Newbie starting from nothing, waiting for bees

I am completely new, got a flow hive classic, and assembled & painted it.

I had bees swarming around my compost pile for a long time (they seem to like the coffee). Then they left… then came back several times. I figured out it was based on the temperature outside. Probably obvious to most, but I’m new at this. In Texas, the weather is a roller coaster this time of year - could be 25F and 78F in the same week.

I read that it’s hard to just attract wild bees to a new hive, but i also saw a video where a guy said to melt beeswax on a wood lid and put lemongrass oil. I tried this before i got my hive in a little wood birdhouse that one of my children made at school and was going to throw away. The bees found it interesting and seemed to play with the wax for a while but then left.

Should i try the beeswax / lemongrass oil on the lid of my flow hive and put it outside? Or just put it outside without that? Or should i just wait for the bees i ordered from an apiary in Austin?
The bees i bought won’t be ready until the end of April, so I’m wondering if can do anything in the meantime. Thanks.

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Waiting for your ordered bees is certainly more of a sure thing, if there is such a thing.

You also have to consider that in Austin, you may have bees with Africanized traits that you may need to contend with…

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Welcome to the forum Brandon! And congrats on your lovely new Flow hive :star_struck:

I think your best bet is to wait for your ordered bees, since Alok’s caution about Africanized populations in your area. It’s something to read up on and talk to local beeks more about, including @Dawn_SD who has to follow careful protocols to deal with this issue where she lives too.

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Hello and welcome to the Flow forum! :blush:

I would absolutely go with bees from a reputable supplier. You definitely have africanized bees in the Austin area. If it is anything like San Diego county, over 70% of feral colonies will be at least partly africanized. Believe me, they are not fun to deal with, and unless you are on a decent-sized ranch, your neighbors will hate you for having them. We have over 30 years of beekeeping experience, and having dealt with several such hives, I would never voluntarily choose to manage an africanized colony.

Additionally some Texas cities have requirements for re-queening managed colonies with a known docile queen. They may even require annual requeening, not that everybody will follow that regulation. I would suggest contacting your local Department of Agriculture and asking their Bee Inspector what the current advice is. They are usually very approachable, good people, who love bees and enjoy educating people. They won’t ask who you are, especially if you are just making an informal enquiry. Alternatively, you could seek out a local beekeeping club and ask for their input.

I am very excited for you, launching into this fascinating hobby. Another thought is that a docile colony from a reputable supplier is much easier for a new beekeeper to learn with, and they are more likely to be healthy. I think that you will have more fun with your purchased bees. :wink:

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thanks so much everyone. i guess i’ll leave the flow hive in the garage for now :confused: but looking forward to it in April.

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Well i got my 5-frame nuc and installed it 9 days ago. I made a beekeeper friend at my wife’s office party and he came over to help on moving day. The hive seems very healthy - capped brood, larva, and i think there was some capped honey. We put 3 empty frames in the brood box next to the 5 frames that i bought. He also helped my scrape of the extra propolis that the bee were building on the tops and sides of the frames, so that the frames don’t get glued together.

I’ve probably been OCD about it, and I’ve already checked on them ~5 times (just from the windows). They were circling around the hive for the first couple days (orienting themselves?) and now they seem very active - lots of bees flying in & out the front door. They start getting ready for bed right around sun-down, which right now is about 8:15pm. I also put a bee feeder with 50/50 water/sugar on a fence post about 2 feet from the hive, but they don’t seem to use it.

They explore the frames upstairs, but have not built anything yet (at least anything visible from the side window or the front of the frames). When should expect construction activity on the 2nd floor? And when should I open the brood box again and inspect?

Thanks!



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What a stroke of luck for you Chris! Very glad you have some hands-on help.

I see in your pic that they are all together on one side - if that’s the case, I recommend adjusting this so you have one at the other side too and another in between two built frames at one end. Separating frames can be risky for a new colony, but is okay if you do not place a new one in the middle of the brood or isolate any brood from the main area, and have warmer temps. The reason to separate these new foundationless frames is that the bees might not follow straight lines with all that space open for interpretation. Better to help guide them with nice straight ‘walls’ to go by.

Good - but was this propolis or burr comb? Not trying to bust your chops :smile: just making sure you pick up all the right lingo :+1: Propolis is the darker, stickier stuff bees produce from tree sap. Burr comb is wax comb that gets built anywhere they feel like it that is in the way of smooth frame manipulation for us as beekeepers.

You should take this away, as it may attract unwanted visitors like ants or raccoons. Your bees don’t need it with spring in full flower, which is why they aren’t bothering. Nectar is better :cherry_blossom: Also, if you do find reason to feed in a future spring, using an in-hive feeder is best.

You should not have more than your single deep brood box set up right now. All that open space creates issues for the colony to maintain a constant temp inside & defend from pests. You might not need to have a second brood box at all anyway - it’s a somewhat nuanced decision that warrants a bit of reading and talking to locals about. But for now, remove the second box & give the bees a bit of time to fill those new frames downstairs.

If you installed 9 days ago, now or in the next day or so! You should see some brand new comb on those new frames - be VERY careful when lifting and looking at them. Keep them vertical and level, no tilting or flipping! If the bees have built the comb straight and not connected it across frames, then you don’t need to move them as I described above. If there’s cross combing you will need to gently slice it apart with something like a bread knife, then move the frames so it doesn’t happen again.

Keep us posted on your progress!

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Hi Eva, thanks for your help. The 2nd story box is where the flow frames are, not another brood box. I assume it’s ok to leave the flow frames…? The 5 frames I bought, which are in the brood box on the first floor were almost full of either bees, larva, capped brood, or comb. I was thinking about opening the brood box this weekend to see what they have done on the 3 empty frames we put in the brood box. This weekend marks 2 weeks of busy bees.

You are right, we were scrapping off the burr comb.

I took down the bee feeder. It was full of suicidal ants who love sugar so much, they drowned themselves in it. :slight_smile:

-Brandon

I’d remove that Flow super for the time being, Brandon. Even though it’s fairly warm where you are, your bees still need to keep the space at a constant 94-96F so the brood lives & develops properly. Empty areas, esp upstairs, will make that harder. It’s also a lot of added space to defend from pests, like those ants, or small hive beetles that can get the upper hand when there aren’t enough workers to deal with all the tasks. It’ll be a big help to them not to have that - they’ll be able to focus more on finishing that wax & sending foragers out for nectar without it.

Just mentioning that a good rule of thumb to judge when to super is for ALL of your frames to be at least 80% drawn & filled/covered with bees.

When you take it off, just leave it out on one end to let the bees exit. You can give those frames a rub with some of that burr comb to get it ready for when it’s time :blush::+1:

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Well i took off the super several months ago, and the bees seem to have doing fine.

I was gone on a trip for 9 days, and when I came back this week, it seems like the bee population has decreased drastically. We have had 40+ days straight of 105 F weather with zero clouds and zero rain. (They also just put out a 500-acre forest fire only 7 miles from my house while I was gone.) I do have my hive in the shade, but I wonder if the heat and lack of rain are causing problems.

Another thing my beekeeper friend mentioned to me that I forgot was that the hive should be higher off the ground to avoid predators from eating the bees. We definitely have a possum, and racoon, and a skunk, as I have seen them on my cameras in the middle of the night. I even caught a fox on video. He said that if they need to stand up to reach the hive, it is easier for the bees to sting them.

So, today I added 2 more layers of limestone blocks, which probably raised the hive by 2 feet.
I also move some blocks that were next to the hive, so there are no step stools for any predators. (I had been using them as a place to set stuff so it stays out of the dirt.) Hopefully this helps. I do not have a camera that can see my hive, so this is all a theory right now.

I am also worried because when I inspected 2 days ago, I saw zero honey and much fewer capped brood. I did find the queen, so she is alive and well.

I also put the bee feeder on top while i was rearranging everything today. This time it just has pure water, no sugar. Again, it has been probably 50 days without rain and crazy hot. The bees seemed interested, so i left it by the front door. I will check it tomorrow and take it down.

Finally, there seem to be tons of hive beetles on the ground around the hive, and they do get inside. I bought some hive traps that you fill with oil. They are supposed to be here tomorrow, so I will try that.

Overall, I’ve very worried. :neutral_face:





From the limited view I have of some of the frames in that box, it appears like your brood box still isn’t drawn out. It’s possible that those beetles were inside or some other pest/predator has been working too.

You probably want to put an in-hive feeder on and get them working on those empty frames. Push the frames together and leave the extra space on the sides.

Sounds like you’re in a serious dearth period, as is probably the case even in less extreme years.

The fire 7 miles away is too far to affect your hive but it probably indicative of the generally inhospitable conditions currently. If you can, you may also want to try to find somebody who can give you a frame of capped brood.

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Hey Brandon, glad your place wasn’t hit by that fire!

I agree with what Alok said and would add to reduce your entrance by putting a piece of wood that is shorter by about 2” or 3” in the center of the opening. Reason for this is to help the bees with their AC efforts by giving them two openings on either side to convect the air & use that water to cool it.

Your roof is pretty dark colored too - you can either drape it with a heat deflecting material or order a standard Lang lid, which are typically capped with white painted aluminum. Will make a big difference.

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Thanks to you both.

The hive is definitely not filled out yet. The bees hang out on the empty frames all the time now (they use to not even touch them), but they still have not built anything. I have a ton of burr comb in a jar in the kitchen (nice air freshener :slightly_smiling_face:). How should i apply it to the empty frames?

The hive beetle traps arrive today.
Can you please recommend an in-hive feeder? Maybe they have some on Amazon.

The bees are all over the feeder today (water only), so i guess they like it.

There’s not a good way to attach small burr comb pieces to the empty frames. The bees will build fresh comb in the frame, hopefully straight…

If your bees need a watering station, you can use a shallow tray with marbles or gravel in it or drape a towel over a bucket allowing the cloth to touch the water surface.

Personally, I like the hive top feeders, but there are other options.

Do you have any beekeeping starter books or are there beekeeping courses you could enroll in?

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Well, i lost everything. there was a barrage of invaders:

  • small hive beetles: I put 2 beetle traps, it took a week or so, but they started falling for it and beetle population seemed to be under control
  • ants: I put ant traps outside the hive and 1 on the very top, above the lid. i also scattered granules on the ground around the stones which the hive sits on. ants went away within 1 day
  • wax moths: I did not realize it at the time, but I had an infestation of wax moths. It seems like they laid eggs in the comb, because of a weird pattern in the comb. i discovered a huge blob of worms at the base, I took everything out of the hive, cleaned it completely, and put the bees back in. Within 2 days there were worms on the bottom board again, so I started emptying the bottom board every single day for 1 week.


After checking on the bees on Tuesday, I went on Wednesday and every single bee was gone. It seems that they evacuated the hive, it is a complete ghost town, because the moth eggs hatched and there are big worms in the comb now (previously they were only on the bottom board). It has disgusting cotton-like web all over it and looks like from a horror movie.




Should I rip out everything from the hive, web, wax, and whatever else, burn it all, and hang up my hat? This was really devastating to me, and I don’t feel like I want to do anything now.
Is there any chance whatsoever that they bees will come back to a clean hive? I saw another post where someone said their bees went back (however, not the same situation that I am in): Bees coming back to old hive location
The comb is irrecoverable, so even if they came back, they would be started from absolutely nothing, which is even worse than starting with 5 frames in an 8-frame hive.

You’ve had a rough trot for your first season, Brandon. Don’t give up though. I suggest waiting for next season to start with another nuc. In the meantime, clean up your gear. Check for signs of AFB/EFB. Was it varroa that weakened the colony? Moth and SHB can only succeed when the colony is too weak, or have too much space to maintain.
Put the frames in plastic bags and freeze for a couple of days to kill all the pests (doesn’t work on AFB). Then remove all the webs and other traces of moth. You can still use the best of the cleaned up frames to add to the nuc. The bees will clean up and build them out.
Join a club and learn all you can before spring. If at all possible, consider starting with two hives. A strong colony can boost a weak colony by moving a frame of brood and nurse bees over. It’s not much more effort than one, but gives you more experience and options.
All the best for next season.
Mike

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Thanks Mike.

Today i got the will to go outside and clean the hive. I scrapped off everything from the frames and around the hive and torched it all, so there are many more wax moth larvae burning in hell now. I washed the brood box and bottom board inside and out with high pressure water.

I did have 5 frames from the Flow Hive kit I bought at the very beginning and 8 comb molds i bought from the bee farm (they are used, clean, and smell wonderful) that i never used in my hive. So i popped the molds into the frames and inserted frames into the hive. The frames that were in the hive i left out, and i threw away the molds because they looked so incredibly contaminated. When i have time later, i will scrubs those frames with soap / water and perhaps sterilize them with a little fire.

One small glimmer of hope - i already saw 2 bees come back to the hive today, and one even went inside to the frames.

As a survivor of wax moth horror shows, this warms my heart :two_hearts:

Doubtful that they were from your colony, or interested in moving back in. More likely to be looking for scraps of honey left behind.

I second what Mike wrote, just focus on fixing up what you have and doubling down on learning, planning your varroa strategy and getting excited for next season :hugs:

I second what @Eva & @chau06 recently said about learning as much as you can.

Don’t be hard on the wax moths, they are only doing the job that they do in the ‘natural world’. If you love the natural world, love wax moths.

I’m not sure who I replied to now. I meant to reply to @griff0719 ,