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Are they doing this on purpose ?

 
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charentejohn
Guard Bee


Joined: 26 May 2012
Posts: 95
Location: Central France - Charente

PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2016 10:01 pm    Post subject: Are they doing this on purpose ? Reply with quote

I am just about to repair a bird nest box the bees took over as it is falling apart. Went out tonight at 10:30 to see if they were all in due to being dark and they are all clustering on one part near the bottom, what are they doing ? Is this post swarming behaviour or are they trying to fix it or maybe swarming ? Anyone know why they would be outside on a chilly evening, about 3 deep and milling about, about 15cm long and 6cm high along the base.

The box is bad and has rotted along the bottom of the front piece of ply, this has created a slot instead of the hole for the birds which was there originally. The bird entry hole was guarded by the usual suspects, about six or more milling about.
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Barbara
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Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2016 10:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is called bearding and it is pre swarming behaviour. They are likely to swarm in the next few days. Probably not a good time to tackle that job now as they will be more tetchy due to being overcrowded and anticipating the swarming to come.
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colobeekeep
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Joined: 27 Aug 2010
Posts: 286
Location: USA, Colorado, Denver

PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2016 3:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't know what the temperatures are there, but could they be bearding due to the heat (if it's hot outside)? One of my hives has been bearding in amounts from lots of bees (going up above the entrance for two Warré boxes) to just some (half of a Warré box above the entrance) for the past 4 weeks. They started doing it about 4 weeks ago when the temperatures reached the upper 80s and mi 90s Fahrenheit. The hotter the temperature, the more bees that are bearding.
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AugustC
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Joined: 08 Jul 2013
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Location: Malton, North Yorkshire

PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2016 7:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bearding in hot climates is more usually to do with heat (and humidity) in the UK, especially in the north, this rarely an issue so it is more likely pre-swarming behaviour. I don't know what your climate is like so have not a clue.
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charentejohn
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Joined: 26 May 2012
Posts: 95
Location: Central France - Charente

PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2016 8:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, could be good news in a way.
Not the heat at the moment, they do this during the day as it can be 23-30c hotter on the hive itself. We are expecting 30c+ next week (too hot for me too) but I shade the hive with a piece of cardboard on a pole on those days. Photos of hives and daytime bearding here http://s86.photobucket.com/user/charentejohn/library/Bees Shows some doing a circus act hanging on while a large mass of bees hang below them.

I did think this morning that this may just be that there are too many in the hive as it must be pretty tight for space in there. Looking through the hole for the birds I can see comb. Could be they are hanging around the entrance as at night they can't all get inside ?

I may try repair but will modify the piece to give a gap at the front by putting beading around the panel that will keep it about 1.5-2cm from the front of the box, this will cober them but not crush them. This may be a solution.
Upside of this is it will provide some additional covered space for cooler evenings.

I will put a branch on the end of the garage (silly maybe but...) in case they do swarm and it may attract them, worth a try. Would be a dream as I could walk it to the TBH and drop them straight in. Couldn't be that lucky though.

I will modify the repair and look again tonight as if they are swarming a little disruption when it gets dark should be ok ?
This has to be moved, whether to someone else's place or away for a few weeks and then back to my TBH who knows.

Questions though
If I disturb them at night will they fly in numbers or just move around the entrance ?
Should I remove the bit of plastic during the day as it would be better removed prior to the repair.
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druidsgarden
Nurse Bee


Joined: 09 Jul 2014
Posts: 32
Location: Morecambe, Lancashire

PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2016 8:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Would it not be better for the bees and yourself to just move them from the bird box into the hTBH? They look to me as though they are desperately short of space and rather than weaken them at this time of year by swarming it's better to remove the bird box and get them into a larger space where they can build up for winter.
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charentejohn
Guard Bee


Joined: 26 May 2012
Posts: 95
Location: Central France - Charente

PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2016 8:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes that has been suggested but the TBH is in the garden and apparently they will just return to the wall if I move them straight there. They need to be moved about 3 miles or more or they will just return.
I have a place to move them to, I hope, which is about 4-5 miles so I can leave them there for a while then return them to the TBH.

Shame to waste the work they have done. If I did have someone take the box it would be to re-home them but well away from here so they would not return, still waiting for him to return from holiday to see if it is possible.

I am sure I read somewhere (can't find it now) where I could attach this box to the side of the TBH so they have to exit through it. So it becomes an annexe of the current hive/box and they will colonise that, the old box can then be removed ?
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AugustC
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Joined: 08 Jul 2013
Posts: 613
Location: Malton, North Yorkshire

PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2016 9:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I really think the whole move them 3 miles then back malachy is so much a**e gravy. On reflection, that seems harsh Smile

What I mean is, I think when you move them a short distance you are very aware that a number of bees return the where they came from. When you move them a long distance how would you know in 200 bees got lost. With the greatest will in the world you'd have no idea.

My advice would be move them whatever distance you want BUT when you move them:
1) move them in the evening, with a screening mesh over the entrance.
2) consider shutting them in for 24 hours with the mesh (preferably ensuring they have a water source in the hive).
3) when you open the entrance stuff in some grass losely so they have to remove it.
4) lay some branches over the entrance.
5) put a box at the old location with the entrance in the same place.
6) collect the box in the old location each evening and empty the bees outside of the new hive. 3 evenings should be enough.
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druidsgarden
Nurse Bee


Joined: 09 Jul 2014
Posts: 32
Location: Morecambe, Lancashire

PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2016 9:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

AugustC wrote:
I really think the whole move them 3 miles then back malachy is so much a**e gravy. On reflection, that seems harsh Smile

What I mean is, I think when you move them a short distance you are very aware that a number of bees return the where they came from. When you move them a long distance how would you know in 200 bees got lost. With the greatest will in the world you'd have no idea.

My advice would be move them whatever distance you want BUT when you move them:
1) move them in the evening, with a screening mesh over the entrance.
2) consider shutting them in for 24 hours with the mesh (preferably ensuring they have a water source in the hive).
3) when you open the entrance stuff in some grass losely so they have to remove it.
4) lay some branches over the entrance.
5) put a box at the old location with the entrance in the same place.
6) collect the box in the old location each evening and empty the bees outside of the new hive. 3 evenings should be enough.


I'd agree, I've managed to populate nuc boxes that are within 3ft of the original colony and get them to stay put! The main issue is to getting them to reorientate on the new location.

You may loose a few foragers but as the nursery bees come through they will orientate on the new hive, it's better than loosing the entire colony because they've swarmed due to lack of space or that they've been weakened beyond the point of no return
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charentejohn
Guard Bee


Joined: 26 May 2012
Posts: 95
Location: Central France - Charente

PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2016 1:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have heard of this, I checked with the Dave Cushman site http://www.dave-cushman.net/bee/movingbees.html and it seems there are no proper rules, more guidelines, so maybe worth a try. Two poor little devils are currently trying to repair a lower edge.

I am willing to try and have an old wine box, size of a shoebox, I can adapt as a Nuc hive I would guess. I can drill a hole in it and put it on the wall when I remove the old hive. Then I can check each night as suggested.
I assume that any returning to the old location will just sit in the box and wonder where the others are before being tipped outside the new location.
This sounds reasonable, just a battle of wills Smile They keep returning to the Nuc and I keep tipping them at the new location.

I think the current hive/box will just fit inside the TBH if I take the bars out of part of it. This would mean they would have to exit through the TBH entrance which should disorient them enough ?

Once done though I will be left with the rotting hive inside the TBH.
I assume I leave it a week or so after they have settled then dismantle and wire the honeycomb into the TBH.

Question - Can I turn the box through 90 degrees so the combs are at a different angle. Will this cause problems ? I guess they are oriented for a reason, thinking of brood chambers.

Also, if I dismantle the current hive and keep the honeycomb on part of the timber will they create new comb eventually and abandon the old ones if I just lay them in the TBH.

Things to consider, may help may not.
We are due a heatwave starting tomorrow, 24c and going up to 38c over the next few days. Will this help with reorientation or will they be very active ? Will they be a problem if I move them, say Friday night 10:30pm temp 13c night 27 next day (saturday). I leave them closed in on saturday but with ventilation until sunday then let them out. Water may not be possible

The New TBH (seen in Photos) is in the shade of trees and is much cooler than where they are.

The new hive points in a completely different direction, current one is west facing onto open grass with a few trees. TBH faces SE onto less open grass but lower and surrounded by trees. Hopefully the last two points will help reorient.

Sorry for the barrage of questions but basically willing to do it but worried about the heat. Once I have advice on that I can plan and may have a couple more questions.
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charentejohn
Guard Bee


Joined: 26 May 2012
Posts: 95
Location: Central France - Charente

PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2016 1:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just checked sizes and the current hive/box won't fit inside the TBH. Tapered sides are a problem, the TBH is about 2x the volume but odd shape.

I can put the current hive on top of the bars so at least in the right position, in that case I can then add a little water onto the floor through the mesh at regular intervals. I can also drop a handful of dry grass and a branch in front of the current hive entrance before opening.
This would be an easy thing to do as I can just stand the hive/box on top of a flat surface.

I can move them inside when they stop returning to the Nuc hive.
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druidsgarden
Nurse Bee


Joined: 09 Jul 2014
Posts: 32
Location: Morecambe, Lancashire

PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2016 2:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would be tempted to do the removal as a cutout if you can.

Make sure you orientate the comb the same direction it was made in, it's angled upwards

Otherwise, if you can remove the bottom of the birdbox & block up as much of the exits in the top of the box & the current entrance as you can then that will encourage them to make use of the hTBH for coming and going & the Queen can move down into extra space.

Ensure you've got some easily accessible water nearby that they can use & I have no doubt that because the hTBH is orientated differently that you can leave the new entrance open but with just some grass stuffed in lightly to give them something to do to get out.

I doubt they are going to put up much of a fight because the location is so much better for them.
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druidsgarden
Nurse Bee


Joined: 09 Jul 2014
Posts: 32
Location: Morecambe, Lancashire

PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2016 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For water put a deepish dish filled with pebbles on the floor near the hive and fill with water, if they can get to it easily they will use it. I've seen them congregating near puddles before today or birdbaths.
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charentejohn
Guard Bee


Joined: 26 May 2012
Posts: 95
Location: Central France - Charente

PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2016 2:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am ok to do the cutout but would it be better to let them settle down in the new location before destroying the existing box ? I would have thought (but have no idea if true) that during a cutout so close to the original location they would go there in a sort of panic. I would have guessed allowing them to settle down for a few days, say a week, I could then do the cutout from the box on top of the TBH and put the comb in the TBH and they should reorient to that easily as move would be about 0.5m


Found this site which recommends what was said here http://www.bushfarms.com/beesmoving.htm along with another pointer of only putting up a Nuc hive later in the day so they have to look for the new location, sounds reasonable or will they tire looking ? Also hot weather should be better for them for relocation as they don't have the risk of the cold weather ?
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Barbara
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Joined: 27 Jul 2011
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2016 2:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Due to the size of this bird box I am pretty sure they will be getting ready to swarm and even if you were able to move them into your TBH they would still swarm because preparations are too far advanced. You might want to research making a Russian Scion rather than putting a branch near by in the hope they choose it. If you can obtain a bit of old brood comb from your beekeeper friend and attach it to the underside of a piece of ply.. perhaps nipped between two small laths and hang it about 10 ft off the ground within 20 feet of the hive, you stand a good chance of attracting them, but this will only be a temporary stopping off point for a couple of hours or so, so you need to keep a close eye on them in the next few days. The swarm, if I am right, will emerge usually between 11am and 3pm on a warm still day and cluster somewhere initially for the queen to rest and scouts to look for a new home..... it may even be that they find your TBH and move straight in, so have it suitably prepared..... this will be a relatively small swarm because of the box size, so 7-8 bars of volume should be about right but no more than 10 I would say.
If you haven't already, scorch the inside of your hive with a blow torch if it is made from new timber and rub it with a block of beeswax whilst it is still warm, you will find that the wax coats it better and the smell of hot wax may even attract some scouts. I often find bees come to see what I'm doing when I'm prepping a hive. Don't be frightened to gently pass the blow torch back over the waxed wood to help it soak into the wood. You will see it start to change colour.
Even if you are a little over zealous with the blow tarch and a little bit sets alight, just blow it out and resume more carefully. You would have to be really inattentive and heavy handed to burn your hive, so don't be anxious about it.

Of course, even if they do swarm, there will still be the remaining colony in the bird box and the best time to remove it would be a day or two after that.

As regards your questions....

Once the sun goes down the bees stop flying and if they are disturbed, like when you are working to repair the box, they tend to crawl more than fly although some (usually guards) will still fly and then stick to whatever they land on once the light is fading.

Yes the comb needs to be kept in the vertical plane as it is slightly angled upwards to keep nectar from running out and the cells need to be horizontal for brood (apart from any queen cells which are developed vertically, so tipping the bird box on it's back or side would cause significant problems.

Good luck with catching a swarm and dealing with those left in the box.

Of course I may be totally wrong and they are bearding due to the heat but timing wise, it is just right for the swarm that moved in to have filled it up and be looking to swarm, again.

Best wishes

Barbara
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charentejohn
Guard Bee


Joined: 26 May 2012
Posts: 95
Location: Central France - Charente

PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2016 3:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the info, I am just trying not to make a mistake. I am ok with working with them but just need to be sure of what I am looking at.
Currently there can be hundreds milling around outside for an hour of more mid afternoon, noisy buzzing, then they seem to calm down again, all quiet now (5pm). They have been doing this on and off for a week or so.
Seems hard to tell the difference between swarming and bearding, they are outside even when not especially hot, then the box is small. A couple of days ago they were outside just in straight lines moving up and then back just a little, strange.

I have melted beeswax into the top bars but can also do the inside, the TBH has been in the garden empty for over a year. I have put a tree branch on the end of the garage, some hope but worth a try.

How will I know when they have swarmed ? Just no more masses flying around or will it be really quiet ?
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Barbara
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2016 5:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The noise in the afternoon is the drones coming out to play. The other activity you saw with the lines of bees moving back and forward is called wash boarding and not a lot is known about the reason for it.

Having good comb guides is one of the most important aspects of top bar beekeeping and I would recommend a length of triangular profile timber molding rather than just a waxed saw cut, which is not reliable. Rub the edge of the hanging edge of the triangle with beeswax. Alternatively staple bamboo barbeque skewers dipped in beeswax onto the underside of the bars. It's really important to reduce the risk of cross combing as it is a daunting task for a beginner to correct.
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charentejohn
Guard Bee


Joined: 26 May 2012
Posts: 95
Location: Central France - Charente

PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2016 8:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, score is 1-1 so far. I suited up and waited till dusk so I could still just see, 10:10 here (9:10 uk) and went out armed with chisel and pliers to remove the plastic below the box. It was brittle and I ended up tearing it off, this upset a few (stragglers still returning anyway). I then removed the small square strip they use as a landing pad, loads fell off with it onto the board I had just beneath them. The wood was completely rotten, just pushed it and off it came

Currently all crowding the entry space to repel invaders so I will fit the new piece tomorrow late when they are truly slow. Just a case of 1-2-3 splat into place when all clear and then a load of small screws to secure. Once in place they will be contained I hope, mesh grille will be in place on the repair piece.

The 1-1 is because I reckoned my feet were far enough away but some just dropped and were slow to wake up, one obviously dropped at my feet and stung me in the ankle. My fault for wearing shoes and socks only. I will tape the ankles next time.....

I will do the strip of thin waxed wood down the middle of the slats tomorrow.

Should I fit the repair piece and leave the grille in place then move them to the new location on top of the TBH slats tomorrow night all in one go ?
May be worth making sure it is fully sealed but I am sure it will be.
If not I will remove the grille (just 4 screws) and let them stay as is for a couple of days as I am out on Saturday night.

Then again could wait a few days to see if extra space stops the swarming/bearding and sitting on the outside at night.
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charentejohn
Guard Bee


Joined: 26 May 2012
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Location: Central France - Charente

PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2016 8:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just looked this morning and the base is a real mess, what I thought in the dark was just rotten timber was no timber at all.
I have added the photos to the photobucket link above, shows most of the bottom section missing, they had polyproped the plasstic and looks like they had chewed some of the old wood away ? Maybe an attempt at drainage of water on the plastic ?
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charentejohn
Guard Bee


Joined: 26 May 2012
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Location: Central France - Charente

PostPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2016 12:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Success, well in repairs at least. I bought a smoker, and it works, and did this during the day, no problem as they were mostly out at work.
I have been trying at night (10:15uk time last night) and they were all home and moving around on the outside, just walking about but not possible to fit the repair. I expected to be mobbed during the day but, a bit of smoke, and only a few dozen about and not that interested, two landed on the face gauze and just shooed off.
Not pretty but it works and should stop the poor devils sitting 3 deep over the comb and entrance in the colder night temp. I will seal all bad joints with tape, I can put a strip of paper down the middle so if any get next to it they won't stick. Most gaps are sealed and a few 1-2mm max, but just to be sure...
Once done I can do the relocation, probably Tuesday midnight to the new location. Monday/Tuesday will be hot so best let them get out if need be, they have a sun screen of cardboard and I will put shallow water out.
On Thursday morning I can then then let them loose, after 24 hrs locked in, and begin the teaching of their new address.
I will give them a week to settle in then cut out the combs, again when most are out as it should take an hour or so, only upside is the box should dismantle easily.
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charentejohn
Guard Bee


Joined: 26 May 2012
Posts: 95
Location: Central France - Charente

PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2016 10:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A friend I haven't seen in ages apparently keeps bees and I have been e-mailing her ideas also. She has heard of one suggestion I made to join the hives together making them exit via the new hive. Still to work out details but may work

This came about in her mentioning a technique of using paper to merge swarms. By the time they take a day to remove the paper the swarms have become used to each other.

Plan is to make a wide tunnel (8cm long) from the repaired box to the TBH, seal the repaired hive entrance with paper (+ ventilation grille) one night and immediately attach it to the TBH. They chew through the paper and the new path out does the disorienting. Then just collect from old location and relocate as previously said.

Should be less traumatic, they can populate the new TBH at their leisure using stores in the repaired hive. Hopefully they will abandon, or can be encouraged to abandon, the repaired hive taking their stores with them.

A lot of bees in there, I will post new photos on Photobucket link. Still not sure if hot weather or swarming.

New photos on Photobucket, link above, they are the fits two photos one at night with loads outside 24c and daytime 28c.
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charentejohn
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Joined: 26 May 2012
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Location: Central France - Charente

PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 10:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

See swarming post
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