I think my bees are about to swarm advice please

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shonabee 

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I'm not going to attempt any advice on swarming etc as I too am a beginner. What I would say though, is that the very very best most helpful thing is to find yourself a mentor, anyone reasonably experienced who can help you out will really lighten you.
Even if you can only find someone to go through the hive with you to show you how it's done and give you some confidence around your bees and hive, even just once or twice, it will make your beekeeping life so much easier and more fun.
It does sound like you're finding your bees a bit of a trial, I'm sure the reassurance of someone talking you through an inspection of your own hives will really help you. Try contacting your local Association, mine have been completely fantastic, and I think lots of them are.
 

grangebees 

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Dear Jon
Had the hive already swarmed or not?


I really cannot tell you whether the hive had swarmed or not. I did not see an empty queen cell, or at least think I did not. By several of the capped queen cells there were smaller open ones, but I assume these were trial cell?

The queen wasnt marked, and my queen identify skills are pretty non- existant particulary as darkness was falling last night when I encouraged the bees which had heaped on the grass to enter the 5 frame hive. They went in quite happily and this morning were beginning to clean up (I think!!!) some of the old comb I had given them

As they had heaped on the ground, (about a small basin full) is it possible the old queen had fallen off, They did go in quite quickly, but I havnt seen any fanning at the entrance, so I am probably over optimistic.

Hope I am not being too boring with my pathetic novice attempts, but we all have to start somewhere.
All the best Susan
 

Normandie 

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Yes we do, Susan - and we only got our first hive last year so I'm at a similar level of understanding. I'm cheering you on from the sidelines here. Keep asking the questions and listening to the answers. Good luck. :)
 

jon 

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Susan, the open queen cells are queen cells which have not been sealed yet. The hive usually swarms when the first queen cell is sealed over which is about 8 days after the queen laid the egg. When the cell is sealed the grub goes through a series of larval stages and hatches as a queen in a further 8 days.

If you has a basin full of bees that sounds like a swarm.

find yourself a mentor, anyone reasonably experienced who can help you out
That's good advice. You can't learn bee handling skills from a book.
 
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Roy S 

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Susan, where about are you located?, you really do need someone experienced to guide you through your hive manipulations before you either get put off bees for good, or you end up with no colonies left. By not being able to identify a queen and just moving frames around on a hunch you could actually be encouraging swarming or end up killing off remaining brood and queen cells, and ultimately ending up with a colony hopelessly queenless and a load of pretty angry bees.
While the idea of keeping bees is to a lot of people a romantic one, the reality of opening a mature colony with no guidance is a completely different thing, for some people it is a very intimidating experience which combined with inexperience ends up with mistakes being made.

You need to gather your wits, take a deep breath...Find an EXPERIENCED beekeeper ASAP...and enjoy the learning experience.
 

GrumbleBee 

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Hi Everyone and thanks for the advice from all. I expect I have done the wrong thing, but in the circumstance I just did what I thought might be best.
And I will let you know how it all worked out.
Snip:

I did find a frame with what I assume was uncapped brood, so I took that frame and added it to the five frame bait hive, and found another frame with an unhatched queen cell on it and put that in also

Many many thanks everyone Susan
if you're in doubt about what they look like:

Uncapped brood

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hooked_on_macro/2515773603/

capped brood picture


http://www.wholesomehoney.co.uk/BroodPollenBees1.html
 

grangebees 

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Hi Grumble bee

Thanks for that. I am trying to dredge my memory for what it looked like in the midst of yesterdays melee, and I think there must have been quite a bit of capped brood in amongst everything. The photos were very helpful, though as you might appreciate a little late for action.

In case anyone is following this thread here is some advice from a REALLY NEW BEEKEEPER to any other REALLY NEW BEEKEEPERS

Those who have acquired some sense over the years can look away now.

This is my critical analysis of yesterdays mistakes:-

1 - I had asked a couple of local beekeepers for their advice which was - I could try cutting out all the queen cells but one or two it probably wouldnt work, as they were so
comitted to swarming they would probably go sometime pretty soon anyway. One was a big commercial beekeeper, and he said "If this is your first year beekeeping you will never stop them from swarming anyway" and I think he was probably right. So probably my best course of action would have been to let them get on with it.

2 Mistake two - I know that you turn the lid of the hive upside down, but whether I had not taken why on board, or just forgot in the heat of the moment (I told all you experienced beekeepers to turn away!) but I didnt. When I started dismanteling the hive there was quite a lot of extra comb which had to be scaped off the top bars, so of course some honey dripped onto the top of the hive roof. For all you novices out there this can AND DOES lead to robbing.

3 Mistake three leading on from the last Because I had been so keen to get something done before the hive swarmed I started early in the morning which gave any other bees in the locality plenty of time to home in on it and (now you experienced beekeepers can nod knowingly) by late in the day it was pandemonium. One good thing that came out of it was that I was stung for the first time ever, and although I am very sensitve to stings a bites of all descriptions I can let the novices know it was nowhere near as bad as I expected.

4 Mistake 4 My bees have been very quiet, and I can stand very close to the hive to observe without any protection. NOVICES PLEASE NOTE - ROBBING BEES WILL STING hence my baptism yesterday. I got stung on the soft part of my throat, and was expecting major reaction, but quickly took a homeopathic Apis 30 and again 20 mins later and now problems at all.

I am sure there will be many more lessons I can learn from yesterday, and I will. If the worst happens and I have killed my hive and it is the only one that dies under my ministrations then it wont have been sacrificed in vain. I would guess that those who posted to say the old queen had already left were correct, and that the bees I saw at the front of my house were scouts for the swarm, so at least one good swarm was produced to live another day - or hopefully year. I did look but couldnt see it, my garden and fields are full of trees shrubs and orchards, one year there was a large paper wasps nest in a bush for the entire year without being spotted until autumn

(In case everyone thinks I have just undertaken this without any thought you will be pleased to know that 20 or so years ago I spent some time with a old beekeeper, who unfortunately died just as he was setting up a hive for me. The year before last I went on a 3 day course on keeping bees, and last year joined my beekeeping association and attended all their LAN meeting, but frankly having seen on the internet what is happening worldwide with pesticide companies, and the decision of the BBKA I decided not to renew my subscription, so I feel it is hardly fair to call on the local members).

I spoke to the chap who gave me my old hive, the son of my original beekeeping friend, and he has been keeping bees since he was 14 (about 67 now) He unfortunately was away all day yesterday, so couldnt help. I think he was of the same opinion - let them get on with it - you won't stop them anyway, though he didnt say so in as many words.

I said I will let everyone know what happens over this and I shall, and I am willing to take on board everyones advice, all I would say is that you dont learn to walk by having it explained to you.

Yours even more HUMbeeLY Susan
 

Roy S 

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Leaving them alone to "get on with it" should never be an option of a responsible beekeeper in this day and age. I'm sorry to be so blunt but you still havent said where about you are so that MAYBE just MAYBE a member of this forum could help you out.

You are acting pretty irresponsibly towards all people in your vicinity with this sort of outlook and will be doing nothing to promote the craft of beekeeping to others.

If you got in touch with members of your local BKA no matter if you are a member or not, I'm sure that you would recieve the help you obviously need.

Again I'm sorry for being so blunt but you seem to have so far set a perfect example of "How NOT to keep bees", get it sorted before yourself or even worse an innocent party ends up injured
 

Polyanwood 

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Susan,

I commend you being so candid. You wil learn more quickly like that.

To be honest I have to admit that at the beginning one of the things I didn't realise is that you can't just learn about beekeeping from books, even with the help of a fabulous forum like this one. You need help in learning to read and handle the bees. I recommend that newbees should fill in their profile on the forum to say where they are based, and then they might be lucky enough to get a PM from one of the experienced beeks on here.:grouphug:

Karin
 

jon 

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having seen on the internet what is happening worldwide with pesticide companies, and the decision of the BBKA
Susan.
I am sorry to hear of your problems but I have noticed a definite trend with people having a go at the BBKA either before they have kept bees or before they have learned how to keep their own bees properly. The pesticide policy may well be hopelessly misguided, but cutting off you nose to spite your face is not sensible.

I noticed a couple of people yesterday having a dig at top bar hives. The problem is that alternative and top bar beekeeping has to some extent been taken over by people who treat "conventional" beekeepers with disdain and they get sick of it. Whatever way - in whatever shape of box you keep your bees, there are good beekeepers and bad or lazy beekeepers and you need to learn the difference.
 

Roy S 

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I agree with a lot Jon said, a lot of beekepers are not members of the BBKA, but not being a member of it doesnt stop someone learning how to keep bees in a safe and competant manner. Most people have learnt the craft by taking thier time under the guidance of an experienced beekeeper. The experience you have and the advice you have recieved from people (other than on this forum I should add) is I would say woefully inadequate at best, bordering on dangerous by the sound of it.

I must admit, having seen the amount of people taking up beekeeping this year, I think some have lost track of the fact that they are in charge of many thousands of VENOMOUS animals, and find some of the logic behind their decisions quite scary to put it mildly.

While not a user of TBH's myself I wouldnt pass comment on something I have no experience of. But there does seem to be an "us and them" mentality developing at times.......at the end of the day it doesnt matter what types of hive we use to house our bees. When it all boils down to it, I'd like to think we all want to achieve the same things, but arrive via slightly different routes :)

We do though owe it to our bees and people around us to keep them in as safe and unobtrusive manner as possible
 

grangebees 

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Dear Jon - I so agree with your sentiments, there should be room for every way of keeping bees, and no one should be censored (in the true sense of the word) for not keeping bees in the way each individual thinks correct.

That is why I started with conventional hives and joined the BBKA, and undertook a course, even though that eventually may not be the way I hope to go at the end of the day. And after all I presume honey bees managed to survive quite a long while before man became involved with managing them, and possibly varroa was doing the same too.


I said I preferred to be non-interventionist, but I did treat for varroa, and I have taken advice, both on the internet and from indivuduals. I do realise that I am making mistakes and may I assure everyone that I feel a true measure of guilt for my inadequacies. I just hope I get them all over with quickly - and be able look at my errors with an open mind and move forward to perhaps be a bee helper.

My original aim was simply to have bees in the garden again, pre-varroa I grew lots of wildlife friendly plants and flowers, and one of my joys (pre-varroa) was to stand in the meadows of wildflowers and clover and listen to the hum of the bees enjoying themselves, and if I had the bonus of some honey that would be excellent and truly appreciated.

These bees came to me of their own accord with only an ancient hive in a small piece of woodland, and at least I have kept them though the winter with enough strength to swarm in April. (I hasten to add that I am in the midst of open countryside full of orchards, woodland and fields, and not in an urban or semi urban setting which would present different problems. And I would assume that this year most swarms in open countryside would be a blessing rather than a curse.)

I had decided yesterday evening not to continue posting as I sensed the recriminations mounting, but thought that other novice beekeepers may benefit from my problems. And this year above all others I would think there are many new beekeepers hoping for guidance. Please all you experienced beekeepers out there - how does it go "let him who is without sin cast the first stone"

Anyway - for the moment I shall continue to keep you all posted if people are interested, but at present I prefer not to give my area - I am unhappy enough with my own performance - and internet disapprobation is sufficient without having to cope with it on a physical level.

Even more HUMbeeLY Susan
 

Roy S 

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I'm sorry you feel that way Susan, I think you have to realise how frustrating it is to read someone having so many problems as you're having, when you may be a neighbour and able to get help within an hour!!, it does seem like you are refusing help

I remember a beekeeper close to me around 20 years ago who prefered to not intervene with his bees too. His bees were bad tempered and a nuisance to everyone in the area, with regular swarms (His property shared the boundary of a primary school!) the only thing he did was remove supers of honey when he wanted too, with huge numbers of bees reacting angrily every time he did it. I think it was the only thing that our local BKA have ever been grateful to varroa for, because he couldnt be bothered anymore and sold his bees and equipment.

If you dont want to go through your bees regularly...maybe you need bumble bees?
 

grangebees 

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Hi Everyone - new beekeepers in particular, you old hands will have nothing to learn from this.

In my last instalment I left you with the picture of an orchard full of robbing bees, the original hive taking the brunt of the attack, and the other hive and bait hive having similar though milder problems.

The chap who gave me the old hive was away doing something else, and not expected back till 8 or 9pm so I went to bed depressed and miserable at my inadequacies.

Some internet research had given me to understand that once robbing starts in any sort of order it will not stop until all the stores are taken, and any bees left will probably starve anyway. I definately couldnt move the hives - they were well into the orchard across uneven grass, and very old (pre 1930's) WBC which might not even stand up to being moved. I came up with a plan, which whether it was effecitive, or whether I was just lucky seems at present to have worked, so for what it is worth here is what I did.

I knew it was to be a hot sunny day, and at least one of the hives is in sunshine, and I decided to try and baffle the robbers by swathing the hives in old white bed sheets, and disguise/change the smell by using essential oils. As it was going to be hot I didnt want to get the hives overheated, especially as I had already reduced the entrance as soon as it was possible to give the guard bees a better chance.

I got up at dawn. Soaked several big white sheets in water to which I had added quite a reasonable amount of essential oils. I chose rose and lavender to keep my own bees calm and tea tree oil, which I understand bees dislike to put off the robbers.

Using some old sheep hurdles I tented over as best I could, and added more scented water whenever it looked like the sheeting was drying out. It was hot and still so everything was OK, and seemed to be working a bit. Unfortunately had to go out, and the wind must have got up, and when I returned robbers were back. I could identify them as they were bigger and reddish black striped, different from my bees ( I think they may be Italian bees, which apparently are prone to robbing - I wonder if this explains why they are good honey getters!!!!!).

I filled a garden sprayer with a strong mix of the teatree oil, and sprayed it in the air over the hive and towards the direction the robbers seemed to be coming. After about 20-30 mins the situation seemed better, and by dusk everything calmish. The two extra hives seemed to have coped with just the scented sheets, and I could see no robbing by either of those.

At dark, took the sheets away, and opened the entrance up to allow my bees a chance to air everything and clear out. Did the same again today, but I was around all day so could see the sheets didnt blow, I had closed the entrance up again a bit just in case but in fact saw no evidence of robbing.

After lunch Bob was able to call and take a look at what I had done, but apparently I had done quite well. The small "bait hive" had honey capped brood, pollen, drone cells and two undamaged and unhatched queen cells. There are bees and some have started flying and although being small with not many bees it may be at risk if the weather turns bad, all in all it looks as though it has a chance. Though as Bob said they might take off anyway when the queen cells hatch.

My second attempt looks to have worked reasonably as well, though I had managed to get more bees and brood with that one, and several queen cells, some of which Bob suggested we took off. At the same time he checked for varroa in the drone brood and said it all looked good and clear. Though he did find a wax moth and showed me how to catch and kill it.

We then moved on the main hive, which was a bit agitated and still had plenty of bees. This was one thing that had worried me as I was afraid I had taken too many bees out and weakened the hive, and that was why they were suffering so badly from the robbers. Anyway I neednt have worried they were all OK, There were lots of unhatched queen cells, and we found one cell with an egg in, but as it was possible the queen had got "pinched" some of the queen cells were left, but a lot removed. Again the drone brood showed no signs of varroa.

Bob said he thought the hive probably hadnt swarmed, and the bees I had seen at the front of my house were probably a swarm from somewhere else. So all in all I am very happy.

The original hive is so strong, that if and when my topbar hive ever arrives from Thornes I may (I only say may) attempt to move some brood, honey and bees into that. But for the moment I am grateful for the outcome so far.

Many thanks to those who have been supportive throughout this, I know I have learnt a great deal, and I hope anyone who has been following this thread might have picked up something from my trials and tribulations.

Yours HAPbeeLY Susan
 

Hombre 

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Susan,

A suggestion; I can understand your reluctance to identify your location and don't wish to increase your distress or that of your bees any more than necessary, if you were to PM Admin, he would probably know of a few people in your area - stated or otherwise - that might be happy for you to PM them for assistance. Admin is big brother and can tell from your IP address where you are, probably within about 10km.
This might allow you to get the assistance you need without having to disclose anything that you would prefer not to in the public arena.

Regards,
 

MrTrueman 

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Susan,
Admin is big brother and can tell from your IP address where you are, probably within about 10km.
IP addresses are not that simple but I get your point. Personally I would not give up the chance of the offer of a mentor, but each to their own.
 

grangebees 

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Hi Everyone

I thought anyone who was following the thread may have got the gist of what was happening, but if not I will just give a summary.

Basically late Sunday afternoon (19th) I spotted what I now realise were scout bees from a foreign swarm going into a crack by my bedroom window to access the inaccissible vaulted ceiling above. I smoke bombed them. They disappeared and have not been seen again

I telephoned the man who gave me my original old WBC hive, and earlier this year repaired and gave me another and some spare super boxes and lifts. ( As I said in my earlier postings I may not wish to keep bees on frames in the future but realise I should learn from those around me who have experience, and that is how they keep bees) . Although he is 67 and retired from "work" he runs a small holding which produces 7000 bunches of cut flowers, free range eggs, tomatoes vegetables besides his main pruduct which is soft fruit raspberries, and his wife is due to go into hopital in early may for a hip replacement. He also has 22 hives which produce honey for sales to his own customers and local shops, so I try not to be too much of a burden.

He said he felt it was getting a bit late and cold to do anything too much and unfortunately he was due to be off early in the morning helping someone do a job (not bees) for the next couple of days and not expecting to be back until 8pm or 9pm either day. Anyway he said to pop up - he is about 3 miles away.

He said that it sounded like my hive might be about to swarm, was sorry he couldnt help for the next couple of days, and suggested I could try cutting out any queen cells, but if they were committed they would probably swarm anyway. He lent me a small 5 frame bait hive, and gave me another spare super which was full of brand new made up frames with foundation, and a few spare bood crombs he had by ready made up as the eqipment and top bar hive on order from Thornes hadnt arrived.

I said I would have a look on the internet for any other ideas as he doesnt generally bother to split his colonies (I cannot imagine where he finds the time to do what he does anyway) When I got back dusk was beginning to fall, but by then I couldnt resist looking into the hive to see if they were about to swarm, and they obvioulsy were.
I reseached on the internet throughout the evening, read my bee books, looked at the notes from the course I attended with Michael Weiler, and just gone midnight put my first post on your site. I stayed up until about just gone 1am unfortunately missing a chance to respond to some posts which came in just after.

Early Monday 20th I checked my emails, and managed to get a bit more advice (many thanks everyone), but thinking swarms were about to leave imminentley thought if I was going to do anything sooner was better than later. Between 8.30 and 11.30 I did what I hoped was best, and this of course was my first major beekeeping experience. So any advice either in person, after 8.30am on 20th however kindly meant was basically too late. I contiued to post, as I thought it may be useful for other newcomers.

I finished my story with Bob coming down to check how I had got on as soon as he could which was after lunch on Wednesday 22nd

As I said in my postings my beekeeping has not been undertaken on a spur of the moment whim, I have been on a 3 day course with Michael Weiler, I have done as much internet research as I can, I do have books, I do have a "mentor" I have joined the BBKA and been to the LANs meetings. I was hoping that an internet forum was just another "string to my bow"

Anyway All the best, and many thanks for the interesting advice I have been given, I can assure you it has all been taken on board for future reference and research
Susan
 

Haughton Honey 

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And I for one hope that you keep sharing your experiences with us Susan - this is a FORUM, whether you agree with what is being written or not.

Cris
 

jon 

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Glad to hear the situation does not appear to be as bad as it was a couple of days ago.
 

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