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Comb collapse and absconding bees

 
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Humpy Creek
Nurse Bee


Joined: 11 Apr 2013
Posts: 37
Location: Alexandra, Victoria, Australia

PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 4:23 pm    Post subject: Comb collapse and absconding bees Reply with quote

Yesterday we had 2 combs of honey collapse in the brood nest of a hive. We got to it quickly and cleaned out most of the comb but a couple of hours later another one must have collapsed and the bees decided it was time to get out (fair enough too). It's been insanely hot here this week, the hive is in full shade from midday and we' gave them an empty super on the weekend to improve ventilation (they hadn't bearded at all despite the temp hitting 43 degrees C), but obviously our efforts weren't sufficient to prevent comb collapse.

They have clustered on the front of the hive and were flying around in a cloud until it got dark last night. It's 3am (too flipping hot to sleep) and they are still all over the front of the hive so pretty sure it's swarming and not just massive bearding.

We have an empty hive set up a few metres away on a table as a bait hive (lemongrass lure inside). Is that too close? How far away would be ideal to improve chances of catching them?

Is it likely that they will cluster away from the hive at this point or will they stay on the hive until they find a home? Would it be worth setting a hive, ramp, sheet etc in front of them and just scooping off as many as possible in the hope they walk into the new hive?

We're novices and haven't dealt with this sort of emergency swarming before so any advice would be really appreciated. Really don't want to lose these bees! Oh and it's going to be even hotter today, it will probably get to 44 or 45oC so not sure if that will make it easier or more difficult for us to convince them to move into a home of our choosing. I

Thanks!
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Garret
Golden Bee


Joined: 04 Apr 2009
Posts: 1681
Location: Canada, BC, Delta

PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 5:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What type of hive are you running? Is it natural comb or foundation?

When it is that hot I don't think it is a good idea to open a hive that has natural comb in it. The bees will maintain an in hive temp around 35c so when you open it when 43c out doors that's what is let inside the hive. Once you close it up it can spike even higher. My suspicion is that there has been more combs collapse causing the bees to exit the hive. Eventually they will get things in order but not as tidy as the beekeeper would want.

I don't see those kinds of temps in my location so don't know the best thing to do. Here if I thought that a hive had a comb collapse I would clean it up right away.
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Humpy Creek
Nurse Bee


Joined: 11 Apr 2013
Posts: 37
Location: Alexandra, Victoria, Australia

PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 5:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Garret. Yes, hard to know exactly what to do in these extreme conditions, it's been over 40 degrees for the last 4 days so everything seems to be at breaking point (including us, the lack of sleep isn't helping with decision-making!). We had a comb collapse in another hive the previous day, the bees had already started exiting by the time we got to it. They clustered on the front for a while, cleaned up the honey and went back inside as soon as it got a bit cooler., we gave them even more empty space above the brood chamber and they seem to be ok (touch wood, 44 degrees will be the test).

This latest hive has behaved quite differently, the flying around in a big cloud looked very much like swarming behaviour - the first hive to succumb to the heat hadn't done anything like that. They were madly checking things out too, like the inside of our car and they did have a bit of a look at the bait hive before it started getting dark. My gut tells me they've decided to take off - with the collapsed comb and the disturbance of us going in there to clean up then more collapsed comb I'd be out of there too if I were a bee. It's also possible that brood comb has started collapsing, we didn't go in again when we saw the second lot of honey pouring out because they already looked like they were going to swarm (plus we figured going in again would probably just cause more problems).
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Humpy Creek
Nurse Bee


Joined: 11 Apr 2013
Posts: 37
Location: Alexandra, Victoria, Australia

PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 5:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh and it is natural comb, in a Langstroth.
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J Smith
Foraging Bee


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

PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 6:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So how many boxes do you have fitted?
Is there a top box super on your brood box?
Do you have a solid timber hive floor or a mesh screen?

If you have a top box and it is full of honey stores, I would be tempted to harvest out some full frames and replace with empty frames to help air flow.
Add another empty super to increase air space (as you have done) and look at adding some more ventilation holes to the top cover.
If you can recover the fallen brood and rewire it to the frames, the bees will clean it up. make sure the entry is not blocked by fallen comb and that drenched in honey the bees are becoming entrapped trying to re enter the hive.

The fact they are still bearding on front of the hive means they are still calling it home. If you have had a swarm, some bees should remain (50-60%) to work/repopulate the hive, possibly with a virgin queen and the swarm should not be far away. If they have naturally split you can capture the swarm and try to establish it in your spare hive.

You guys are having a heck of a heatwave over there, good you are concerned for the welfare of your new friends.
Best of luck. Smile
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Humpy Creek
Nurse Bee


Joined: 11 Apr 2013
Posts: 37
Location: Alexandra, Victoria, Australia

PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 7:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, J Smith. Yeah it's a ripper of a heat wave, think we have two more days to go and then we get a break.

The hive has a full depth brood chamber and one empty ideal super (with frames/starter strips). Wooden floor. It came from a split we did a couple of months ago (we were so excited we'd managed to get a split to work first go) so it's only a small colony.

I'm not sure if I've used incorrect terminology and it's causing confusion but I am sure these bees are preparing to abandon the hive (as I guess they would in the wild if something came along and did enough damage to their hive). It looks like the entire colony is on the front of the hive, they are making no effort to clean up the honey from what I can see and last night when they were flying around in a huge cloud it looked, and sounded, a hell of a lot like swarming - they only stopped when it got too dark to fly. I could try to post photos if that might help give people a clearer idea of what's happening? There is a big clump of bees on the grass in front of the hive too. It's 6 am now and it looks like there are already scouts checking out the bait hive. We've seen how they behave when the comb collapses and they intend to stay, this really looks very different.

If they are preparing to abandon the hive, and I'm pretty sure they are, we're not sure exactly what to in terms of ideal placement or the bait hive, if they will likely cluster elsewhere before finding a new home or if we should just treat it like a swarm on the front of the hive and try to get them to walk up a ramp to a new hive. Has anyone dealt with bees abandoning a damaged hive?
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Humpy Creek
Nurse Bee


Joined: 11 Apr 2013
Posts: 37
Location: Alexandra, Victoria, Australia

PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 7:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

6.20am and they have started flying around in circles again, no foraging (hive next door has started foraging), just the beginning of another cloud of bees. I am now 99 per cent sure they are abandoning the hive, just don't know exactly what I should do to maximise chances of catching them...
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J Smith
Foraging Bee


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

PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Can you check the entrance is clear and the bees can actually get inside if they wanted to?

If you are really worried (and it sounds like you are) perhaps you could move the "spare" hive right next to the damaged one, swap the brood combs still intact (hopefully with the queen attached) into the fresh box, swap the top box over and hopefully your bees will accept that this is their new home.
Once they have somewhere to settle they should transfer the stores, clean up the spill into the new hive. As long as the queen stays put in the new hive.
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Humpy Creek
Nurse Bee


Joined: 11 Apr 2013
Posts: 37
Location: Alexandra, Victoria, Australia

PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 7:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, J Smith. Yep, worried! Love these bees, would hate to lose them. Unfortunately the only spare hive we have is a Warre so transferring the comb would be difficult. The entrance looks like it is partly clear but hard to tell, the irony is it's been a great season up until now so they have tonnes of honey and there is a great deal of it on the hive floor apparently!

There are now heaps of bees flying around in a big cloud and there are about 50 at the entrance of the bait hive so I guess there is a good chance they will move in? Not even 7am here yet and already all this activity!

We have been desperate to get a Warre populated so perhaps we will get our wish...

Thanks for your help, apologies if I've sounded at all rude, lack of sleep, stupid heat and bee problems are not a good combination!

I will now go and drink about 5 cups of coffee and sit and watch the bait hive anxiously.
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J Smith
Foraging Bee


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

PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 8:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah, yes, that can be a problem with mismatched hives, components do not swap over.
Basically it sounds like you are doing a "trap out" without planning to do so. You are restricting entry to their home (by the entrance being blocked) and so tired bees are looking for somewhere to rest up and hide.
I would be tempted to clear the entrance and let them re-enter the langstroth.
If you had a spare bottom board/floor you could lift the damaged hive over and let them clean the old floor. Or sliding packers under the sides of the brood box to increase the entry opening so they can get in there.

No need for apology, I know it is stressful when your bees are in trouble and you feel a bit helpless. Wink
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Humpy Creek
Nurse Bee


Joined: 11 Apr 2013
Posts: 37
Location: Alexandra, Victoria, Australia

PostPosted: Thu Jan 16, 2014 10:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, we ended up opening the hive to see if it was able to be salvaged in the hope they might go back in but it was a disaster area. Brood comb had collapsed too (guess that was the point at which they decided it was time to bugger off). We also found no eggs or young brood, only some capped brood, so they'd been filling everything up with honey - at least we know why this particular hive had been affected so badly by the heat.

Not really knowing what else to do with the bees at that point we just shook them into the bait hive. So we'll combine or try to requeen or put them back in their old hive and give them some frames of brood (although a bit hesitant to go messing around in the brood chambers of the two hives that are ok).

Today is meant to be the last day of this hideous heat so if everything can just hold out for another 12 hours we'll be right...

Thanks for the help guys!
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J Smith
Foraging Bee


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

PostPosted: Thu Jan 16, 2014 10:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Humpy, that's a real shame that things did not work out to the point of the hive recovering itself.
I would be trying to transfer some of the comb, both brood and honey over to the Warre if you can.

No eggs or uncapped brood seems strange, they must have been queenless for a while?
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J Smith
Foraging Bee


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

PostPosted: Thu Jan 16, 2014 10:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just a thought, to stop or at least ease the chances of similar happening again. I would be doing everything I could to your Langstroth whilst it was empty to help provide maximum air flow possible for ventilation.
Any steps taken would have to be reversible so you can retain heat over the Wintering period, but be able to be put in place when you hit maximum Summer temperatures.
First thoughts for me would be replace the solid floor bottom board with a wire mesh screen floor and either slot or drill the top cover and mesh over. Maybe have two top covers, one ventilated to the max for summer and a more traditional one for winter.
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Humpy Creek
Nurse Bee


Joined: 11 Apr 2013
Posts: 37
Location: Alexandra, Victoria, Australia

PostPosted: Thu Jan 16, 2014 11:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah think we must have killed the queen when we moved the hive from my mum's place in town out to the farm a couple of weeks ago - wanted to have them out here permanently so we didn't have to worry about neighbours freaking out about swarms and stuff. Unfortunately as so often happens it seems that our well intentioned interference caused problems.

We will work on extreme heat preparations. Apparently the last time there was a heat wave this bad was in 1908 and hopefully we don't get another one for a while but we will certainly have to deal with the odd over 40 day most summers. I think in Sydney last year they got two days in a row if 45 and there were horror stories of whole hives just cooking, guess we got off lightly.

On the bright side, our strongest hive has been fine, hardly any bearding and no signs any comb giving out. It would help that all the comb in their brood chamber has had many rounds of brood through it, that bit of reinforcement must make a significant difference. The other hive that had a comb of honey collapse was a swarm we caught in spring, so their comb is pretty new and would be relatively fragile at this stage too.
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Beeblebrox
Guard Bee


Joined: 25 Sep 2010
Posts: 60
Location: UK - north Oxfordshire

PostPosted: Sun Jan 19, 2014 12:23 am    Post subject: Comb collapse in heat Reply with quote

Humpy Creek wrote:


We will work on extreme heat preparations
<snip>
On the bright side, our strongest hive has been fine, hardly any bearding and no signs any comb giving out. It would help that all the comb in their brood chamber has had many rounds of brood through it, that bit of reinforcement must make a significant difference. The other hive that had a comb of honey collapse was a swarm we caught in spring, so their comb is pretty new and would be relatively fragile at this stage too.


Too late but here are some ideas for consideration in retrospect:

I now put reinforcing dowels in my top bars. It's natural comb but has a couple of these to hang onto. It may help with heat (we don't get so hot in the UK but it stops the comb snapping off if you hod the comb at an angle): so to clarify it's something like this -

-----------------Top bar
......|........|
......|........| two dowels no more than 6mm thick

the dowels go about 2/3 of the way to the bottom of the comb.

The other thing is, I think bees use water to cool the hive (not sure about that - worth checking) so maybe a water source nearby would help them. Or even spraying water over the hive body, if you have enough water to spare.
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Humpy Creek
Nurse Bee


Joined: 11 Apr 2013
Posts: 37
Location: Alexandra, Victoria, Australia

PostPosted: Sun Jan 19, 2014 10:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Beeblebrox. Not too late since I'm sure we'll have heat issues again at some stage here!

The reinforcement idea is an interesting one, will look into that. I also think the Warre hives might fare better (ours have frames with top and full length side bars to try to comply with Australian laws about removability and whatnot) because they are so much shorter than the Langstroth.

Plenty of water around, we have drinking stations out around the place and there are a couple of dams within a hundred metres or so.
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Humpy Creek
Nurse Bee


Joined: 11 Apr 2013
Posts: 37
Location: Alexandra, Victoria, Australia

PostPosted: Sun Jan 19, 2014 10:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Beeblebrox. Not too late since I'm sure we'll have heat issues again at some stage here!

The reinforcement idea is an interesting one, will look into that. I also think the Warre hives might fare better (ours have frames with top and full length side bars to try to comply with Australian laws about removability and whatnot) because they are so much shorter than the Langstroth.

Plenty of water around, we have drinking stations out around the place and there are a couple of dams within a hundred metres or so.
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Beeblebrox
Guard Bee


Joined: 25 Sep 2010
Posts: 60
Location: UK - north Oxfordshire

PostPosted: Sun Jan 19, 2014 10:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Humpy Creek wrote:
Thanks, Beeblebrox. Not too late since I'm sure we'll have heat issues again at some stage here!

The reinforcement idea is an interesting one, will look into that. I also think the Warre hives might fare better (ours have frames with top and full length side bars to try to comply with Australian laws about removability and whatnot) because they are so much shorter than the Langstroth.

Plenty of water around, we have drinking stations out around the place and there are a couple of dams within a hundred metres or so.


I see - so if you have frames the issue is not heavy combs simply falling off, they've actually melting.

I am currently reading "The Practical Beekeeper" by Michael Bush, a US beek who uses natural comb in Langstroths. He also has a few TBH's and comments they're fine for cold climates but has heard of comb collapse in very hot climates. In another section, he discusses how bees cool hives - this is Langstroths but may be relevant. In answer to a question "can you have too much ventilation", i.e. if you have an open mesh floor is it OK to completely remove the bottom board so there is lots of air exchange with the outside world, he says [I paraphrase] "yes you can have too much. The bees use evaporation to shed heat out of the hive but if there are too many openings any heat they dump out the door comes back in". So counter-intuitively it MAY be better to REDUCE ventilation!!!

I'm not sure about this - but if the hive is pretty much messed up anyhow, it may be worth a go. Give 'em just one opening so they can control the airflow themselves.
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Humpy Creek
Nurse Bee


Joined: 11 Apr 2013
Posts: 37
Location: Alexandra, Victoria, Australia

PostPosted: Mon Jan 20, 2014 12:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Beeblebrox.

The natural comb that was new (probably hadn't had any brood through it) was the hardest hit, and it broke off maybe 5cm down in most cases.

We found that adding about a full depth super's worth of empty space made an enormous difference in the two hives that were functioning normally - seemed to be enough to allow them to ventilate pretty well. The hive that had the really bad comb collapse had a brood box almost full of honey because there was no laying queen, so they were much more vulnerable. Having said all that, I'm sure there are plenty of other things we could do to better prepare for the next time temperatures get that high, especially for any hives that do have new natural comb.
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DurangoKid
Nurse Bee


Joined: 15 Jul 2014
Posts: 36
Location: 7500', Durango, Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2014 3:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Beeblebrox wrote:
I see - so if you have frames the issue is not heavy combs simply falling off, they've actually melting.

I am currently reading "The Practical Beekeeper" by Michael Bush, a US beek who uses natural comb in Langstroths. He also has a few TBH's and comments they're fine for cold climates but has heard of comb collapse in very hot climates.


Ironically, top bar hives originated in Kenya which isn't known for its cool weather. Mr. Bush is a clever fellow though so there must be some truth to his claims. Thankfully, 32C is the hottest it ever gets at my elevation.
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Deni
New Bee


Joined: 14 Jun 2013
Posts: 5
Location: Arkansas, USA

PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2014 11:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry to hear about your troubles. This year I have had several comb drop off the top bars (both brood comb and new comb filled with honey), which has been a big hassle. This has happened in three of my hives. It hasn't even been a hot summer here either. It doesn't actually come off the bar, the comb rips about an inch or two below the top bar. I am also trying to figure out how to reinforce the comb on the bars, I like the top bar hive and would like more hives, but if this keeps happening, I'm not for sure.
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biobee
Site Admin


Joined: 14 Jun 2007
Posts: 1051
Location: UK, England, S. Devon

PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2014 12:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm struggling to understand this 'comb collapse' problem, as the only times combs have broken off in my hives have been when I have made a clumsy move. In hot climates - or even hot summers in the UK - it is vital to have insulation above the bars and not to open the hive in the middle of the day, since beeswax softens around 40c.
If your combs are not being attached properly to the bars, the you have a design or manufacture problem. Rough wood is easier for bees to attach to than planed wood. A shallow V shape seems to produce a better join than a deep V or a flat bar.
Otherwise, combs can only collapse if you move them roughly, fail to cut attachments before moving, or twist the bar even slightly with heavy comb attached.
If you are seeing something else, please describe it.
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MikeRobinson
Foraging Bee


Joined: 01 Apr 2012
Posts: 200
Location: Upper Northwest Georgia, USA

PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2014 2:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It also helps to have someplace to put down a bar that you're working on. I came up with something that is (as usual for me ...) cheap and effective. Having some PVC water-pipe left over, I fashioned it into a box-like shape, then drilled two sets of holes and through those holes fitted a pair of slender threaded rods. Now, I simply set this contraption nearby, lift out a bar, and set it down on the two rods. It can't fall over, and now my hands are free. This also eliminates the need to turn the bars over, although I have practiced this move. Just set the bar into this frame and you can let go of it and examine it from all angles at your leisure. You can just set the frame down right there on top of the bars that you're not moving.

Description: Two rectangular assemblies of PVC, joined at the bottom, with pipes sticking out from both sides so that the assembly can't fall. Two drill-holes the proper distance apart (based on the width of the top of the hive where the bars sit), threaded (copper) rods. (Copper) nuts and washers, gripping both the insides and outsides of the pipe. Cement all joints; use end-caps on pipe-ends at the base, put a dab of silicone on both sides where the threaded rods run through. Weatherproof, completely sealed and indestructible, less than $30 USD. Smile
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trekmate
Golden Bee


Joined: 30 Nov 2009
Posts: 1123
Location: UK, North Yorkshire, Bentham

PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2014 5:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MikeRobinson wrote:
It also helps to have someplace to put down a bar that you're working on...... less than $30 USD.

Scrap wood and a few screws. Might get broken, but I can afford to replace it! Very Happy

With top-bar:


Folded for transit:
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