CSI: Backyard Beekeeping Edition, Part Two

CASE SOLVED

If you are just tuning in, last week I told you about how we installed four packages, only to come back 3 days later and discover that two of the four hives had gone missing. The queens were dead and we were sure they swarmed. It was evening, so we couldn’t do much, but we did discover that one of the hives was absolutely enormous. We were able to get out and work the hives yesterday. I feel pretty confident that we now have three packages all residing in one hive. Here’s the evidence…

The first hive looks like a hive would about 5 days after a package install: a lot of nectar and some evidence of brood, so that’s good. I even managed to get a good picture of the queen! (Click on the picture to see it even larger.)

Queen

The next hive, well that’s a whole other story! We are feeling fairly confident that the two “missing” packages drifted into hive #1. Our first indicator was all of this burr comb – in just 5 days!

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Additionally, there are just SO. MANY. BEES in this hive.

hive 1

We couldn’t leave all of that comb on the inner cover, so we began the fragile process of carefully cutting it off and attaching it to empty frames. There was also some burr comb further down in the hive. We left one frame out so there was room for the queen cage, and boy those bees filled that empty space right up!

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There were some eggs in this burr comb, and we weren’t able to find the queen, so we tried to do all of this work over the hive, incase she fell off.  Basically we used our capping knife to cut each individual piece off, then carefully removed it and attached it to an empty frame. We did this by kind of mushing the wax into the top of the frame, and then stretching rubber bands over to keep it from sagging or falling over. The comb was kind of hard to work with because it was hot, so the comb was REALLY soft.

I can say, both of these hives are incredibly gentle. Considering how large this hive is and how invasive our work was, the bees were really quite quiet and we barely used the smoker.

Once this hive has some time to get the new comb fixed up and some time to really get organized, we’re hoping to make a split or two. What I’ve learned about beekeeping is: take it one step at a time!

Also, I’ve decided to name the queens or hives so that it’s easier to discuss them.  I’m still working on names, but am open to suggestions!

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3 thoughts on “CSI: Backyard Beekeeping Edition, Part Two

  1. Sounds like you did a good job with the combs. Glad you didn’t lose all the bees! They just liked that hive best. Why was there so much empty space above the frames, was a feeder there? Perhaps you could have put a crownboard directly on top of the frames and then the feeder over the crownboard. In the UK the crownboard has holes to put feeders over or to put bee escapes in for clearing supers, but I’m not sure if you have this handy bit of equipment in the U.S.

  2. Yes, there was a feeder there. The packages come with a tin can with syrup inside and there was a little left, so we just left a can in each hive to get them started… something else we’ll probably never do again! Of course it was fine in the small hive, but when you leave all that space to 12,000 bees, it’s a great opportunity to fill with comb! I believe a crown board is what I referred to as the “inner cover.” It has an oblong hole in the center? When we are purposefully feeding, we do it just as you mentioned, but this time, we just put the feeder on the top of the frames and the crown board on top. In hindsight, I’m not really sure why we did it this way. Probably because we never suspected the packages would drift. It’s amazing how quickly they can fill empty space! Likewise, we will probably never leave a frame out when we install the queen cage. We did that b/c we accidentally mangled it while trying to get the cork out. The bees, of course, filled the extra space with comb!

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