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Worried about my bees not building comb 11 days after hiving nucleus


#1

Summary: 11 days after hiving my Nuc, I have seen zero building of new comb. (technically, there has been some bridge comb built, but very little).

Details:

Day 1: I hived my nuc the same day I picked it up. The nuc came with 5 frames. 3 frames were completely combed out, one side of each of the 4th and 5th frame were filled with comb but the other side on both the 4th and 5th had nothing but the plastic foundation showing. At that time, only 1 frame was loaded down with bees, the rest of the frames with comb on them had bees, but not just covered in bees. I added 3 more empty starter strip frames to fill out my 8 frame box. I installed a top feeder and started giving them sugar water 1:1 ratio via weight.

Day 3: Per the Apiaries instructions I inspected the hive to look for eggs. I found eggs and larve. The frames seemed pretty much the same when comparing them to day 1. I couldn’t see the eggs on my first inspection because the foundation used is pretty much the exact same color as the eggs (yellow). I probably had the hive open for too long as I kept looking very closely on each frame. I came back 30 minute later with a high powered flash light and found eggs right away.

Day 6: Replaced empty quart jars of sugar water with new ones. I had to scrape away some comb the bees built in the gap created between top bar of the middle frame through the feeder hole to the bottom of the quart jar.

Day 11: Did my first weekly inspection. Every frame that had comb was covered with bees! Lots of larve was present. At this point, the bees had consumed 3/4 gallon of sugar water. The inspection went well, I was in and out quickly. Zero comb had been added to the outer plastic foundations of frames 4 and 5 and no comb had been built on the starter strips of the 3 frames I added to fill out the 8 frame brood box. There was about 4 square inches of comb built on the top bars of 2 frames that I removed and a little brace comb too.

My concerns:

Is my hive going to swarm because they are going to run out of space?
Should I stop feeding them sugar water?
Do my hate the plastic foundation?
How long should I let this go on before I do something different?
Is this normal?


#2

No, because they have space, they just haven’t used it yet.

I wouldn’t, unless you know that you have a very good nectar flow at the moment. It takes around 7 lb of sugar to draw out the comb of one frame, if I recall correctly. One gallon of 1:1 syrup has about 5 lb of sugar in it, so they haven’t even taken one frame’s worth of food yet, not accounting for any nectar they may be collecting too. Of course, they also need pollen to build up the brood and the comb, but it reads like you have plenty of brood.

Maybe, a lot of bees do hate new plastic foundation. Is it wax-coated? That can help acceptance. But it may just be that they don’t need the space yet.

It sounds normal to me, but I think you would benefit greatly from a mentor taking a look with you in a week or so. Meanwhile, I would keep feeding. I don’t want to suggest something crass, but some mentors really appreciate the offer to compensate their time. My local nucleus supplier will train people for about $60 for a one hour one-to-one session. Considering that includes his travel time, and he is both very nice and a good communicator, it is a bargain. Might be worth considering to help oil the wheels a little, and give you some therapy for your understandable anxiety. :blush:


#3

Where are you located?


#4

Lorne is in central Texas.


#5

His bees should be wax building fools by now. Take the outer most frames on each side and stick an undrawn frame between them. It always works for me. Make sure the weather is warm though.


#6

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#7

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#8

Other people in this forum and the same state as Lorne have different experience from your comments.


#9

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#10

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#11

You might know a lot, but your delivery leaves much to be desired. All being pompous and arrogant are going to get you is ignored. If you really want to be effective you might want to work on the people skills a little and dial it back a notch or two…


#12

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#13

It seems to me that you started with a nuc with bees on 3 frames and hived this into a 8 frame hive. It was a small nuc. That is a huge space for those bees to cope with. They can only allow the queen to lay brood which they can keep warm. 3 frames of bees are limited in what they can cover. So waiting for some rounds of brood to emerge takes time. 21 days is the time for the first of the bees laid on the day you hived them. Nothing can change that.
I expect if you were doing this again you would keep them in the nuc until they covered all the frames and there was brood covering much more of the frames. Anyway they are in the hive now…so how about putting in a dummy board and removing some of the extra frames you added to make up the 8. You could put in some insulation on the other side of the dummy board. It all helps to keep the brood warm. Once you have a lot more bees…then you can move the dummy board over and add another frame…and so on as the frames are pulled out to comb and the queen can lay in them. The more bees the more eggs she can lay.
As regards feeding…it’s your call…it depends on the flow of nectar in your area and how many foraging bees you have in the hive. It’s a balancing…too much feeding results in syrup being stored and the queen may not have enough space to lay. Not enough food will slow the bees down anyway. However. During your inspections…if you see lots of nectar being stored…you can remove that frame to the other side of the dummy board until giving back when there is less nectar flow…and give them another empty frame…and slow down the feeding.
Observation is the key…and patience.


#14

I will respectfully dis-agree with you.

I do not advise enlarging the brood nest. I advise moving honey stores one frame further away. I’ve gone from 2 hives to 41 hives in under 5 years without buying bees and using these methods.
Two frames, three frames or whatever, there are bees of all ages in that hive. Bees 8-15 days old make wax. I make three frame splits using a queen castle, one frame of eggs covered in nurse bees, one frame of pollen /honey, one undrawn frame. These splits rear a queen and draw the 3rd frame.
I’m in the north and my 3 frame nucs are drawing wax and I’ve done exactly what I advised him and it is successful. I only advise based on real world results. He is in the south and should have even better success.


#15

Respectfully dis-agree.

More room does not harm a colony. When a swarm moves into a cavity, the cavity is already as big as it will ever get. They don’t add additional room as the colony grows. Some of my hives are 3-4 deeps all year. The colony expands and contracts with the seasons yet the boxes stay. In the winter the cluster may reduce to fit in one box but the following Spring they populate the all the boxes again. They aren’t stunted from too much room.


#16

Thanks for all of the passionate responses.

I talked with my unofficial local mentor and got his advice too.

I am starting to come to the conclusion that my nucleus was small. Only 3 frames of bees, 1 more frame with comb but no bees, and 1 frame with only foundation. The company I bought the nucleus from alluded to difficulties early in the year.

My mentor also suggested taking one of the honey store frames (after ensuring it contained no brood) and moving it over space. Actually, he recommended turning one of the half full frames around.

@jape, my intention is not to rush the bees. Instead, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t doing something incorrect and inhibiting their natural growth rate. One of my concerns was the sugar water feeding filling up the comb and causing problems. Another concern was the plastic foundation.

I had assumed that after 11 days I should have seen some progress in comb building. Instead, there has been zero progress (other than a little bit of bridge comb). But, in retrospect, the bees probably spent those 11 days filling up the 1 frame of comb that barely had any bees on it. I expect that my inspection on day 18 will show some progress in comb building. Also, my sugar water is almost used up, I don’t plan on feeding them anymore after I run out. (I never wanted to feed them, but, the nucleus vendor recommended it, so I decided to go with their recommendation since I am a newbie).

I am on the fence regarding whether or not I should move some honey stores around to encourage bee expansion.


#17

Hi Lorne, everything sounds normal to me. It just takes time for the bees to get moving. The hive can only move as fast as the strength of the hives population will allow.

You will see a remarkable change a couple of weeks after the brood starts hatching. I learned something new the other week. “One frame of brood will produce 3 frames of bees”. So it wont be difficult to work out the growth rate of your hive in the coming weeks.

I learned another term recently, not from this forum however. “critical mass”. The critical mass of your hive has a lot to do with how quickly your hive will expand.

I figure that feeding your hive certainly wont do any harm at this stage.

Personally, I would use wax foundation instead of starter strips or plastic foundation. But that’s just me. I would be moving the two outside frames & putting wax foundation between the brood & the plastic foundation. Before doing that, just make sure there is no brood or eggs on those frames.


#18

Us beekeepers are passionate people! That is why so many women are into beekeeping! :smile:

You have to remember that bees have survived for millions of years, even without our TLC (Totally Loudmouthed Cussing!) :smiling_imp: This is a scary new adventure for you, but bees have survived it all and worse.

Big hug!


#19

I couldnt agree more to this post.
Even in the middle of Summer with high nectar flow where I live, it took my 4 frame full nuc 1 month to fill up the nuc then I added the flowhive super then it took them another month to fill up 75% of the flow hive.
The first year is always slow, but once you establish a colony, the flow gets faster.
Observation is the key…and patience :slight_smile:


#20

Haha. My 5 kids are teaching me patience. I’m not learning fast enough! (Subtle joke)

My problem is that I worry about the unknown. I am fully aware that when I ask most if my questions, that the answer will be… “Your fine, take a deep breath and let the bees be bees”. I still feel compelled to ask just to make sure I am not making a terrible newbie mistake.

4 years from now, I won’t be as unsure about everything.