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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 19th year of beekeeping in April 2024. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here.Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Rescuing Abandoned Hives: Another Beekeeping Adventure with Julia

Julia has a friend who started keeping bees four or five years ago. The friend had four hives. Almost as soon as she started on this hobby, a crisis occurred - her house burned in a really bad fire. So the bees have lived in her backyard for four years with nobody taking care of them.

The friend invited Julia (my partner at Blue Heron) to come and salvage these hives. Julia in turn invited me, dangling the possibility that if there were live bees we might each get a hive out of it. We decided that if we did get hives, we would probably put them at Blue Heron or at the new Little Nancy Creek Park where I have asked that we be the beekeepers.

The first hive was dead and empty of everything. All of the wax had been eaten out by wax moths. New wax had been built in the hives but it was abandoned. There were wax moth cocoons under the inner cover and the hive was dead. Probably the original bees had died and a swarm moved in (making the new wax) and then either absconded or died as well.

The second hive was limping along. We couldn't decide if the bees in the hive were remnants or robbers, but there was honey in the hive with cappings intact, so we decided not robbers. Perhaps the queen had died or was not doing well, although we saw one shallow frame with a small area (about 8" wide) of capped brood.

The third hive had a ventilated hive cover that was totally glued down with propolis and pollen. That hive had a deep and a shallow with a queen excluder between the two boxes. Can you imagine how crowded that hive has been? We saw brood and bees and it looked good.

The fourth hive, while the woodenware was in the worst shape, had the best bees. We even saw the queen, who was lovely and long. A huge tree or tree limb lay right beside the hive. Maybe the tree fell on the hive and that explains the broken bottom board.

We tried to call Cindy Bee to find out how to handle all of this but she was not available. We found out from her later that we probably should have really been careful to look for foulbrood and to change gloves between the hives as well as hive tools. We didn't - so if we go back and find AFB signs in the second hive, we mostly likely spread the spores to the healthier hives.

I did come home and put all the hive tools we used in the dishwasher and also washed the frame grip and frame rack....and threw away the nitrile gloves I wore.

On a positive note, it didn't smell foul and although we didn't do the rope test, I didn't see sunken cappings (AFB), nor did I see scale in the cells (sign of EFB). When we go back, we'll do the rope test on the capped brood to see, but I think these hives are crowded but healthy.


  1. Sorry to hear about the fire

  2. Anonymous7:23 PM

    At one of our meetings last year the presenter was talking about subclinical levels of AFB. It was in a huge percentage of the hives they tested in Connecticut. So while changing tools between hives seems like it is always a good idea, I'm not sure how worried I would be now that its too late to do otherwise.

  3. Tiffeny7:59 PM

    I know this is an old post, but I have a question about Hive #1. Are the hive bodies and frames still usable after a heavy wax month infiltration that has sat there for months? Can the cocoons and all the mess be scaped off, the wood cleaned up, new foundations added to the frames and everything still be used or should you throw everything away and start completely fresh? Thanks so much!

  4. I am sad. My brand new package of bees abandoned their topbar home. I love in Oakhurst, DEC, and am not really sure what I did or didn't do wrong. I have a feeling that they didn't like the screened floorboard. I have another package coming in a day or two and I think I'll replace the screen with solid flooring. Joke: I'm sure I'm not the first boy in this town to get his heart broken by a flighty queen! I kid, I kid. So..thanks for letting me vent and any possible insight would be much appreciated!
    dani B (not bee joke)
    decatur, GA

  5. If you'll search this blog, my first swarm hived in a top bar, absconded followed by the absconding of the package I bought to fill the hive. I decided it was because of lack of old comb, the open screened bottom and the poor quality of the insulation of the top cover. Once I corrected all of that I was able to re-install the package (they were on the ground near the hive) and go forward. Search for that post to see what happened.

  6. I have a broad mind to keep bees and just came across an abandoned one cell bee hive amongst many old celebrated hives. We brought it home and know too look for a queen come spring or drones but in the meantime should we put out a feeder? March is coming and here ithas been unseasonably warm for almost two weeks breaking records by double digits.
    March may hold more winter weather so should I provide a food source for this hive? Without knowing what's inside? This time of year here they come out to defacate only. But these unseasonably high temps worry me that I may loose whatever is inside as I have not been able as yet to open because the hive is glued with, well you know, propolis and such.
    Help me please. I would love to save these bees.


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