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Top Bar Hive Bees buidling on TOP of top bars and the lid!

 
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autenrietha
New Bee


Joined: 02 Aug 2014
Posts: 5
Location: Michigan

PostPosted: Sat Aug 02, 2014 4:32 pm    Post subject: Top Bar Hive Bees buidling on TOP of top bars and the lid! Reply with quote

So, I'm not sure if this truly qualifies as an emergency but my bees have been very busy building away and now seem to have begun building into the top space of the top bar hive (above the bars). I believe they began doing this because there were two bars that had not been put into the hive since I was still feeding them via sugar water through jar with holes in the top (I live in Northern Michigan and there was not enough food available in our area until very recently). They are doing extremely well and have built brood all along the middle of the top bars and are building along the remaining top bars and filling them with honey (I think, this is my first year) but I'm worried I may not be able to get into the hive eventually.

Should I simply let them keep building at this point (or do I really have a choice?) or should I attempt to remove the comb they've built above the top bars (they've built most of it into the "dome" part of the lid of the top bar)? If they're building up on top does that mean they are going to run out of room? They haven't filled all of the bars yet but are working on that now as well as building above.

If they are only putting honey in the dome of the top bar lid can I simply wait and harvest that in Spring? I want them to have as much food as possible since our winters are very severe here so the thought of removing any potential honey that they could eat over the winter is worrisome. Also, one of my feeders is still in the hive but they've built completely around it, should I attempt to get it out or leave it?

Sorry for the long post and many questions but I'm in need of advice and want to be sure I'm doing what's best for my bees! Thank you in advance for your help!
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Barbara
Site Admin


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

PostPosted: Sat Aug 02, 2014 6:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi and welcome to the forum.

How many combs are there below the bars and how many above?

Your problem is going to be ensuring that those combs above the bars do not get raided by wasps or other bees intent on robbing and in fact the whole hive if you don't block that gap in the bars as it is very difficult to make the roof wasp/bee proof. I would say that you have perhaps been quite lucky not to have been targeted by robbers already if you were feeding them above the bars with a gap. For future reference, if you feed them above the top bars, make sure that all the bars are in place and any access hole into the feeder is completely covered by the feeder, so that bees cannot access the roof space nor invaders potentially access the hive. An attack by robbers can wipe a hive out in a matter of a few days and it is very difficult to stop once it has started.

So now the question is, how to deal with it. I assume there is comb below the bars that are built on above, so it's not a simple-ish matter of turning them up the other way. I'm also guessing that the combs above are not built nicely in line with the bars..... that would be too much to hope for.

I would probably go for cutting them off and placing them, propped up on a shallow tray inside the hive for the bees to clean out. Perhaps do it 1 or 2 combs at a time and once the bees have emptied them, then attach them to empty top bars for them to refill. There are various ways to attach them.... ask if you need more info on that. Make sure that you spill as little honey/nectar as possible and ensure there is a tray underneath them inside the hive if you have an open mesh floor so that it doesn't drip out and attract robbers. At this time of year, robbing is much more prevalent, so please do be vigilant. Also, reduce the entrance, so if robbers are attracted, they can more easily defend their hive. The important thing is to close up that gap though and ensure there are no other gaps...... I've just seen my friend's colony wiped out by wasps because there were some tiny gaps here and there. It was heartbreaking to see the piles of dead bees and empty comb and the pitiful cluster of bees that were left.

Hope it all goes well whatever you do.

Best wishes

Barbara
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autenrietha
New Bee


Joined: 02 Aug 2014
Posts: 5
Location: Michigan

PostPosted: Sun Aug 03, 2014 2:59 am    Post subject: Thank you and additional questions Reply with quote

Hi Barbara,
Thank you so much for your help.
I will begin working on removing all the comb above and placing it below. You mentioned you may be able to give some advice on how to attach the comb to the bar. I would really appreciate that advice, I have no clue how to do it.
Also, can you recommend any other ways to feed the bees if not from above? I know I'm going to want to feed them in the Spring if they survive the winter and if they don't survive I'll want to feed the new bees I get.
So, basically, I need to be sure to seal up any gaps so that the bees (nor anything else) can get into the spaces above, correct? Just want to be sure.
Thank you again and I look forward to hearing from you.
Cheers,
Ashley
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Dexter's shed
Scout Bee


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

PostPosted: Sun Aug 03, 2014 10:02 am    Post subject: Re: Thank you and additional questions Reply with quote

autenrietha wrote:
can you recommend any other ways to feed the bees if not from above?


rather than removing bars, drill a 2" hole in the centre of a dummy bar and place your jar over that, simples
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Barbara
Site Admin


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

PostPosted: Sun Aug 03, 2014 10:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are many documented ways and a search on you tube will probably be very helpful as pictures/video are so much more informative than words (a search for "cut out" or "correcting cross comb" should bring them up as these are the most common requirement situations) but just quickly, a few options.....

Ladies hair clasps fastened to the bars with fine wire or cable ties..... at some point you will need to cut the clasps out of the comb that they build around/through them.

Masking tape slings.... I quite like this because it's cheap and simple and the bees eat through it and remove it from the hive once they have reattached the comb. I use 2 or 3 per comb... over the bar round the comb and back over the bar with a good bit of overlap to keep it secure.

Chicken mesh stapled to the top of the bars then bent down the sides and the ends bent at 90degrees and embedded into the comb like claws.

Just cable ties, if the comb is old and seasoned.... but it doesn't work well with new comb that is full of brood/honey as the weight just pulls it through and it collapses.

As I said, it's best to put any honey combs to one side in the back of the hive for the bees to clean out and then reattach them when they are empty, as it's such a messy job trying to reattach heavy fragile honey comb.

Best of luck with it whichever method you choose. Make sure you have everything you need to hand before you start and ideally have a spare pair of hands to help you.

As Dexter's Shed says, a special wider bar with a hole cut out just less than
the size of your feeder jar, or you could place a shorter similar piece of wood with a hole in it, inside the hive creating a shelf on which to stand the inverted jar, just behind their nest, so that the feeder is next to them rather than above them. I usually place another slightly shorter solid piece of wood below it, so that taking into account the sloping sides of the hive it forms another shelf for the bees to stand on to access the inverted jar and also to catch any drips. In fact I attach both "shelves" together with a 1/4 inch spacer on 2 or 3 sides and this works really well for me. Afraid I don't have the facilities to take and post photos, but it's basically a 2 tier platform with 1/4 inch gap between them and a hole in the top one for the jar to sit over and the whole thing rests on the sloping sides of the hive like a shelf, low enough that the top bars can be replaced above the jar to seal the hive. Hope that's more clear than mud!
It's really important not to allow the syrup to drip out of the hive if you have a mesh floor though, so keep an eye on things

Regards

Barbara
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autenrietha
New Bee


Joined: 02 Aug 2014
Posts: 5
Location: Michigan

PostPosted: Mon Aug 04, 2014 1:14 pm    Post subject: Comb removed from top and lid but may now have wasps Reply with quote

Ok, so when I got back into the hive the next day they had built even more in the lid than I thought. I removed the biggest pieces of comb and put them in a tray which I was able to put below so that they could remove the honey and I will try and attach the comb after they've taken out the honey. I was very concerned that they would simply keep building up above so I ended up going back in later that day and removing all the comb that they had built in the lid (I filled an entire mixing both with it, it probably weighed 15-20 lbs.).
I feel terrible since they worked so hard on all of this and I had to take it all away (I was terrified that if I left it out it would attract wasps or yellow jackets).
So, here are my next MAJOR concerns:
1) When I went back this morning there were at least 2 wasps that we saw flying around (one even landed on some of the bees that were congregated outside of the hive). I'm going to place a wasp trap (or 5!) near the hive to try and catch any invaders.
Any other advice anyone would recommend? There is no comb nor honey outside the hive at this point.
2) I'm having entrance issues. The bees are able to access the hive in the bottom (not on purpose mind you) and they prefer that over the holes we drilled on the side. We have wire mesh on the bottom and a board (which is removable) for air movement and to allow for dead bees to be removed when necessary. What is the best way to seal up the wire mesh area so that they are forced to use the holes? I don't want to use any chemicals if possible. I'd like to seal that up little by little so that the bees aren't completely confused on how to get in and out.

I can't get over just how incredible bees are. I have to say I was nearly in tears yesterday as I destroyed all the hard work they'd done and they did NOTHING to me. Not one attempt even at stinging me. I felt terrible that as much as I was trying to provide a good home for them I didn't have the knowledge to know to stop them in the very beginning of building on top of the bars. They are amazing little creatures and continue to astound me as I learn more and more about them.

Thank you for your advice everyone and I welcome your any thoughts you may have on what I've posted thus far.
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Barbara
Site Admin


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

PostPosted: Mon Aug 04, 2014 2:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi again

So sorry that you are finding things traumatic at the moment but it will hopefully get better once things settle down.
We have all done things to our bees that we are not comfortable with or happy about I imagine ..... (I certainly have and probably will be again this afternoon when I plan to turf a whole colony out of their home, rob them of their comb, stores and babies and make them build a new home in an empty brand new hive..... all for their wellbeing as they are badly infected with Deformed wing virus) My point is that sometimes we have to be a bit brutal and as long as we make sure that it is for their benefit and not ours then hopefully we can come to accept it. I've been doing a lot of soul searching about this in recent weeks as a result of various procedures I've carried out, so I really understand your discomfort.

As regards the problem, for information, they would have stopped building above as soon as the access was cut off from the colony below although there was always a chance that they would try to raise an emergency queen up there if there was any brood.

It's probably as well to get it all sorted at one go though, both for them and you. The wasps will smell the honey once the comb is broken/cut off and may get into the roof space to clean up any spillage however minimal. The important thing is to ensure they can't get into the hive body where the main colony is.

At the moment it sounds like the mesh you used was not sufficiently small guage to prevent both bees and wasps getting through it. (wasps can usually get through a slightly smaller space than bees in my experience, so if bees get in, so will wasps unless the bees prevent them, but a large area of open mesh will need a large number of bees to guard it and this may be happening at the expense of the entrance you provided them with.
This is a big problem that needs sorting straight away. Like the comb building problem, I'm afraid you are probably best to bite the bullet and deal with it in one go.
Does your removable solid floor fit on so that it is bee/wasp tight...... ie when the board is in place, can any bees get in? If so then that will make things much easier.
What I would do is either....

drill several !-2inch diameter holes along it's length and cover them with a suitable mesh that will not allow bees and wasps through....

or if you can't find suitable mesh....

drill numerous tiny individual holes in it that bees/wasps cannot get through (1/8 inch). Maybe even drill them in clusters to simulate the bigger mesh covered holes suggested above.

This means that the bees will still have some air flow which they are obviously used to, but will prevent access to them or wasps and ensure that the guards can focus their attention on keeping the main entrance secure.

If you prepare the board in advance and then put it on late at night when all the bees are at home and put a loose twist of grass in the entrance, then hopefully the bees will take not when they fight their way out of the grass the next day that things have changed and they will reorientate to the new entrance. You may get quite a few that forget and try to get in the bottom, but they will eventually figure it out. Scooping up any clusters of bees that insist upon trying to get into the bottom on an evening and dumping them on a ramp in front of the proper entrance will help and they will eventually get the message.

The beauty of drilling some holes in the solid bottom board and/or covering them with mesh is that the bees can regulate the internal atmosphere in the hive much better than with an open mesh floor, which is really quite an unnatural structure and is probably more for the beekeeper's "supposed" benefit than the bees. With the smaller holes and/or mesh, the bees are able to propolise over the mesh if they want less air flow or remove propolis if they want more.
Some of us operate solid bottom hives all year round, so please don't get into the mind set that bees "like" or need all that mesh and air flow below them..... think natural tree cavities!

Anyway, that's the best I can do at answering your query, but I can't stress enough to you and other people who may be reading this, how important it is to have and keep the hive body bee/wasp proof apart from the intended entrance. Always ensure that all top bars are fitted along the full length of the hive, not just the end where the bees are. Keep them all up snug against each other and keep scrap pieces of timber of the same length as top bars but varying widths, to plug any gaps that may arise as a result perhaps of packing out honey comb bars that are overlapping onto neighbouring bars.

Hope you manage to get them sorted with minimal fuss. Sounds like you have some lovely natured bees there.

Best wishes

Barbara

If the wasps continue to show an interest, put out some wasp traps.
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Adam Rose
Silver Bee


Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 586
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Mon Aug 04, 2014 2:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I get a sponge used for washing cars and cut it into whatever shape and size is needed, and just stuff it into whatever hole I want to block. If you notice them continuing to use that hole, just cut a smaller piece of sponge and stuff that in as well.

After a while you can tape over the sponge to properly insulate and rain proof it, although it will eventually get propolised on the inside if the bees care about air or water getting in.
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trekmate
Golden Bee


Joined: 30 Nov 2009
Posts: 1125
Location: UK, North Yorkshire, Bentham

PostPosted: Mon Aug 04, 2014 4:40 pm    Post subject: Re: Comb removed from top and lid but may now have wasps Reply with quote

autenrietha wrote:
.... We have wire mesh on the bottom and a board (which is removable) for air movement and to allow for dead bees to be removed when necessary. What is the best way to seal up the wire mesh area so that they are forced to use the holes? .....

Does that mean the board is ABOVE the mesh and slides in through a slot? If so, I'd add a batten to the board to cover the slot completely when closed and leave the board in, or as a temporary measure use sponge as suggested by Adam.
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autenrietha
New Bee


Joined: 02 Aug 2014
Posts: 5
Location: Michigan

PostPosted: Wed Aug 13, 2014 1:44 am    Post subject: Update and Thank You! Reply with quote

So, I set out some wasp traps but apparently didn't need to. After we put a new bottom board on the hive the bees got right to work and "removed" any wasps. By "remove" I mean we actually saw two of them carry out a wasp from the hive, throw it on the ground and beat the cr@p* out of it (it was awesome!). They are currently working away in the hive and we are hopeful that all is well again in our hive.
One bonus of all of this is that I learned how to harvest the honey we collected from the roof (we simply couldn't fit it all back in the hive). We ended up with 2.75 QUARTS of honey which I'm going to use to feed the bees in the spring after winter (we have AWFUL winters here in Northern MI and nary a beehive makes it through winter without being fed in very early Spring). I also got to reuse the wax and made my own candles. Since I've done both the Langstroth method and the top bar method for honey collection I can now say without a doubt I enjoyed the top bar hive method WAY more. So much easier and I really like the idea that you harvest in the spring after they've used what they needed in the winter.
Thank you so much to everyone for all of their helpful suggestions, especially Barbara. You all saved my hive! Thank you again and I really look forward to learning more from this great website.
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Barbara
Site Admin


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

PostPosted: Wed Aug 13, 2014 10:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Congratulations on sorting the problem. Great to hear that they are now able to fend off the wasps and protect the hive. Let's hope they have enough time to replace the honey they lost and make it through winter safely.

So pleased to be able to help.

Best wishes

Barbara
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