Sunday, June 19, 2016

And The Award Goes To

I installed a package in the top bar April 26th. I picked up the package after work, wheeled the top bar down to the site (literally wheeled the entire hive balanced on top of the wagon), and set about getting the bees ready for their new home.

First I had to level the hive to ensure bees didn't build comb at the wrong angle. The flowers in the picture below hide the tacky mix of wood pieces and brick I used to reach plumb. Next I inserted a follower board that included a built in feeder that we made. Lastly the queen cage was attached to a bar via staple, and the bees poured into the empty hive.

Top bar hive. There are entrances on both sides at opposite ends.
The new package only has access to one until they expand.
I enjoy working in the top bar. It's easy to check syrup levels and the bees are significantly calmer than our Langstroth hives. Even when I have my big oops moments they are calmer, and I typically don't need a smoker for an inspection. There was a small amount of cross combing and it was easy to remedy since the hive was just getting started. Except for one bar that they built slightly wide, but the comb was four sided. Pretty much two rows of narrower comb hanging from one bar. At first it looked like they were going to pull the two together so I let them be. After a month they've expanded the comb instead of combining it. Here's where I made the BIG oops, my biggest yet. I made the mistake of turning the bar over. It folded open like a book and both pieces landed on the ground. Thank you, thank you, it's an honor to once again receive the Worst Beekeeper Ever award! 

The two pieces that fell apart.
Expletives were uttered. I doubt bees can blush, but they probably wanted to. I stood there debating between several fixes while trying not to cry. There was enough brood in the comb that I had to place it back in the hive. If it had been honey I would have kept it out. It's still early and the hive is building fast with little syrup use. For the first week I propped it against the end of the hive and used sticks to keep space between the two pieces and the end wall. My thought was the brood would emerge and any pollen and honey would be moved to other comb. The queen was on one of the broken pieces. I found her on the ground while scooping up the bees to place them back in the hive. Was she hurt? Did I do something to damage her? No way of knowing without waiting for time to pass.

Inspection a week later was disappointing because they were building the two pieces together and upward to attach to a bar. Definitely Italian honey bees with an appreciation for the leaning Tower of Pisa. On to the next fix. I separated the two combs and used cloth loops to "hang" the comb from bars. This way the bees could reattach the comb to the bar and chew up the cloth to dispose it. One of the pieces had three queen cells. Two were capped. I couldn't see into the third. I checked the remainder of the hive and didn't see the queen, but she could have been on the wall. I know I'd hide after her last experience with me. There are eggs, and they appear 2-3 days old. I added two more empty bars and based on this detailed document I think they're supercedure cells and not swarming: Now I wait again.

Another week has flown by and I anxiously headed to the hives. It's Father's Day! So of course I talked my dad into joining me. I'd say after having to suit up, and sweat like crazy in tyvek, he wasn't as happy as I was when done. I'm happy because the girls have reattached both broken combs to bars, chewed away the cloth so I could remove it, begun building on two new bars, I saw eggs, and I found the queen! They definitely didn't swarm. I feel awful I must have hurt the last one which definitely isn't why I decided to keep bees. 

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