Oxford Bees

C Hive

Cleaning out after a harvest

Submitted by will on Mon, 20/08/2018 - 20:00
Honey comb if it had been designed by Gaudi

I harvested a super of honey from Colony 1 a couple of weeks ago. I also had some uncapped honey in frames which had been Hive C containing Colony 11 before I went through all the complicated rearrangements.

The conventional view is that the bees will thoroughly and carefully clean comb if you put it on their hive. In my wisdom I found an exception to this view.

I put an Ashforth style feeder on the hive and then placed the hive parts on top. An Ashforth completely covers the top of a National hive body so it all fitted together neatly. The bees could get to the comb to clean it. Everything should have been fine.

The problem was that, while the bees did move up into this new addition to their hive, they did not remove the honey from. Instead they just sat around. Some of them built a weird structure in the feeder. It looked like honey comb which had been designed by Gaudi.

The comb was built around some wax which I'd given them to clean up. They encased it and built comb up over it. I have an idea that the bees only build straight comb when the smell of the hive is right. Sometimes they go haywire but usually, if there's a nectar flow going,  they'll build beautiful straight and regular comb. Not this time.

After a few days I took the 2 boxes off the top of the hive and took the risky step of setting them outside to be robbed. I placed them uncovered over least 5 metres from the hive. The bees went nuts and had cleaned out all the honey in a few hours.

The wasps set about robbing too. It's my belief that the smell of the wasps is made acceptable when they've been eating honey. If they've been robbing then they acquire that smell. This made me concerned that they might then successfully rob the hive but I've seen no evidence of them getting in.

Submitted by will on Sun, 08/07/2018 - 08:23

This morning I worked on colony 13. I hope that this is the last time I have to make a significant reorganisation of their hive. I hope that I've corrected for the mistakes and difficulties which developed from having a nucleus roof with comb attached.

This is a summary of the colony before and after I did the work this morning:

Before After
  roof
roof crown board
crown board C Hive body
empty super containing comb cut from the nucleus roof Ashforth feeder containing comb cut from nucleus roof
B Hive body (including Queen and brood) empty super containing frames
queen excluder queen excluder
C Hive body B Hive Body (including Queen and brood)

The main problem before the reorganisation was that the brood nest was above the Queen excluder and so on the wrong side for Queens and Drones to leave the hive. Another possible problem was that the brood nest was too far away from the hive entrance. I have seen that brood nests which are too far away from the entrance may be more vulnerable to robbing. This happened to Colony 9.

I thought through my operations carefully before I started work. Even then, I initially left the queen excluder in the wrong place. I moved the B Hive body and the super above it off the hive. I then removed C Hive body and replaced it with the B Hive body.

When I had chopped the comb out of the nucleus roof I had laid it flat in the super above the B Hive body. All the brood had hatched from this so I scraped it off the top bars and put it into the feeder box.

I assembled hive with an empty super above the brood nest. I hope that the bees will move the honey down from the feeder box and from the comb in C Hive body into this super. We'll see whether that happens.

Submitted by will on Mon, 18/06/2018 - 19:17

Colony 11 is complicated. I may have just made it better, or worse.

The colony was probably evicted from a roof in the Grandpont area of Oxford by building work. A member of my bee group said that the colony was too aggressive for a domestic garden so I gladly took them. They arrived in a nucleus box which had no frames.

I had already moved them out of the nucleus body and later I tried to extract the nucleus lid but couldn't complete the task. Today I tried again to get the lid out. I succeeded, if success is about objectives. It wasn't an unqualified success.

I prepared, giving extra attention to my feet and hands and to ensuring that the wind didn't blow my veil towards my face. I then opened the lid and lifted the nucleus lid to look. A cloud of bees unhappy bees took off. It really was rather busy.

I had chosen the middle of the day because I hoped that more of the defensive foragers would be out of the hive. This is a colony which feels massive. Whether they were in or out it still felt massive.

As I lifted the lid I found that the comb was arranged across the lid of the nuc' rather than in line with it. When I lifted the nuc' lid It caught the edge of a frame and a large slab of comb with brood and honey came away. I wanted to recover the comb; I wanted to remove the lid; I wanted an orderly hive which I could expand when I needed to. The more I wanted, the more complicated things became.

Another slab of comb came away and so the thing was decided. The lid comes out entirely.

I ran to get more hive parts. I placed the comb in sections on top of the frames of the hive body and then in a super. I don't expect most of the brood to hatch out but they might. I then put the hive back together and left the area.

Looking back, I probably should have stopped when I saw the brood. The bees were very upset, understandably.

Sealing up Hive C

Submitted by will on Mon, 11/06/2018 - 06:56

The complicated rearrangement of Hive C left a problem: a gap of a few millimetres where the nucleus box meets the hive body. Every time I approached the hive the bees from inside behaved defensively and I smelled the distinctive alarm pheromone (it's an ester somewhat like Bananas).

I had tried to block the hole using a hive tool pushed up into the gap. The hive tool fell out. I shoved folded newspaper into the gap but the bees became so angry I decided to back off before all the gaps were filled. I thought that the gaps were filled but I was mistaken. The bees were quite cross.

This morning I returned with tape. The gaps are all now taped up. I hope that the bees calm down now.

Colony 11 still angry after its reorganisation yesterday

Submitted by will on Sun, 03/06/2018 - 19:44

I visited the apiary where Colony 11 is sited this evening. They are still angry 24 hours after I reorganised the hive in a failed attempt to extract the lid of a nucleus box. They bumped against head when I came within 5m. When I had my veil on and got closer they went into attack behaviour (high pitched buzzing; staying in one place on the veil; jabbing movements with their abdomens). I hope that they calm down and don't spend the season being angry.

Submitted by will on Sat, 02/06/2018 - 21:38

Colony 11 arrived in a nucleus box from a member of my bee keeping group. The box did not contain frames so the bees had started to build comb on the roof of the box. Today I tried to remove the box with mixed success.

Mission not accomplished. I now have a double height hive with the Queen in the top part.

When I received the nucleus box I took the bees out of the body of it and placed the roof on top of a Commercial hive body. The remaining space was packed with framed comb. The top was packed with a wooden board because the nuc' roof sat on top of the hive body.

I hoped that the bees would move onto the framed comb but it seems that they have started filling it with pollen and honey. There is sealed brood on the comb which is attached to the nuc' roof.

My aim today was to place another commercial box on top of the first. The Queen would be on the framed comb in the lower box; the nuc' lid would be in the upper box. The sealed brood on the nuc' roof would hatch out and then I could remove it at leisure whilst the Queen worked in the lower box.

Some of my plan happened. I placed a Queen excluder on the ground and placed the new box on it. I removed the packing wood and then gently lifted the nuc' box lid out. There was very little damage to the comb. I looked at the comb on the lid and saw sealed brood but didn't see the Queen. I placed the nuc 'lid in the new box and packed the lower box with framed comb. I packed the upper box with framed comb up to the nuc lid. I put the two parts together with an excluder between them.

I had hoped that the Queen would run out of the nuc' lid into the darker body of the lower box but it almost certainly didn't happen. There was no safe way to extract.

I'm no closer to removing the lid or the comb attached to it. I now have a hive whose internal organisation is disrupted. They may settle down nicely but there's a danger that they won't guard their doors adequately because the brood nest is too far from the entrance. That mistake may have compromised Colony 09 in Hive H last year. I don't know how to sort this out now.

Colony 11 Settled in Hive C

Submitted by will on Tue, 29/05/2018 - 21:27

I'm happy to say that my transfer of Colony 11 from its nucleus box to Hive C have been successful. There is pollen on the hive floor; debris from cleaning of the framed comb and evidence of new comb building. There was also lots of activity at the hive entrance.

The less welcome news is that the comb building is happening beneath the nuc' box lid. I had hoped that they would move onto the framed comb and leave the lid area alone. That hasn't happened so I'll have to do something a bit more destructive to sort the hive out so that it has only framed comb in it.

A complicated arrangement for Colony 11

Submitted by will on Thu, 24/05/2018 - 14:09

At lunchtime today I successfully removed the nucleus body which Colony 11 had travelled in.

They had almost all moved down into the hive body but there were now several entrances. I removed the nuc' body and arranged it so that it is part of the hive roof. The area of the hive body not covered by the roof is packed out with wood. A regular lid is on top of that

There was a bit of confusion when the entrances were reduced to one. Some gathered in odd places; many just flew around. I could see that it was settling down. There may have been some fanning from the remaining entrance.

I'm leaving them for today. I will inspect the removable floor tomorrow to see where they're most active. If there is new comb being built under the nuc' lid then it'll be hard to extract it. If they're cleaning out framed comb then it should be much easier.

Colony 11 arrives in a Nucleus

Submitted by will on Thu, 24/05/2018 - 06:50

Colony 11 appears to be a feral colony which was forced out of a roof by building work. It was collected by a member of my bee group and put into a nucleus box. Unfortunately the colony was behaving very aggressively so she gave it up.

I collected the colony last night in its nuc' box. As I gently wheeled it on the back of my bike I could smell the alarm pheromones coming from the ventilation on the top of the box.

When I arrived at my out-apiary I moved the hive box from the stand where Hive C was positioned. I then placed the nuc' on top and went home.

This morning I awoke to fairly heavy rain. There were puddles showing that it had been raining for some time. The nuc' box is ventilated at the top so that rain can get in. I decided to move them to a hive with a roof as soon as possible.

The nuc' box does not have frames in it, so the bees are building comb which is anchored to the box. This presents a tricky problem: How do I transfer them? The lid of the box -- which the comb is fastened to -- fits across about half of a national hive body. I decided to move the roof of the nuc' into Hive C and pack the remaining space with framed comb. I took a large piece of wood which will pack the top of the hive so that it is level with the nuc' roof. Put together the hive is part nuc lid with free comb and part framed comb. I hope that the bees will prefer the framed comb. Experience has taught me that they seldom do what I hope.

I arrived at about 0530 this morning. The temperature was around 10C and it was raining steadily. The bees were not flying. I moved the nuc' off its stand; arranged the framed comb to the correct size and then lifted the lid into the hive. Some of the free comb stayed attached to the body of the nuc'. A large number of the bees stayed in the nuc' box too. I didn't try to find the Queen. I just placed the nuc' body on top of the area of framed comb, secured it with a hive strap and left them to work out what was best for them*. I'll go back later today to see what they've done. If the Queen was on the comb then I hope that they'll move down to her. If she's still in the nuc' body then I'm not sure what I'll do. The bees were seen bringing in pollen before I took the nuc' box last night, which suggests brood. She should be with the brood, which give me hope that she's inside the body of the hive rather than the nuc'.

Submitted by will on Thu, 10/05/2018 - 06:57

It would appear that the hive which I put Colony 10 into didn't suit them. I checked this morning and they've left.

This isn't a big surprise. Swarms can be actively looking for sites even after they're put into hives. I did open the hive the day after I put them in and saw them mostly stuck to the hive wall. That suggested that they hadn't accepted the hive. I don't know why they didn't like it.

This morning there were 3 or 4 groggy and cold bees still there but it was otherwise empty. I think they may be scouts which were still out when the swarm left.