11 June 2017

Bee shakedown Update on Update

A good number of bees are transferred safely into their new TopBar Hive and my chief concern is to establish whether or not the queen is present and undamaged. The hive was well sterilized previously by scorching the wood.
I am feeding them with sugar water (1:1) and also Ambrosia fondant which is suspended from two of the top bars present within the cluster seen below.
The bees seem to have cleared much of the honey from the discarded comb left imediately outside, so this has since been taken away.

24th June and two weeks later I find laying workers - Oh dear I should have taken action on my first suspicions of queenlessness.  I imagine the shakeown was done soon after the colony had swarmed and the unborne queen could have been lost within the discarded combs. Best advice from Phil Chandler is now to shake out the colony some way away from original hive location and introduce a new queen or brood comb to the returning flying bees. The laying bees will be left behind but would only kill a new queen.

Maturing drones and multiple eggs laid by workers   (Latest Image taken on 23rd June)

1:1 Sugar water feed jars

Bees chose this end to start on where fondant is suspended from two of the top bars

Opened hive lid is hinged

Entrance holes on this side of the hive are replicated on the opposite side

The sides have a viewing window

Discarded comb

What's going on here?

Sugar Water 

Where is the queen ?

7 June 2017

Bee Shake Down

Having an old neglected top bar hive to re-house I managed to transfer the bees into a nice new spacious Top-Bar Hive without getting stung or losing courage. Its a somewhat sticky process tickling out thousands of bees from broken comb and a hive gummed up with propolis.
A swans feather was most usefull, plus a hive tool made by my brother out of an old saw blade to form a thin flexible blade in the shape of a long slender L. This was used to hook and slice away the combe from the sides of the hive and from beneath the top bars.

Before venturing down this route I consulted with local beekeeper Peter Hunt and without his encouragement I would probably have not attempted the proceedure.

Old comb to be discarded

Cluster hanging in there

Defending an existing colony nearby

First step accomplished but will they stay put

23 May 2017

Handling the Bars in my Top-Bar Hive

The problem of cross combed top bar hives is that the bars are difficult or impossible to separate, for inspecion or treatment of the bees without damaging the combs.
The following solution enables a block of bars to be lifted out of the hive for transfer to another hive, or other manuovres you might wish to undertake, without breaking the combs apart.
The two hardwood battens are pre-drilled at 38mm centres and attached to each of the bars in quick succession. My bees did not become unduly disturbed, but I managed to sugar dust the entire colony with sugar from below by lifting out and dusting from underneath before replacing in the hive.

Guidance and advice from my local beekeeper was taken from Peter Hunt without whome I would probably have abandoned the idea of this proceedure. As it was, I am pleased to say I was not stung once but togged in bee suite and armed with a smoker and lemon scented water spray all was well.

Newly scorched top bars

Bars attached together may be transferred en-block to another hive with minimal disturbance of the bees.

My bait hive swarm was recently lifted out in this way and simply dropped into the empty ricipient hive.

The battery drill speeds up the screwing down of the battens and subsequent removal of screws.

21 May 2017

Bees Bees and yet more Bees

This apparently healthy colony declined and fizzled out in April but a new one moved in in May unaided.

May is proving to be the time when swarms applenty can be sourced or discovered for free. Fortunately I have a bee-friendly acquaintance happy to accommodate more hives on his bio-neutral farm, which is well secluded in one of those steep sided, cul-de-sac Devon coombes.

Some late evening movements have become necessary to shift hives there from out of Courteney's garden. (Nervous neighbours, troubled by descending swarms, forced a sudden departure).
An extra top bar hive was also acquired from Teignmouth where it had become unwanted and is now believed to be quite likely to issue swarms. Cross combed and overcrowded, it is going to need close monitering. Warmer weather forecasted for the next few weeks makes this older style top bar hive even more likely to let go half its compliment of honey bees.
Another friend has discovered bees holed up in a plastic tub normally used for composting grass and hopefully I shall be able to add them to an existing colony that is not yet expanded from its initial swarm. This operation will involve placing a couple of queen excluders into the hive and using a separator of damp paper so each group may introduce themselves to one another in a more gradual manner. (They nibble through the paper).  However, those bees happened to be Bumble Bees and issued from several different vent holes in the green plastic compost bin that was 3/4 full of grass clippings. More defensive than honey bees, charging at those who dared approach to within about fifteen feet.
I think that five hives to look after will prove more than enough to cope with.