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Monday, March 25, 2013

Hive Installation Glitch

Most of the time when something goes wrong in a hive, I'm quite clear that I've made an error (and anyone who has been following this blog knows that I have made many)

Every once in a while I'm not totally responsible for the bee messes that can happen in my hives.  Last Sunday and Monday I installed two packages - one in my own backyard and one at the Chastain Conservancy.  Generally the beekeeper would go back into the hive in about 3 - 5 days to see if the queen has been released from the queen cage.

However, both we've had bad weather ever since and (good news for me) my office practice has been very busy so I haven't had any free bee-ing hours during the few times when it was warm enough to open a hive.  Over the weekend our highs were in the 40s and it was pouring rain on Saturday as well as cold.  We can't get into the Chastain apiary on Sundays.

So now it's Monday - one week from installation - and I have not opened either hive to see if the queens were released.  Hopefully they each were and all is well, but you never know.  The temperature is going to be in the freezing range, really until Friday, so the chance of opening the hives is slim.

So here are the various scenarios:  The queen has been released and the hive is functioning with an empty queen cage in the hive.  That shouldn't be a problem at my home hive because I wedged the queen cage between frames:



















But at Chastain, I set the queen cage on the bottom bar of a frame (one of the advantages of using foundationless frames).  There if she has been released, the queen cage is in the way and they may have built crooked comb around the cage, throwing off the symmetry of their comb building:



















It won't be in the 60s until Friday and I'll be out of town, but Julia will open the Chastain hive that day and remove the queen cage and check to make sure she was released, but I won't be able to do a thing between now and then because of the weather.

Atlanta has the strangest weather.  We don't have winter until March and now it's the week after the first day of spring and we are having the coldest week since March of last year.

4 comments:

  1. Would a small strip of comb be enough of a guide to get the bees started making straight comb? I have several top bar comb from my hive that could cut into strips. Will that work or do I need to buy foundation to use?

    Margali

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  2. The bees will build comb with just a popsicle stick as a comb guide. The first time in a new frame, it helps to give them something as a guide, but just a little something. I'm not sure how you would get the top bar comb cut into strips to stay, but you could adhere it with melted wax as I do when I use strips of foundation. After the bees have built comb into a frame, you don't need started strips - when you cut out the comb, the thin strip of wax left serves at a comb guide. Whether the comb is straight depends on whether the hive is level. It should be level side to side - back to front is not as important. Also if you are using foundationless frames for honey storage as I do, never give the bees a whole box of empty frames. They then make really wide comb. Helps if you can alternate drawn comb and foundationless frames. Or feed in empty frames in between frames of CAPPED honey.

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  3. Hey Linda, thanks for your reply. Based on this other blog http://www.honeybeesuite.com/converting-langstroth-frames-to-foundationless/ I turned the wedges on their side and nailed them in. My main goal is wax for crafting and just enjoying the bees so I didn't buy any foundation at all.

    I'll use the top bar comb to make some partially "drawn" frames to help them get started with the right width comb. I don't have any local mentors so your blog is really helpful.

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  4. I'm admittedly new at this, but I don't think there is any problem. A week isn't much time to build out the frames and since they start from the top, the cage on the bottom shouldn't be an issue. The advice around here for packages, (the PNW) is to not open the hive for a week to 10 days & give the queen some time.

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