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Populating a HTBH: Nuc or Package?

 
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IanT
Guard Bee


Joined: 21 Feb 2014
Posts: 51
Location: Lafayette, Indiana

PostPosted: Fri Feb 21, 2014 3:34 pm    Post subject: Populating a HTBH: Nuc or Package? Reply with quote

Hello. I am new to this form, not new to bees. What a great place this is for knowledge on alternative bee keeping methods.

I have been actively keeping backyard bees here in north central Indiana for three years, and had intensive instruction in beekeeping several years back. My efforts with Langstroth hives have been largely successful, in that I have managed to keep my colony alive and productive for three years (though this year and brutal winter might be too much for them).

My fiancé is interested in getting started with bees and constructed a HTBH with the help of her father and his extensive wood shop. I do not have any experience with HTBH. We want to populate the hive this year. I have a Indiana bee supply business that owes me credit that I need to expend. I was thinking about getting a package of bees for the purpose of the starting HTBH. However after listening a BioBee podcast I was exposed to the method to using a standard 5-frame nuc to populate the TBH. I was thinking that a using a nuc might also be better from the standpoint that my Langstroth hive has suffered this winter and by the time it is over will be quite week, or maybe, at worst expired.

So this is my thinking. I get a nuc and use a one of the Langstroth - TBH methodologies to get a hive started in the TBH, then I use bees and frames from the nuc to strengthen/repopulate the Langstroth. Would it be best to do something as described in the link below or use a different transfer technique?



Thanks!

Ian
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IanT
Guard Bee


Joined: 21 Feb 2014
Posts: 51
Location: Lafayette, Indiana

PostPosted: Fri Feb 21, 2014 3:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ugh. I guess I cannot post links until I have posted five posts. The link I tried to post was link to a different thread in the TBH forum describing removing frames from a Langstroth and putting modified top bars in their place to promote comb formation on the top bars and then transferring the top bars to TBH.
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stevecook172001
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Joined: 19 Jul 2013
Posts: 443
Location: Loftus, Cleveland

PostPosted: Fri Feb 21, 2014 5:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

IanT wrote:
Ugh. I guess I cannot post links until I have posted five posts. The link I tried to post was link to a different thread in the TBH forum describing removing frames from a Langstroth and putting modified top bars in their place to promote comb formation on the top bars and then transferring the top bars to TBH.
Hi there and welcome. It's good here and folks certainly know their stuff.
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Barbara
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Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1568
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Fri Feb 21, 2014 11:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Ian and welcome to you and your fiance

I'm not a fan of packages for a number of reasons although there are also many drawbacks from starting with a nuc too. Both are well documanted on this forum but I will elaborate if you are unsure of them and wish me to.

My first thought was, why not start your fiance's TBH from a swarm from your own colony, but of course that presupposes they survive the rest of the winter, they build up strongly enough to be able to swarm and you are lucky enough to catch it.

My second option would be the Lang nuc and intersperse it with empty top bars as you suggest and then transfer when you have enough comb and brood on the top bars with the queen. Place the TBH at the site of the nuc, so that you get most of the flying bees and transfer the remaining frames of brood and stores to your main Langstroth hive. You would probably need to feed the TBH to help them build up.

Most people are persuaded to go for a package I think because it is the cheaper option and easier to just tip into the empty hive and leave them to it. The advantage is that a package doesn't come with any comb or brood which may be contaminated with diseases or pesticides or miticides, but if you grow the nuc onto the top bars then, assuming you have good natural forage, the new wax comb on the top bars should be clean. One of the main problems is that the queens in packages are not related to the other bees and are usually AI fertilized, but this can be the case with nucs too.

Anyway, if you have to go with one or the other, my advice would be to go with the nuc and do as you suggest.

Regards

Barbara
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IanT
Guard Bee


Joined: 21 Feb 2014
Posts: 51
Location: Lafayette, Indiana

PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 2:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank Barbara. I am not so sure I can count on a swarm from my hive, even if it does make it. And by the time I can be discern that, it will be past the time that will nucs will be readily available. Last year we tried to get bees and the supplier that was supposed to fill my order just could not get the bees until I thought it was too late to successfully get them in and build them up to a point to pass through the winter. Then my hive swarmed, and tried to catch them...but they were 30 ft up in a tree and it though I gave it my best, I could not get them down and in the hive. So we were disappointed twice last year in our attempt to populate the TBH. This year I want to try to make it happen. One good thing about these bees is that they should be Minnesota hygenic stock.

The nuc seemed like the best bet for starting one and bolstering the other. So you think putting some top bars in the nuc and letting them start comb is better than letting them "expand into to the TBH" by placing the nuc on top of the TBH?

Ian
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catchercradle
Golden Bee


Joined: 31 May 2010
Posts: 1487
Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 6:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Each year, I put up notices around the local area, and am also on the local association's list of those willing to collect swarms. Last year I collected 8. The year before it was 11. If you find a few ways of publicising your willingness to collect swarms it might help. Despite knowing quite a few beeks in the area, usually they assure me the swarms are not from their hives!

I know some are from my own and others' on the allotment but there have been too many prime swarms to be accounted for by that!

You may not get any but I still suspect that if you really put word out there is a good chance.
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J Smith
Foraging Bee


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

PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 7:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If I were you and looking to populate a new hive this Spring without splitting a possible weakened hive you already have, I would head along to my local Fire Station and leave my name and contact details, stating I am not only capable- but very willing to collect any swarms they are notified of and removing them from properties where they are not as welcome.
Think of it as a member of the general public, someone not familiar with bees...... who do they ring when a swarm shows up in their yard? Odds are it will be the fire brigade or an extermination company. Leave your name with both.
Just be ready for the odd call-out to "swarms" that are actually Hornets not honey bees.
This avenue may also lead to possible trap out's where bees have taken up residence in a dwelling.
Not saying it will lead to definite captures, but it is sure worth a try.
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Barbara
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Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1568
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 10:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
So you think putting some top bars in the nuc and letting them start comb is better than letting them "expand into to the TBH" by placing the nuc on top of the TBH?


Yes. The important thing is to ensure you have good comb guides on your top bars and to be careful not to let the comb on those bars get too big before you transfer them and check for and cut any side attachments before you lift them. Handling top bars with fresh new comb is a delicate operation, especially when you are used to handling frames, so be slow and steady and keep them vertical. Wait until there is a decent nectar flow before you start the process or feed if necessary to get them building. Use follower boards in the new hive to keep the volume of the nest small until they are ready for more and reduce the entrance down to just one or even a half as hole at first, especially if you are feeding them as that will increase the potential for robbing.

Lots of people have tried growing them down into the TBH with very limited success and many have reported the nuc swarming rather than building below. You also have to rig up some sort of roof that will cover the nuc and the main hive, unless you have nice predictably dry weather.... not something we can ever take for granted here in the UK!

You will need to make sure your top bars are compatible with your Langstroth in length and thickness before you start..... we have mostly British Nationals here so I'm not sure if the dimensions are the same but I had to reduce the thickness of the top bars that I put into my nuc so that the crown board sat flush on top. I also used a dummy board/follower in the nuc I was expanding so that I had a little bit of room behind it to give me space to deal with any side attachment.

Good luck with it and I hope it all goes to plan. Just remember to be very careful with that new top bar comb because it is so tempting to tilt it to try to see eggs/brood. Once it has had a couple of cycles of brood in it, it toughens up, but it is really fragile at first and you really need to keep it vertical. Might be safest to make a top bar stand to lift it onto so you can examine each comb without holding it and therefore avoid the temptation to tilt it.... having started beekeeping like you with framed hives it is so easy to just forget and twist it as you are concentrating on looking at the comb.

Regards

Barbara
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IanT
Guard Bee


Joined: 21 Feb 2014
Posts: 51
Location: Lafayette, Indiana

PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 1:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

J Smith wrote:

Just be ready for the odd call-out to "swarms" that are actually Hornets not honey bees.


Been to one of those. Ouch. I think you all in the UK have much higher proportion of back yard bee keepers supplying a steady stream of swarms.
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biobee
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Joined: 14 Jun 2007
Posts: 1051
Location: UK, England, S. Devon

PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 2:18 pm    Post subject: Hive substitution method for making a new TBH colony Reply with quote

You could try this:

Overview
This is a way to make two colonies from one, using the bees’ highly accurate homing instinct to advantage.
The ‘hive substitution’ technique enables you to split a colony from a framed hive to a TBH with little effort and no serious danger of damage to bees or brood. If swarm cells are already present, it will act as an artificial swarm with increase.

Requirements
You need a strong, healthy donor colony in any type of hive, during the build-up period, and an empty TBH. The donor colony should ideally be crowded, have 3-4 frames less than its capacity (a division board is used to contain the colony) and with no supers added. For at least a few days prior to the operation, it should be located on the spot where you want your TBH to be - ideally with the entrance at a similar height to that of a TBH - and there should be a stand 4-6 paces off to one side (not in front of the entrance) where you will be able to place the donor hive safely (see Step three).
I strongly suggest you read through the following steps several times to familiarize yourself with the process before attempting it. It is not difficult, but it helps to understand the reasons for each step.

Method
Step one - A couple of weeks in advance of your target operation day, make up three special top bars, the same width as your standard bars (~38mm) and the correct length, but only 10-12mm thick (or the same thickness as the protruding tabs of the frames in the donor hive). They should be stiff enough to resist flexing, or you risk comb breakages: a comb guide pinned on the underside will help with this. You can cut steps in the ends of standard bars if you prefer, but check that they fit comfortably in both your framed and top bar hives.
Step two - 7-12 days before you plan to perform the operation, open your framed hive and insert your three prepared top bars between pairs of frames, something like this: frame, TB, frame, frame, TB, frame, frame, TB, frame. You will now see why we make them thinner than normal: they sit down in the hive and allow for the easy replacement of the crown board. Note that top bars should butt up against the frame spacers on either side to achieve the correct centre-to-centre spacing.
Step three - On the chosen day of the operation, which should ideally be fine and sunny with little or no wind, with bees flying freely to forage, open the donor hive and check that the bees have built combs on your inserted bars. Most likely, there will be good-sized combs on each bar with eggs and open brood and even some sealed brood. Some of it will almost certainly be drone, but that’s not a problem. If you find one or more developing queen cells on the edge of any of the new combs, leave them in place and take extra care when handling them in the next step.
Step four -If all is well, replace the crown board temporarily and move the donor hive to the stand off to one side. Immediately place the TBH in the vacated spot, with its entrance facing the same direction. Flying bees will return to that spot and will begin looking for the entrance.
Step five - Open the donor hive and carefully remove the inserted bars, one at a time, by first moving the frames away from them, cutting away any attachments and being careful to avoid breakages. Take special care to look for the queen on each comb as you remove it: there is a very good chance that she is laying eggs on one of them. You only want to move the queen to the TBH if there are no developing queen cells, so if she is already on one of these fresh combs it will save you some work. Be careful not to drop her!
Gently transfer the bars to the TBH, with all adhering bees, keeping them vertical. Place an empty bar in between each one, in the same order and with the same orientation with respect to the entrance as they were in the framed hive. Add an empty bar either side of them and close up with followers, ensuring the flying bees can enter freely and find the combs.
Step six - At this point, you need to know which hive the queen is in. If you have already moved her to the TBH, or you moved a number of developing queen cells (but not the queen) to the TBH, you can move on to step seven; otherwise, you need to locate her in the donor hive. This can best be done by someone who is a confident queen-spotter, but if no such person is to hand, you simply have to take out the frames one by one and look carefully on both sides.
A good trick is to arrange the frames in pairs with a three-finger gap between each pair. Within 30 seconds of doing this, you can be confident that the queen will be in between one of the pairs of frames: an experienced beekeeper will be able to tell you which pair simply by observing the behaviour of the bees (the least agitated will usually have the queen); otherwise, you will have to look carefully until you spot her.
Whichever queen-finding method you employ, you need to transfer her to the TBH. So very gently, take the frame she is on over to the TBH, move a follower aside and persuade her to walk onto the tip of a feather or a fine brush or a leaf - but NOT onto your hand (never handle a queen!) and by this means place her onto the nearest comb. Now shake (or brush with a goose feather) all the bees from that frame directly into the TBH.
Step seven - Carefully close everything up, using your mist spray to persuade bees to join their friends and to leave the exposed edges of the woodwork where they may be crushed. Both colonies should now be left undisturbed for a week to give them time to settle down after this disruption.

Summary
You have split a colony and the queen is now on one side of the split. Either she is in the TBH with her flying bees - much as if she had flown with a swarm - leaving the old colony to raise a new queen, or there are developing queens in the TBH, one of which will emerge to become the mother of the new colony, while the she carries on as before.
Because the original colony has lost most of its foraging bees to the new TBH colony, they will experience a short hiatus while they re-adjust their natural balance. They should have stores, but feed them on 1:1 syrup if not. By the time all the sealed brood has emerged, they will have a new queen and you can add more frames to give them room to expand.
The TBH colony will also benefit from feeding, as they have comb to build.

Advantages
There are several advantages in using this method over the more brutal ‘chop-and-crop’ for starting a TBH :
1. You are starting your TBH with fresh, straight comb as it has been built in a confined space between mature combs.
2. There is no risk of cutting through or damaging brood.
3. You have an opportunity to test the temperament of the colony before committing yourself to the current queen (you could introduce a new queen instead after a few hours wait).
4. You have an opportunity to check for brood disease during the transfer and you minimize any danger of infecting the TBH by only moving new combs.
5. At the end of the process, you still have a colony in the framed hive! You can sell this or give it away, or keep it as a swarm resource, or repeat the process to boost the TBH - it’s up to you.

What can possibly go wrong?
As with all beekeeping operations, this one may not go exactly to plan. Bees have their own ideas about what they will allow you to do to them and may make decisions that are not necessarily aligned with your expectations. Only experience and observational skills will enable you to steer around some of the obstacles they may put in your way, but the following tips may help you meanwhile.
You cannot find the queen - beginners often have trouble seeing a queen among a mass of workers and drones; this is nothing to be ashamed of. I gave you my best queen-locating tip above, but if you still cannot find her, close up both hives and walk away. Return the next day and the behaviour of the bees should give you some clues as to her location: whichever hive is behaving calmly and going about its business without fuss is most likely the one with the queen. If she is in the TBH, you have nothing more to do. If she is still in the original hive, I suggest you have another look for her using the above instructions and - if you did not move queen cells across - transfer her gently to the TBH. Avoid touching her and don’t shake her in, as an injured queen - or one that smells odd - may be summarily executed by her workers.
You found no eggs or young larvae on the old combs - only on the new combs, which you have placed in the TBH. If there are queen cells developing in the old hive, this does not matter as they will raise a new queen in one (or more) of them. No eggs, no young larvae and no queen cells means no material to make a queen, so you will have to replace one of the combs from the TBH into the old hive. If you have some experience of such things, or know someone who can help, you could obtain another queen and introduce her instead, or insert a sealed queen cell from another hive.
You could not find the queen, but there are sealed queen cells and there seem to be fewer bees than a week ago - this suggests they have already swarmed! They were probably planning to do so before you added the extra bars, but all is not lost: divide the queen cells and bees between the two hives, leave them alone for three weeks and you will have two colonies with virgin queens. If you find multiple sealed queen cells, you could even make up an additional nucleus colony at one end of the TBH - or in a separate nuc box - as an insurance against one of them failing to mate.
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IanT
Guard Bee


Joined: 21 Feb 2014
Posts: 51
Location: Lafayette, Indiana

PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 2:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yep! That is the technique I was going to link to ask to as its preference over methods. Great. Thanks so much.
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J Smith
Foraging Bee


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

PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 10:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

IanT wrote:
I think you all in the UK have much higher proportion of back yard bee keepers supplying a steady stream of swarms.


Except from the fact I am further fro the UK than you are. Laughing
Here in NZ, especially in the far South where I live, there are very few back yard keepers, mainly because of the hassles of hive registration/inspection and the inspectors being familiar with full foundation Langstroth hives and VERY unfamiliar with hTBH's.
Closest commercial hives to me are 5 miles South of home and yet I have helped capture and relocate 5 swarms this Summer, 3 from one property.

If the right people know you are looking, you never know when the call may come. Sure beats the exterminators spraying them with insecticide! Twisted Evil

Would pay to have an empty hive or two on "standby" though, bit late to get the call and have nowhere to house any captured colony. Embarassed

However, to populate your better halves hTBH, following biobee's advice will see you in good stead.
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