New home for old bees

I recently moved into a new house and found I have inherited a uk national hive in a forgotten corner at the end of the garden. It’s in a bit of a state, and although I haven’t gotten around to opening it up just yet for a proper inspection, I can see bees coming and going steadily.
I am completely new to bee keeping; all the gear no idea… however I am hoping to change that and am undertaking a beekeeping course. My aim would be to swap out the existing national hive for a flow hybrid hive so that I can start again from the beginning.
Any advice on how to transfer bees from a very unloved national hive and into completely new flow hive?

Hi Lucky,

I’d see if you have someone local to help and do an inspection of the hive (social distancing and husbandry of bees is allowed).

You need to assess the condition of the bees, disease, pests etc… If its a forgotten hive there could be a host of issues. On the other hand there could be none.

As its a UK national you might want to think about a flow hive that accommodates UK national size frames and not langstroth.

Transferring the bees from the UK National to your Flow hive Once you have it is pretty straight forward and YouTube is a great sd ource for videos.

Flow have a YouTube channel as well as a Facebook page with videos of pretty much everything to help and in detail.

Norfolk honey company on YouTube is also another good chanel to look at with good clear walk through tutorials.

Even after you do a course, I think you’d need to engage an experienced beekeeper to help you with this. An abandoned hive can be difficult to work on because the bees use wax & propolis to glue the frames in place, making them difficult to remove which upsets the bees while attempting to do so. The more supers the hive has, the harder the job will be.

PS However, assuming that national frames wont fit into a Lang hive, you could gently cut the decent looking worker comb out of the national frames to fit inside the lang frames, hold them in place with elastic bands. Once all of the decent looking brood is in place in the new brood box, flanked by fresh foundation frames, remove the old hive away & replace it with the new hive. Gently shake the bees from the old hive into the new hive before you put the crown board on.

If the bees are a bit angry, take the old hive several meters away to work on & place it at a good height so you don’t have to bend over very far. The flying bees will return to where the hive used to be. This will reduce the number of stings you receive, hopefully to zero.

Thanks for the replies, both really helpful.
So I already have the Langstroth hive, the discovery of an existing hive was not factored in to that decision!!
I will reach out to someone with more experience for an inspection of the existing hive. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for some good luck on that!
I have found some pictures online that suggest uk national frames fit inside of Langstroth frames and can be secured with cable ties quite successfully. My preference is to use foundationless frames ultimately…
How about this for a solution:

  1. Check bees, everything fine, great success!
  2. fix existing uk national frames inside new Langstroth frames.
  3. add second brood box with foundationless, Langstroth frames
  4. remove old hive, replace with new in same location
  5. phase out uk national frames
    Will that work in principle?

Sounds like a great plan. However I have reservations about Step 1. I’m not a fan of Step 3…

Let’s see what you find & what your mentor suggests.

I would ditch the old box as in my strategy. This would be assuming it is dilapidated.

Thanks Jeff,
Step one is hugely optimistic, I’m aware of that!
Which part of step three do you dislike? Foundationless frames or additional brood box?

Hi David, I realize that Step 1 is hugely optimistic. Step 3: I’m not a fan of foundationless frames. You get a lot of cross combing as well as a lot of drone comb. See what your mentor thinks about foundationless frames.

In regards to the extra brood box: That will depend on how quickly the bees fill the first brood box. If you really want to use foundationless frames, it can be done successfully, however you’ll need to have some straight frames to start off with. Then you’ll need to manipulate the frames so that the bees will build straight comb in the middle of the frames.

You’ll need to join a club or find a mentor. You may even have to pay someone to come & help you & give you a lesson at the same time.

Take on board what I said earlier about the possibility of the frames being difficult to remove, thus upsetting bees. That’s a REAL scenario based on personal experience :slight_smile:

Thanks Jeff, you clearly know what you’re talking about so all taken on board. Great to find a place with people who are willing to help out a newcomer like me!

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You’re most welcome Dave.

Wow, I would be scared to find that!

Scared of the abandoned hive, it is always important to ensure the colony is free from pest and disease. But it would certainly be quite the surprise to stumble across a beehive.