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I need advice as my bees are so quiet


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Phil I like what you are saying and I think that it's good advice :)

 

Without getting into the ins and outs of TBH vs Langs I think for someone whos just starting out with bees it's so much easier to learn with a mentor and if there's no one around to help with a TBH then why not get a lang to learn the basics of beekeeping and develop some confidence working bees.

 

It's easy to move on to your TBH when you have some more experience.

 

It can be quite daunting opening a box of bees and working them when it's new to you but so much easier with a lang hive and a friendly beekeeper looking over your shoulder :)

 

Maybe you could try to spend some time with a local hobbyist that has a lang and take a look for yourself to get an idea of whats involved.

 

Hope whatever you decide it all works out in the end :)

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hi Alec

 

Unfortunately, as others have identified, you haven't got a viable colony there at all, and I would be surprised if they have a queen. Over time they will dwindle and die - not a pleasant way to go, and, as you've already experienced, they are very vulnerable to wasps. In the coming month they will also become a target for bees from other hives as the nectar sources shut down and robbing behaviour starts - assuming they last that long.

 

Part of your responsibility as a beekeeper is to avoid allowing your hive to be robbed, as it is a vector for disease. Stronger hives defend themselves, smaller (but viable) hives are kept in appropriate smaller sized cavities with smaller defendable entrances. Your colony is too small, your hive too large, and what comb there is too far from the entrance for the bees to defend.

 

so you have two options. Strengthen the hive by adding a viable colony, or euthanase the colony and start again.

 

Here's the thing: the few bees you have will be largely irrelevant to an incoming colony, and if you picked the hive up six weeks ago, they are likely near the end of their lives as it is. Probably inactivity is the only thing that might be preserving them right now. Depending on how the introduction is done, it is probable this small number of bees will be killed by the incoming colony anyway.

 

Here's the other thing: it is essential that you sort out that comb before any new bees are added to that hive and, as others have indicated, get frames and proper comb guides in there. You're going to need to scrape those bars down really well and get rid of those attachment lines of comb where they don't follow the bars correctly, because they will serve to lure the bees offline at every turn. If you introduce a colony to that hive without doing this work first, quite honestly you're damning your chances.. and theirs.. of having a successful hive.

 

Framing an existing hive is not a five minute job unless you are a confident woodworker... actually, scrap that... it's not a five minute job even if you're a damn good woodworker - ask Trevor Gillbanks!

 

As others have also identified, it is also quickly getting to the wrong end of the season to start a hive, but a natural comb hive in particular: it seems we have a lot of summer left to us humans, but it's not so for the bees and their comb building ability is going to largely shut down within the next month. Basically, a colony that doesn't have enough comb built out to live on and store enough food to see them through winter by mid-late February... has very limited chance of survival.

 

So you have some decisions and some work to do.

 

1 Work around the few existing bees you have, removing as many topbars as you can and building them into frames and add comb guides and returning them to the hive, then cut out the bits of comb they do have and, with cable ties, string, fishing line or similar tie the comb into frames and let the bees recluster on them. THen remove the remainder of the topbars and frame/guide them before returning to the hive. Then feed syrup, because they're starving on that comb at the moment. Then add a proper nuc of bees - which don't come to fit topbar hives, so you'll have to be prepared to shake off the bees and run frames of the nuc through a band/skillsaw to cut them to fit inside the frames. (Pretty brutal for the bees, and pretty intimidating work for a new beekeeper). Then feed like crazy to hopefully get them build up enough comb and stores to get them going and see them through winter.

 

2

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It might be an idea to park (or sell) the TBH for a season and start in spring with a standard nuc. The local bee club will be sure to help you then! You do need to register it when you get it, whatever it is. It's a legal requirement.

I don't know what you paid for your TBH but you can buy a Langstroth base, a couple of boxes with frames and foundation, a hive mat and lid for less than many of the TBHs I have seen on Trademe. You can chuck a swarm in a Langstroth hive just as easily as in a TBH, and if you buy bees they usually come on Langstroth frames.

It's a pity the local club would not help because you need to be aware of diseases in your hive and it's best to have an experienced person to teach you.

Try to look for a course on beekeeping. It's a great way to get connected into the beekeeping community.

Of course, this forum is, too.

As a matter of interest, how many bees did you start with? You should have had many times the amount you've got now.

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Option 2. Euthanase those bees. They are dying anyway. In euthanasing them you reduce any (admittedly small) disease transmission risk, save them a slow death and it lets you get on with the work. With a cardboard box big enough to fit the topbars if possible, early in the day or late in the evening when the max number of bees are home, very gently take the occupied bars into the box and pop them into a freezer. Heck, as small as that group is, you could probably slide them into a pillowcase.

 

Now you have full access to the hive to be able to make the modifications - possibly at your leisure over winter. You can access a nuc or, if you wait until next spring, a swarm and repopulate... but this time with a decent chance of success.

 

Hard choices maybe. but the sort you need to be able to make as a beekeeper.

 

Last thing - the photo of the hive looks really short - how many bars in total? I suspect you've got one of the 'dinky' versions that's too darn small to every house a proper colony anyway.

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Hi Alec, suggest you start with this thread here:

NZBF: - How do I get started? Advice for beginners. | NZ Beekeepers Forum

and then read the linked general and TB discussions at the bottom of that post.

 

Like everyone else, I'm afraid to say it looks like you do not currently have a viable colony; is that all the comb you have?

From the looks of things, your bars have a central groove with (at the most) a bead of wax along them? The shortfalls of this have recently been discussed here:

Top Bar Hive Warning | NZ Beekeepers Forum

However, this is easily fixed by using a starter strip of wax foundation. Being based in Christchurch, you are fortunate enough to have a local beekeeping supply store: Ecroyd Beekeeping Supplies Ltd - New Zealand - Welcome to Ecroyd Beekeeping although I don't know if they sell in person or just via the web.

 

Unless things have changed recently, you are not required to have frames on your bars, but it will make your life a lot easier if you do; and it is easier to do this without bees on the bars ;). It is possible that this will become a legal requirement in the next year or so. Trevor started a really good thread on here somewhere about doing a frame conversion:Building Frames in a Top Bar Hive | NZ Beekeepers Forum

 

Unfortunately, you will strike the odd person who thinks that all topbar beekeepers should be lined up and shot, but if you can find any topbar beekeepers, you will find some of them think the same about commercial beekeepers. Go figure. :confused: Don't let the haters put you off, and if you do need to start again, at least you will have all autumn and winter to arm youself with knowledge!

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If you would like to try to save (and I think the queen may have gone walkabout too as it looks like honey rather than brood comb but that may be time of the year) you could try moving the follower boards closer, driiling a cork sized hole in one and setting up a feeder. Build some frames and place foundation in there (have seen various photos on this forum and using Langstroth side bars will enable you to wire the frame and heating this you can install foundation wax. It may be a fiddle but the frames will go around the comb you have and you can use rubber bands to secure it and then move each comb one by one as you really need to be able to move each frame out. This could be looked at as an opportunity to get used to dealing with bees as a hive boiling with bees can bee a bit daunting. I'm fortunate that mine already has frames but am trying with top bar only for them to buld honey comb so I am familiar with any problems. It requires a lot of effort for comb building with ratio of one kilo to 4 or more of honey so providing foundation for them may give them a chance and will aquaint you with using this. Closer to Langstroth system but being able to remove comb and inspect will help you and may save someone elses hives (Hives need to be registered within one week of occupation which helps control of AFB). The Langstroth is easier to use in a lot of ways and advice easier to come by but I can understand the appeal of a TBH. They can require more attention however e.g. adding a new bar and moving the follwer board back rather that leaving them to decide for themselves. The cross combing is another thread but it can be a problem with any hive just more likely in TBH and more troublesome. Using frames with starter strips or adding a wedge shaped wood strip rubbed in wax can help over come this. Have a go and get used to them and wear shoes. (as well as the gears like veil and gloves. A sting on the neck or face can undo the best of us). Hope this is some help:)

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Unless things have changed recently, you are not required to have frames on your bars, but it will make your life a lot easier if you do; and it is easier to do this without bees on the bars ;). It is possible that this will become a legal requirement in the next year or so. Trevor started a really good thread on here somewhere about doing a frame conversion:Building Frames in a Top Bar Hive | NZ Beekeepers Forum

 

I need to clarify this. The law has always required bees to be kept in framed hives in New Zealand (since the early 1900s).

 

It is the opinion of the AFB Management Agency, the people who administer the law, that a topbar does not satisfy the requirements of the law.

 

It is the opinion of some topbar beekeepers that they don't need a frame.

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I need to clarify this. The law has always required bees to be kept in framed hives in New Zealand (since the early 1900s).

 

It is the opinion of the AFB Management Agency, the people who administer the law, that a topbar does not satisfy the requirements of the law.

 

It is the opinion of some topbar beekeepers that they don't need a frame.

 

If you are intending to remove all that is on the bar as soon as it is filled with honey only, removing any brood and taking a shufti at it, actually a long look and prod if it happens to be there would that be outside the law in their interpretation? Not trying to stir the pot: genuine interest and remembering father's face and flagon after putting torch to hive. Bees are currently putting in honey only on outer parts of hive and I have put bars only as wanting to cycle back frames into brood area.

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If you are intending to remove all that is on the bar as soon as it is filled with honey only, removing any brood and taking a shufti at it, actually a long look and prod if it happens to be there would that be outside the law in their interpretation? Not trying to stir the pot: genuine interest and remembering father's face and flagon after putting torch to hive. Bees are currently putting in honey only on outer parts of hive and I have put bars only as wanting to cycle back frames into brood area.

 

No, sorry. The simple fact that there is or could be brood in the area means that there could be AFB.

 

The only case where I think perhaps.. and it's a big perhaps and I haven't discussed it with anyone in authority.... but maybe in a situation where a queen could absolutely not access an area and it were for specific short term honey production - eg, production of honeycomb in jars done over an excluder... I think that you could reasonably ask for an exemption in that circumstance.

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Welcome to the bee forum, Alec, lots of opinions here... Hope it all works out for you and that the experience you are going through with your hive doesn't put you off joining the mad about bees bunch on here.

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When you look into a colony a good mnemonic to remember is S.T.A.T.E. These initials remind you to check:

 

Stores. Are both nectar and pollen stores present and adequate?

Title. An arcane way of saying, “Is there a queen?”

All stages of brood. There should be eggs, larvae and pupae, and bees to cover them.

Trouble. Disease; broken equipment. You get the idea.

Expansion. Is there (enough) room for the bees to expand? Do the bees have to construct comb, or is there empty comb there already?

 

Then, be aware of things that might affect your hive, the weather or its history for example. It’s excellent practice to keep a simple diary so you know when it was last looked at, and what you found.

After a while these things will become second nature.

 

 

 

As usual you come up with real gems Dave, Have never heard "state:" before, our staff will be hearing it now. Thanks

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No, sorry. The simple fact that there is or could be brood in the area means that there could be AFB.

 

The only case where I think perhaps.. and it's a big perhaps and I haven't discussed it with anyone in authority.... but maybe in a situation where a queen could absolutely not access an area and it were for specific short term honey production - eg, production of honeycomb in jars done over an excluder... I think that you could reasonably ask for an exemption in that circumstance.

That sounds like a reasonable interpretation, as my action is to fulfill the intent of the law which is to make brood inspectable and prevent the queen from becoming honey bound. Have gone through frame by frame recently and also did a split, using her brood of course, and honey production has sped up considerably, so hope to prevent a problem .

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Once again that you all for your imput and advice and after sleeping on it I have deceided the course of action to take

Option 2. Euthanase those bees

 

I dont feel confident enough to introduce more bees into the hive at the moment,

anyway the plan is to-----

Get this hive ready for the spring and a new bee colony

I will install starter strips as advised

I will make frames so that it is legal and I also think frames are a good idea

I will register my hive when I have it up and running next spring

I will install a window allong the side of the hive ( in fact I might build a new topbar hive altogether ) I will stick with the topbar hive as i like the idea of having a window to look at the bees at work when I want, and it seems a good way to keep a eye on them without distrubing them.

 

I have ordered a DVD from the USA called the Backyard Hive (alternative beekeeping using the top bar hive ) which I hope will also be of value, as you have been.

 

If anyone hears of or knows of any topbar hive owners in the christchurch region, please let me know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Once again that you all for your imput and advice and after sleeping on it I have deceided the course of action to take

Option 2. Euthanase those bees

I dont feel confident enough to introduce more bees into the hive at the moment,

anyway the plan is to-----

Get this hive ready for the spring and a new bee colony

I will install starter strips as advised

I will make frames so that it is legal and I also think frames are a good idea

I will register my hive when I have it up and running next spring

I will install a window allong the side of the hive ( in fact I might build a new topbar hive altogether ) I will stick with the topbar hive as i like the idea of having a window to look at the bees at work when I want, and it seems a good way to keep a eye on them without distrubing them.

I have ordered a DVD from the USA called the Backyard Hive (alternative beekeeping using the top bar hive ) which I hope will also be of value, as you have been.

If anyone hears of or knows of any topbar hive owners in the christchurch region, please let me know.

Great to hear. Good decisions. Looks like you've found what you wanted here and plenty more besides:)
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If anyone hears of or knows of any topbar hive owners in the christchurch region, please let me know.

 

If your local bee club is not Top Bar friendly, chances are your TBH community is trying to 'fly below the radar', as it were. Try making some enquiries at your local farmers market - organics groups and (especially) permaculture groups often keep a few bees, and Top Bar hives are very popular with them.

You could also try making some enquiries over a Green Urban Living :

Green Urban Living • View forum - Save Our Bees - Backyard Top Bar Beekeeping

Although their bee-keeping forum seems to have pretty much died lately.

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Once again that you all for your imput and advice and after sleeping on it I have deceided the course of action to take

 

If anyone hears of or knows of any topbar hive owners in the christchurch region, please let me know.

sorry to hear you have to do that, although I think it probably is the best course with so few bees. I dont personally know anyone with A TBH but will definately let you know if i do. You are always welcome to come out for a visit here as well, I am just a bit further out than Glynn, just to get an idea of keeping bees and what it entails. Whether its TBH or conventional there is a lot of things to learn and a lot of things they still have in common. Just watching someone work bees is amazing i reckon. The clubs can be a bit negative about TBH which is a shame cos i feel they have there good points, but right now the langs are best for me to learn with. But having said that you should still go along to club open/field days... you will learn a lot just by watching and they often show you several ways of doing things, the right and the wrong way! better to learn from there than by your own errors. ;-)

really hope you dont give up!

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Just a suggestion, but if you are building a new hive, why not make it a long hive that takes langstroth frames? Then you can use standard extractors and gear, buy readymade frames if you want to (and if you are like me you will find times when you can't keep up building your own gear), and add standard supers on top if it gets crowded.

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