you have seen pollen going in odds are they have somewhere to deposit it.
Personally I would like to "see" comb to set my mind at ease, but I have not had this particular quandary to deal with before.

Any comb sourced from outside would not have to be from a top bar, comb cut from any hive style could be used. You just have to think seriously about just what you might be introducing with it. Wink
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rmcpb
Scout Bee


Joined: 17 Jul 2011
Posts: 447
Location: Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 6:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If they are bringing in pollen and taking syrup you should be right. They are probably making comb under the ball of bees but slowly. At your current temperatures my bees would be knitting jumpers, not building comb. Give them a bit of time. Sounds like its a bit too early over there but they are resilient little beasts.
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Barbara
Site Admin


Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1581
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 3:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am sad to read this thread!

I have pondered about whether to post my views or not and have come back to it because my conscience tells me I should.

I appreciate that honey bees are not native to the USA and Canada but are now widely distributed. I also understand that honey bees in some parts of both countries have problems overwintering and I believe that obtaining bees from across the US/Canada is difficult (not permitted even?).

What I am really struggling with is that "we" as a "Natural Beekeeping Community" accept without comment, that bees, which should be going into winter mode, are routinely shipped from one side of the globe to the other to prop up an ailing industry (possibly ailing because these bees are expected to do a double season). I accept that the recipient in this case is a hobby beek, but if it is done for the "sake of bees" as many members of this forum do, then surely this makes the situation even more contentious.

My view of the practical aspects of the OPs situation is that the weather conditions are still too cool to expect bees to build a nest and colony (at normal rates) at this time of year. It it not normal for a swarm to start the process yet in a temperate climate, let alone a colony which should be setting itself up for winter. I accept that it is standard practice in Canada to do this and that many colonies do survive and I'm pretty sure this colony will do so too and in another week you will see comb protruding from the cluster, but whether it is in the best interests of the bees in the long run, I very much doubt.

There are several other aspects of this situation that are all part of the man made problems bees face, but I don't want to get into the whole "package" debate etc. here.

Do bees swarm in Canada? If not, then you have to ask yourself why because it means they are not flourishing. Perhaps that is because they are not meant to live there or they are too stressed from traveling half way around the world and doing a double season shift. If they do, then why can't people catch them or use bait hives to lure them rather than encouraging this unnatural practice.

The object of this post is not to have a go at the Original Poster (DavidG I'm sorry, I really don't mean this personally), but to make people think about what they are doing and why and challenge existing practices rather than just accepting them, and perhaps to suggest they have a little more patience when it comes to beekeeping. So many people decide they want bees and suddenly it is a race to get set up and buy some and get them built up in record time by feeding them syrup. I accept package bees need feeding, but swarms do not take off with even 2 pints of honey in their stomachs, so why do people feel the need to feed a package literally gallons of syrup?

Will now step down off my soap box and wait for the missiles to start flying my way! Rolling Eyes

Regards

Barbara
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