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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 16th year of beekeeping in April 2021. 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. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a
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Sunday, March 27, 2011

What a Mess!

Yesterday I arrived in South Georgia to inspect the 10 hives we installed a week ago.  I was excited to see what the bees had done.

But we found a real mess.....Phrases ran through my head like "shock and awe;" "it's always darkest before the dawn;" "pride goeth before a fall."   And "What WAS I thinking?"

The guys had reported that there was a swarm of bees living in an abandoned stove on the property before I left Atlanta.  I had driven down with a hive to put this swarm into - old frames, 10 frame medium hive since I don't use those if I can help it any more.  I thought we'd capture the swarm and have a bonus 11th hive.

We started by looking at the stove at 11 AM.  No bees.  The scouts had found a good enough home and the hive and gone to better places.  We then went to Hive #10 to begin our inspections.  

Hive #10 had absconded.  Probably they were the bees in the stove.  I was heartsick.  If I had only arrived the day before, etc. etc.  

With a sinking feeling I opened Hive #9 and the bees were still there, but these bees had not built comb in the frames provided in the hive box but had built beautiful comb attached to the inner cover of the medium super we had used as a surround for the Ziploc baggie feeder.  We opened Hive # 8 and found the same occurrence; same with Hive # 7; same with Hive #6.  Every single hive had built comb attached to the inner cover and had not moved into the hive box!


OK, so we had to figure out what to do.  I had not come prepared for this, but we decided to cut the comb from the inner cover and tie it into our foundationless frames to get the bees going the way they should.  We ran out of rubber bands after the first hive and started using the ball of kitchen twine that I had brought.  We did this on every single hive - we worked from 11 - 3:30 nonstop and moved all the work the bees had done.

I've never had my hands in so many bees.  I got stung about eight times, but never badly until the last sting in the pad of my third finger.  The whole time I tried to move slowly and gently and we did the best we could.

However, I am so worried now - often after a hive is messed with like that, the bees abscond, or ball the queen and kill her.  Or we could have injured the queen in the transition.  

I don't know if this happened because the baggie feeder occupied 2/3 of the top bar access and they experienced it as a barrier.  I don't know if this happened because we used a medium super as a surround, thus providing them with a hollow cavity like a tree.  I just know that I am so sad about this mess.

Here are the tragic pictures. We didn't leave them with any food. The guys were going to set up a set of feeding jars in the center of the fields near each hive and everything is blooming in S Georgia now.

I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.  All the hives had orientation flying going on as we left them.


  1. My goodness! Beekeeping is complicated. With all your efforts, I sure hope this works out.

  2. Hello Linda! I just had this debate with my father about how he should install his first bees when they come next week. Check out my video on no shake install that works great!


  3. You had the luxury of going back in three days to see if the queen were released. I do know about the no-shake install, but had visions (since we couldn't return to check on the queen for seven days) of comb being built all around the package....we had a number of strikes against us - inability to check on the queen within three days, a need to feed more than a Boardman would hold for the same seven day reason, and the error of putting the feed inside a medium super instead of a shim. So they built comb everywhere but inside the frames.....

  4. Oh no, and after all the high hopes and expectations (not to mention long drives . . .). I hope the remaining colonies settle and get the hang of life in the hives.

    Good luck,

  5. Thanks to the kind advice of a wonderful woman who occasionally sends me very, very helpful emails, this is what we should have done to honor bee space and keep the bees from building the burr comb.

    Shaking the bees into the bottom box was fine, but we then should have put on the inner cover and fed the baggie feeder above the inner cover and maybe the syrup jar as well, up on small pieces of wood so the bees could get under the jar. The medium super around that ABOVE the inner cover would not have been a space the bees would have used. Then bee space would have been honored in the hive itself and the bees would have built in the frames, but also would have had the interior feeding.

    Well, I'm into sayings today, so I think "Better late than never" and "Live and learn (and die and forget it all!) I do have personally two more packages to install this year and I'm going to try Penny's method for them.

  6. Anonymous7:01 PM

    Hi Linda;I've been keeping bees, the same amount of years as you. And all you, would have done, was to have put that inner cover, in there between the supers. Like your friend mentioned. Keep up the good work, and I enjoy reading your adventures. C.B.from; N.C.

  7. Anonymous9:18 PM

    Linda, I think you gave them too many options. First you did not use wax foundation and second, you gave them too much space with that empty super.

    When I have install packages, I use a feeder bucket over the inner cover.
    I always find comb in the inner cover but they also work the foundation right away.

  8. You are so right! We definitely should have put the food over the inner cover and all would have been different. Oh, well, we learned a lot and hopefully from this post and this discussion, nobody else will screw up the way I did in this package installation!

  9. I like using the top hive feeders. They have floats to keep the bees from drowning, you don't have to open the whole hive to feed, they hold a lot of syrup and there is no space for the bees to use to build comb other than in the frames. I guess for a larger operation they would be expensive but they sure work well.
    Good luck. I don't know of anyone else keeping bees that tries as hard or cares as much as you do!

  10. What is Penny's method to install?

  11. Linda,

    I always sequester the queen in a queen introduction cage, especially if I'm installing a package on new wood. Or you can leave her in the shipping cage just as you did, except don't remove the cork. You said you were going back in a week, and a week isn't any too long to have her locked up.

    This technique allows you to feed just as you did, but it prevents both absconding and comb in weird places. The workers will build the comb close to the queen--right where you want it.

    I've used your method with that one exception many times with good results.

  12. Hi Rusty, We left the queen in the cage, but did take out the cork. I guess you're saying if they can't free the queen, then they will build comb close to the queen. Good to know. This continues to be such a helpful post with so many good ideas

  13. Exactly. If she is not free they will build comb close to her. Also they won't abscond. Then you can free her the next week when you go visit.

  14. Ditto on the baggie being placed on top of the inner cover. Same thing if you are using a top feeder so they don't build comb under it. Been there...
    I do not let the bees free the queen from the cage. I wait until they are good and ready and release her myself. I have always found a little beard of comb below the queen cage that tells me they want her working.


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