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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Tales of the Top Bar Hives

On Saturday we checked Noah's top bar hive. There was lovely comb throughout the hive like the one in the frame above but all of it was empty - no honey to be seen. Bees were flying in and out so we felt like the hive had survived the winter so far, but no stores does not bode well.

Julia had a box of cut comb honey in the house, so she brought it out and put it in the hive.

Suddenly we spotted the queen. She's at about 9:00 just above my shadow cast on the comb.

Here she is again. You can see that the hive has pollen but no honey. We didn't keep looking at the comb at the point when we saw her Majesty. Instead, we closed it up for another day.

I feel reluctant in the first inspection after cold weather to break the propolis sealing the hive.  If the queen is dead, as she is not in Noah's hive, we can't replace her at this time of year anyway.

If we had looked deep enough into this hive to see the beginning of brood, it would be reassuring but doing so would not be worth compromising the safety of the hive as March's unpredictable cold/warm weather is upon us.

I visited my own top bar hive today at Valerie's.  This hive certainly has many fewer bees than went into winter. They also seemed a little disgruntled. So even though I didn't hear a queenless roar, I am concerned that they may be queenless.  Or maybe they just resented the intrusion.

Here they are congregating at the entry.
I could see the tiniest bit of pollen in the pollen basket on the bottom bee and felt a little relief.  Maybe there is a queen and some larvae that need feeding.  We'll see in the next inspection.

Despite opening a top bar and tearing off the wax covering over obvious stored honey, I still left them some comb honey in a box to let them know I was thinking of them and that there still is a beekeeper interested in them.

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  1. just found you via twitter. Looking forward to reading this blog. I am starting some bees this coming april. My first 3 hives. 2 langs and a top bar

  2. linda,senin blog g├╝zel

  3. I have a Langs (foundationless) and a TBH...hope to catch a couple swarms this year. I'm a newbee.

  4. Anonymous4:39 PM

    I found out last week my bees did not make it through the winter. It was very sad. The hive was full of honey, about 40 lbs but it looked like the bees did not move much. A little puzzled because there wasn't a huge amount of dead bees in the hive, about 2 cups.

    Very glad to see your TBH survived.


  5. Anonymous10:52 AM

    I'm really confused. Your pictures of the top-bar hive show a dead-out. A few scattered bees, an unattended queen, some isolated brood cells that may have come from a laying worker. There are not enough bees to keep anything warm.

    But your text indicates some degree of hope. "Seeing the beginning of brood is reassuring." I would say that nothing there looks like the beginning of brood.I'd say the queen failed a long time ago and you are seeing a few bees hanging on. I'd like to know what you see as hopeful. I'm interested.

  6. We didn't go into the front bars of the hive where the hive has been living. We probably pulled up the 10th or 11th comb from the entry of the hive as the last comb we pulled up. That's where we saw the queen. We didn't look for brood. Sure, the hive may be dead, but there were lots of bees flying in and out so I'm in a wait and see mode. We had an extremely hard winter and the hive may not be OK, but we didn't look deep enough to know yet. You very well may be right that the unattended queen is pointing to failure, but I've opened many hives first thing in the spring and found the whole hive to be more confused by my intrusion after such a long time than anything else. But who knows, maybe I'm just an optimist at heart!

  7. We just went in the above top bar hive today... They had not eaten any of the honey. There was young and capped brood, and we saw the queen, along with some nectar. Looks hopeful!

  8. Fabulous, Noah - I'm glad it has paid off and the start of spring is evident in your top bar hive. Can't wait to join you for another inspection and see for myself! Thanks for posting - I'm sure others were wondering.


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