Bees using back door - WBC specific

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Zaphod 

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Can anyone explain my bees odd behaviour? I inherited 2 WBC hives from an elderly gentlemen last autumn. One colony is vigorous and thriving, the other (the one I'm concerned about) is a smaller, aggressive colony.

The hives are in a warm south facing position, although the entrances are facing north. This colony uses the south facing bee escapes to exit the hive rather than the front door. They've been doing this on every mild day this year. On returning to the hive they attempt to use the bee escapes to get back in, but they can't so mill around the exit. Some eventually appear to discover the front door and go back in.



Is this known behaviour? Are they OK, or am I at risk of losing my fliers?

Thanks for your advice.

Z
 

Poly Hive 

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Clearly your entrances are facing the wrong way it seems.

In your weaker hive is the entrance actually clear? Poke in a stick and make sure it is.

How are the bees getting to the escape? Are they not covered with cloths?

Lastly me thinks they are telling you they want to get out the opposite way to how they are set up, so possibly if the site suits gradually work the hive round to face south over the next sunny day or three.

PH
 

Zaphod 

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Thanks PH. I agree with your thinking and have been considering rotating this hive by 90 degrees clockwise, which would be east facing, although it is very sheltered. I set the hives up with a knowledgeable local expert who reckoned south facing alighting boards would encourage them to come out too soon on sunny winter days, and overheat the entrances in full summer. As I say the site is south facing in a sheltered Devonshire valley.

I've shone a torch into the entrance and it "looks" clear, and the bees seem to march in OK that way.

There's no cloth over the crown board, just the two oval holes so there's nothing to stop them exiting that way. I've never understood why bees in a WBC would choose to use the lower front door when the two bee escapes are so conveniently close to the top of the frames, but they normally do. I'm tempted to put a mesh over the bee escapes but that would defeat their purpose.

I'm planning a shook swarm in April and have 14x12 brood chambers and varroa mesh floors at the ready.

Z
 

Somerford 

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I had this happen once - in my youth I mistook a framed queen excluder for a solid crown board - from memory, the WBC had had a brood and a half - I fitted what I thought was the queen excluder between the brood and the super - in fact it was the crown board (upside down as it happened, so the porter bee escape worked in reverse, as I discovered.

A few weeks later, having put plenty of supers on, I discovered the cone escape being used .... and it was only when I dismantled the hive did I fiind out why - in effect a one way bee way was happening - they went up as they couldn't get past the upside down porter bee escape.

I recall I fixed this by putting a queen excluder in, closing up the top crown bee escape/feed hole (put a porter escape in the right way round) and brushed all the bees out of the roof.

seeing your photo reminded me !

regards

S
 

Zaphod 

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Thanks S

No QEs on, but one of my theories is that the lower brood area is partially blocked by brace comb, but I'm reluctant to explore too much in this weather. It's a nice balmy 14 degrees today. Is it too soon to lever up the brood chamber and take a peak underneath?

Z
 

oliver90owner 

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Are you saying they have over-wintered with both bee escape holes wide open?

Little wonder they are a weak colony. That is like leaving the attic door in your house open all winter!

Is the other (stronger) colony the same?

You said some find the entrance. What happens to the rest?

Your bees need as much heat conserved as possible. It is hard enough for them to nurture brood without a draught, as a small colony.

The simple way to solve this problem is to close the feed holes, make sure there are no other exit points that area. Your bees will then hopefully use the entance/exit provided.

Regards, RAB
 

Poly Hive 

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Traditionally WBC colonies have blankets, sacks and other such materials placed on top of the crown board. which also explains the traditional mouse trap too. ;)

As Oliver says you are losing heat big style which rather defeats the point of a double wall hive..

And I am also going to say (again) that holes in crown boards are a bad thing as if your was not pierced for bee escapes it would be doing a far better job.

A crown board should be just that, a one function item. A clearer board should be another item again.

PH
 

Hebeegeebee 

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Zaphod, your oval holes in the crown board should have (porter) bee escpes in them which allow bees IN (and can act as a clearer board as well). Cover these holes with bits of wood or maybe plastic/glass if you want to look in. Then the entrance will be used properly I suspect that (some of) your bees were flying out of the conical roof escapes which are designed to not let anything in (including wasps and robbing bees) so your girls probably orientated themselves around the conical exit when they flew and couldn't get back.
 

Zaphod 

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Thanks for all the advice, folks. It was so warm today that I did risk a peek under the crown board, and even a quick check under the bottom of the frames. All clear. Forget what I said - the colony appears to be thriving - they were thick over every frame. I didn't keep it open long enough to examine the brood.

I didn't want to cover both the holes in the board as the hive has a solid floor (new varroa floor is ready to go in) and I wanted through ventilation. Devon can be very damp! I also read that bees that over-winter in cold hives can fare better as they wake up less frequently, use less stores, and awaken later in the season, stronger than those who are kept warmer and therefore more active.

Anyhow, the cloud of bees that came out to meet me all went back in through the front door. I think I'll leave them to their odd ways until I can examine them properly. They seem to be coping well enough without me meddling!

Z
 

steve1958 

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The Bees know best

Those using the back door had probably just forgot their keys :)
 

MJBee 

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When you do get your open mesh floor fitted you will definitely need to either cover the holes in the crown board or fit a solid one. The mesh will provide all the ventilation they need. A folded hessian sack helps keep heat in while letting moisture out (and makes the bees use the correct entrance:))
Regards Mike
 
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