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My mystery hive problem, 1st year beek


#1

Hi Friends,
My hive (consisting of 2 brood boxes, started from a nuc in May) suffered a swarm in late August followed by an after-swarm in early September. There were lots of swarm cells discovered after the first swarm, and I was advised to let the hive recover and not re-queen. The hive seemed to recover as best as I could expect, and I have been feeding 2:1 at about 2 gallons/week now going on the third week. A local commercial beekeeper advised me to leave the hive alone (no inspections) for a month to settle them down. Three weeks later (today), the hive is furious with activity w/bees all over the outside of the hive. See the video posted here:

An entrance reducer was installed after the second swarm to help the hive resist robbing. Video filmed on 9/26/2018, 1400GMT. Air temp. 74F (23C), RH 91%, cloudy. There were heavy rains over prior 48 hours. The hive is about 75% full cells in the upper brood box, and a quick look at a few frames showed lots of honey and nectar. The wax caps are not torn up at least on the frames that I observed.

Can anyone help interpret what I am seeing here? Robbing? I see no fighting with my inexperienced eyes. Should I pull the entrance reducer? I am obviously concerned about the survival of this hive and in particular winter survival. I also fear that they will swarm again at this late date in the year. I’ve got the urge to add a third brood box but have been advised to not do so.

Any help appreciated. Maybe it’s nothing, but I could use some help to even determine that. I should’ve started with two hives…


#2

I am not seeing any robbing going on in the video, what I am seeing is probably a very over populated bee colony that should have been split to have extra colonies. Without knowing you climate or knowing what bees you have it may be that you still have time to do a slit and allow the split to raise a new queen.
If you hive is hot it is message from your bees that they are not happy about something being amiss or you risk further swarming if it is not corrected. So I disagree with your local commercial bee keeper, has he actually done an inspection.
A third brood box won’t help you, that will only add to the problem of the hive population and I would not advise that.
Remove the hive reducer till you are late into your fall, you are causing a traffic jam !
If there is nectar and some pollen coming into the hive I would cut down on the feeding, Bees need to work or that can also bring on a swarming action if life is “just too easy” for them.
Finally, YES, you should have done a split and started a second hive. But again ask locally for a second opinion. Doing splits is a way of not having swarming situations. I certainly would not leave that hive for a month, there is a problem there and leaving it for a month won’t fix the issue.
I may sound blunt and of a minimum of words, for that I am sorry, but hey, I’m an Australian Harry. Look for a local bee keeping group for local conditions and ask for their advise.
Regards


#3

Hi Peter. Thanks for the advice (again). Appreciated even if it is a best assessment made from the other side of the planet!

No, the local comm guy has not done a physical inspection.

We had a very warm late summer, and still kind of warm and very humid now at the start of autumn.

I will pull the entrance reducer tonight.

There is definitely nectar and pollen inbound, so I will not feed again for a while.

I have been having a hard time finding a beekeeper to take me under his/her wing. I think that you are right, I have to step up that game.

But good to know that you think that there is no robbing going on. I will start drilling into the beekeeping clubs in New England and see if I can find someone to take pity on me.

Thanks again, Peter, always appreciate your help.

Harry


#4

Done my best with general advise not knowing your conditions
Harry. I wouldn’t give up the idea of a split now if you can do it smoothly and know the routine. I had to do some late “winter” (our winter is a track suit climate and not shorts and a T shirt) splits and having not done one for over 30 years they all survived and doing well.
I don’t artificially feed if there is foraging available. Let the bees work, a busy bee is a happy bee,
Local bee groups are where you will find local help, most are happy to pass on advise. Google will help you find one.
I prefer to fiddle about the entrance in daylight, suited up, your bees have night vision and will crawl up your arms rather than fly, at night you are behind the 8 ball.
Still plenty of time for some local advise on the forum from beeks closer to you.
I am not knocking the local comm beek, he hasn’t done an inspection and not seen your video or pics, You need someone to physically assess the situation and while organizing that prepare for a new hive and a split, thinking further I am thinking that is a best option.
Regards


#5

I have a little bit different answer. Because your colony issued a primary swarm in Aug., then a second swarm early Sept., I’d guess that your colony wouldn’t need splitting at this stage.

I see similar activity at the hive’s entrances after a couple of days of rain. Especially if it’s hard rain where the bees can’t get out. They need to do cleansing flights etc. Also you’ll have 3 days worth of bees doing orientation flights.

I don’t see any evidence of robbing.

It’s probably time to inspect the brood for signs that the new queen got successfully mated. That would be my priority.

If there’s plenty of honey/pollen coming in, I’d stop feeding them.

Good luck with that… cheers.

PS. it’s best to tell us your local time. It’s hard for us old blokes to figure out your time against GMT.

PPS, after rereading your questions, I agree with all the advice you were given. The reason for not doing inspections for 4 weeks, in my view is that young queens are very susceptible to balling & getting killed. Leaving the colony be is the best policy, from my experience.


#6

Nice video. Looks like a very busy hive, bringing in pollen and nectar. I would stop feeding them until the next inspection. There may also be a lot of cleansing flights going on after the rains.

I differ from @Peter48 on that one. With your climate, and at this point in the season, a reduced entrance is a good thing. I see a nice busy entrance, but no traffic jam. It looks very healthy to me.

I really wouldn’t split though. There are likely very few drones around now, although your hive has a few. The last thing you want is a poorly mated queen this late in the season. I totally agree with @JeffH - an inspection is a priority once the bees have settled with the new queen.

Please let us know what you do, and what you find. :wink:


#7

Thanks, everyone. Your replies are much appreciated.

We’re looking at improving weather soon and I will get deep into the hive on inspection. Will report back.

Thanks again!
Harry