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New bees absconded

 
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Paul Milne
House Bee


Joined: 17 Jun 2013
Posts: 15
Location: Dunbar, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jun 02, 2014 10:50 am    Post subject: New bees absconded Reply with quote

Hi, I have been a top-bar beekeeper for about 5 days, but when I looked at my hive this morning, they have all (apart from about a dozen live bees, none of which is a queen) left, or died, or something.

The story is last Wednesday I got a call from a friend who said a local beekeeper had contacted him to say he'd caught a swarm and would we like to have it for one of our top bars hives (we got a delivery of 4 which are scattered around the area last year). So after some frantic rushing around on my part they arrived with a box of bees (one section of a national or smith hive).

After some faffing around the bees went in, but in a very haphazard way. They chap who caught the swarm is a very experienced beekeeper, but has no experience and little knowledge of top bars. I'd left one end completely open beyond a follower board and loads of bees wound up in there. We had to move the follower board to the end and close it up, so they wound up with a lot more initial space than was probably desired.

He also said to leave all three centre holes open "to give them a chance", but afterwards I was reading that you should only leave one hole open.

He told us we should feed them to give them a good start (it was chucking it down with rain on that day, last Wednesday), and told us how to cut a hole in a bag of sugar and pour in warm water until it was a fudgy consistency.

This we did, and closed the hive up, hoping we'd done a good enough job.

On Saturday (day 3) we went out to check on them, and there was granulated sugar all over the ground underneath where they had chewed the bag of sugar open on the side and it spilled out. There were loads of bees around it, and some of them may have been from a nearby hive.

There were also a lot of bees buzzing around the bottom of the hive at one end, closed off by the follower boards. We opened that and found loads of bees in the empty space at the end.

The fellow who made the boards had used some wire mesh on the edges of the follower boards to make a seal, but we had it the wrong way round so the bees were crawling through a space under the follower board but were unable to get back because the wire was on the outside. So my friend and I let the bees in there get out, then flipped the follower boards around so the wire was on the inside. Hard to explain but it made sense at the time.

We also took away the bag of sugar because it was spilling all over the place. We also noticed a lot of dead bees in the bottom of the hive. We also closed up some of the empty space so the cavity was not so large.

But we were encouraged that they had started building a couple of nice straight combs and it looked as if there was some pollen going in.

We left them alone on Sunday (yesterday), and I boiled up what was left in the bag of sugar and left it to solidify, intending to put it back in this morning. Went out on Sunday to have a look a couple of times, I could see there was hardly any activity around the hive and when I went over to it I didn't notice much buzzing coming from inside the hive. I did check the spaces beyond the follower boards to make sure no bees had gotten through, but I didn't want to open the hive again at that point.

I went out this morning before coming to work to put the sugar mixture back in the hive, and put my ear to it. Silence. With some trepidation (I wasn't suited up) I opened it up. Just the two combs still there, no more; lots of dead bees in the bottom and maybe a dozen demoralized looking bees wandering around on the comb.

So, first swarm and attempt at beekeeping an utter failure. Not sure if it was something we did or the queen got lost/killed in the shuffle somewhere or if they just decided to look somewhere else!

Will this remain a mystery or is there something I can learn apart from be better prepared next time? There are a lot of lessons learnt, just a shame a colony bees was the price I paid for learning them!
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Dexter's shed
Scout Bee


Joined: 16 May 2014
Posts: 307
Location: Grays, Essex, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jun 02, 2014 4:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think you'll need to put it down as a learning curve, it's always better to catch you own swarm rather than relying on someone else
as for your sugar mix, it sounds a bit strong, if you have no space above the top bars to fit a jar type feeder, I would suggest a jiffy bag, use a 50;50 mix water and sugar, just use boiling water from the kettle, let it cool, then place in jiffy bag and seal, with a few pin pricks in one side, then lay it on the floor of hive
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Paul Milne
House Bee


Joined: 17 Jun 2013
Posts: 15
Location: Dunbar, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jun 02, 2014 9:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Dexter, thanks for the advice about feeding them, I've made a kind of hard candy, but I might try your mix as well.

Anyway, the latest is that there is another swarm I and a few others are trying to catch, it was one of these that was on a fencepost/rail/flowerpot, all entwined, no idea where the queen was in that lot. Bottom line is we have positioned a large box over the swarm and draped a sheet over for the night, and put a frame of comb from a national hive into the box as well as a lure, we will be back first thing in the morning to see if we can get the box sealed up and into the car.

I'll keep you posted.
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AugustC
Silver Bee


Joined: 08 Jul 2013
Posts: 613
Location: Malton, North Yorkshire

PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2014 9:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As far as hiving a swarm goes I believe the idea is:
(1) Give them 10-15 bars worth of space.
(2) Leave only one entrance open.
(3) If you have a screen bottom ensure it is covered as any light getting in can upset them.
(4) Only feed if weather indicates.
(5) A few (only a few) drops of lemon grass oil can help keep them in.
(6) An old piece of brood comb can help keep them in.
(7) Try not to disturb them.
(Cool They might very well still bugger off anyway.

Some people put queen excluders over the entrance for the first few days to stop the queen leaving but Barbara put forward the point that if the queen was slimmed down before swarming she may well be able to pass through it anyway.

I would recommend setting up your empty hives as bait hives until they are populated. It can't hurt, and you might just catch something. Best of luck next time.
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Paul Milne
House Bee


Joined: 17 Jun 2013
Posts: 15
Location: Dunbar, UK

PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2014 9:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi AC,

Well, pursuant to my last post, we got the new swarm in this morning! Following your advice, apart from the lemon grass oil which I didn't have any of, the comb that the last lot drew is still in the hive (one broke unfortunately but I put it in anyway) and an empty frame from a national hive just to help them feel like it's a bee-friendly space.

I have fed them because the forecast is for a few days of rotten weather so this might help them feel a bit more secure. I'll see how it goes and when the weather clears I'll un-feed them.

Fingers crossed, I might have a peek at the weekend to make sure all is well, and take out the old broken comb and hive.
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Dexter's shed
Scout Bee


Joined: 16 May 2014
Posts: 307
Location: Grays, Essex, UK

PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2014 10:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

fondant is good stuff, but I think your failing to look at the whole picture, it takes a lot of work and energy for bees to use fondant, they need to add water to it to be able to use it, sugar/syrup 50;50 can be used straight away


now, back to a swarm, they don't need feeding, just think about it, they fill their bellies before swarming, they could land in a suitable hollow log and start building a new home, no one feeds them there.

so once a swarm is hived, let them settle, after 5 days have a peek and if the weather has been bad, or in that 5 days you have not seen much pollen being taken in, then a feed of sugar water can be given

don't feed too much, as you'll have a virgin queen/mated queen, at some point they want to lay eggs, if you continue given food, all the cells can get filled by over active bees, leaving the queen no where to lay

heres a few films to show my latest swarm and feeding and building comb

http://youtu.be/JhXOKrEZURA

ok, now six days later I feed them sugar syrup

http://youtu.be/kt9U6rVG4Tw

and a further six days you can see they have comb, around five frames, but it wont take them long to build more

http://youtu.be/8FsFpRC0e34

the next day I removed the feeder
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Dexter's shed
Scout Bee


Joined: 16 May 2014
Posts: 307
Location: Grays, Essex, UK

PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2014 10:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

AugustC wrote:
As far as hiving a swarm goes I believe the idea is:
(1) Give them 10-15 bars worth of space.
(2) Leave only one entrance open.

look at my films, the whole entrance is wide open
(3) If you have a screen bottom ensure it is covered as any light getting in can upset them.

they are on an 18"x18" mesh floor
(4) Only feed if weather indicates.

true
(5) A few (only a few) drops of lemon grass oil can help keep them in.
(6) An old piece of brood comb can help keep them in.

wax starter strips is all they need
(7) Try not to disturb them.
(Cool They might very well still bugger off anyway.

Some people put queen excluders over the entrance for the first few days to stop the queen leaving but Barbara put forward the point that if the queen was slimmed down before swarming she may well be able to pass through it anyway.

queen excluders would also stop a princess from leaving on a mating flight, possibly causing a drone laying queen, which will end up killing the colony,

I would recommend setting up your empty hives as bait hives until they are populated. It can't hurt, and you might just catch something. Best of luck next time.
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Paul Milne
House Bee


Joined: 17 Jun 2013
Posts: 15
Location: Dunbar, UK

PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2014 2:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was of two minds about feeding them, mainly because of what you said about them having full bellies. I went ahead because the forecast here isn't good for the next few days and I didn't know how often they'd be able to get out to forage. I guess it's like being an over-anxious parent! But I do take your point about fondant as well. Sugar syrup is probably better in this case. I'll make some up tonight and take the fondant away, then decide when/if to feed based on what the weather does.

thanks again for all the good advice, I'll keep you posted. Just hope they stay this time!
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Paul Milne
House Bee


Joined: 17 Jun 2013
Posts: 15
Location: Dunbar, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2014 11:14 am    Post subject: Day 7 Reply with quote

Day 7 of the new swarm, they had a pretty good weekend weather-wise and I have observed pollen going into the hive, so it's good on that count.

I had a quick tidy up on Saturday lunchtime. When we put the bees in we put in a half-frame with some foundation to help them feel more at home, along with a tub of fondant. I wanted to retrieve that.

Well, these bees decided to start on the opposite end from where the first swarm started, so I opened up what i thought was going to be the quiet end only to find the main mass of bees! I had a time getting first the (empty) fondant tub out and then the half-frame, which they had covered and were starting to draw comb out on, even though it was lying on its side along the bottom of the hive. Worse than that though was that I think they were planning to attach a hanging comb to it. In any case, the first comb coming down had a lovely 90 degree twist to it at the bottom, wish I had taken a picture of it, it was unlike anything I've seen pictures of! I assume that gravity won't allow it to stay like that, but I'll see what has happened next time I open the hive, which will likely be the weekend again.

Though I was happy to see them busy and stuck in and getting on with making a home, it wasn't the tidiest as far as comb hanging neatly on the bars, so I have my work cut out for me. I just need to have a plan to deal with what I might find.

No food in for them at the moment, but they seem to be doing okay. I'll keep an eye out for that.
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madasafish
Silver Bee


Joined: 29 Apr 2009
Posts: 880
Location: Stoke On Trent

PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2014 12:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, these bees decided to start on the opposite end from where the first swarm started, so I opened up what i thought was going to be the quiet end only to find the main mass of bees

I always feel the topbars with the palm of my hand before opening up. The warmer ones are those with bees or brood and bees.
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Dexter's shed
Scout Bee


Joined: 16 May 2014
Posts: 307
Location: Grays, Essex, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2014 1:55 pm    Post subject: Re: New bees absconded Reply with quote

Paul Milne wrote:
There are a lot of lessons learnt,


even those of us who have had bees a few years, make silly mistakes, I wanted to run hives in my woodland using the rose hive method, and had a few boxes on order, but then a swarm came along, so I thought I'd use a commercial super to start them on Embarassed in my rush, I forgot to remove the metal spacing bars to get the frames closer together, and this happened

http://youtu.be/TG7GezNEbzc

it's a good learning curve, and proves the point about bee space, but they are happy and doing what bees do best, I'll let them carry on in this box, as Ive now seen and marked the queen, and we have seen eggs and brood in all stages, so there really is no need to look again, once that box is three quarters full, I'll add a rose box above it, then next year the commercial box can be moved upwards until its a stores only box, then we can remove it
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