Here is all the comb that was too bad to harvest after the “clean up”. I put it in front of the hive for the bees that were on it to make their way back and hoping the bees would clean it and get the honey back inside. They didn’t take long, it’s almost empty already.
The fact that every comb built since the beginning had been so perfectly straight made me loose the habit of checking every frame. Horrible mistake, what started as a little bump in an early bar became more and more angled resulting in comb crossing bars. When I caught it, it was simply too late and a major operation had to be done to set things straight. Comb fell, deep cutting needed to be done & a ton of bees died in the process. I lost half of my honey production & half of my colony. There was just no easy way to do this.
The lesson learned here is to inspect often and all the bars, especially when the bees lay a lot of comb.
Some crossed comb, when things weren’t ugly enough that I was still taking pictures
Here are some tips to incentivize the bees to build straight:
- lay some wax in a line that you want them to follow (I had done that and it worked really well for a while)
- cut if they deviate, cut again until they stop
- keep the following board close to where the last comb is built because it is a straight reference, in other words, don’t expand to far from the comb.
- add an empty bar between the ones that had crooked comb
I’m not sure how these techniques work but I certainly am religiously following them now. Hopefully this will save us from another traumatic experience.
All in all this sucked and I feel really bad for failing my bees. I still got some 6 jars of honey out but I could have gotten a lot more. It’s the most delicious honey I ever had but every time I have some I am reminded of the beepocalypse.
It’s a freaking mass-grave in there
The colony has been growing very dramatically in the past couple of weeks. All the brood I saw finally saw the light of day and the bees are now quickly filling their hive. All in all it took them a while to really get going. This is one of the disadvantages of top-bar beekeeping, the bees have to build everything by themselves so it takes the colony longer to establish itself. I think it’s a good thing, for one because it’s more natural but also because building comb is one less thing I need to do :).
Given that population growth is now in full swing, I gave them quite a few more top-bars to expand on. We are approaching the maximum size the hive will allow though as I would like to keep a few empty bars to have room for shifting and rotating. It may be time to start thinking about a second hive.
Bee population growth is not exponential, only 1 queen does all the laying although she can lay a few thousand eggs a day. So it’s linear and will probably turn asymptotic with older bees dying. I wonder how big a hive could get outside of its habitat limitations.
Turn on the sound and hear the hive’s rumble.
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The hive entrance is very busy.
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I wish I had a high speed camera.
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Further inspection showed that the comb on the floor was most likely a mis-attached comb that fell from a top-bar. The bees weren’t exactly expanding on it but they weren’t removing it either, it was time to give them some help. Doing so was like playing a game of Operation but it went very smoothly and the bees were very docile even though I was digging pretty deep in their hive.
Not much in this wreck of a comb but the bees were still tending to some brood in there.
Going at it very carefully.
I’ll leave them to clean the remaining pieces.
Eventually one of the back bars that I had set aside was abandoned of all bees so… I just took it! Not necessarily the best thing to do but I was very eager to taste what the bees were up to. And it was delicious.
To sweet nectar.
It tasted very much like a mix between sap & honey, super good.
I inspected my hive today and it’s doing great. I drilled a few holes in the part that is currently uninhabited to give the bees some air. I did it early in the morning to lock them inside for the drilling, they took it really well and didn’t care a bit about the ruckus, even after I released them. I continued on merrily with the inspection as if nothing happened.
A few holes for aeration in the middle of the hive, I stapled netting to prevent robbing and to make sure they don’t become an entrance.
Today’s surprise though, came with the presence of comb on the floor. I’m not sure if this fell from one of the top bars but I doubt it. I don’t know what to do with it right now, I’ll monitor the situation and decide later whether to remove it or not.
Well, this is it. After much prep work I have finally released my first package of bees in the hive. Everything did not go according to plan, the candy separating the queen from the rest of the colony had already been eaten. As a result the queen did not get a chance to be released by the workers. I managed to keep her in there while I was releasing the remaining 3lbs of bees. Things went well other than this and I am hopeful that she’ll be accepted by the others as they had been traveling together for a while. I’ll try and locate her in a couple of days and if I can’t find her, I will rush order another queen. It’s nice that I get another shot if needed.
All the extensive information I gathered online (various blogs, Youtube videos) prepared me pretty well for what to do. Nothing however can prepare you for the experience of handling a liquid-like swarm of buzzing bees. It was very impressive & I was definitely glad I got a full suit. Not that they were even really pissed at me for shaking them in their new hive. But it felt like a wrong move could change everything for the worse very fast. I eventually learned to trust my suit.
I went back to install an electric fence with a friend the next morning (bears & skunks are an issue in the area), no buzzing was to be heard. Nothing at all, I opened a couple of bars and couldn’t see a thing. Finally I found them on a few bars and disturbing them made the whole swarm start the day. It was super cool to see them do their thing.
The hive in its final location, with a new roof & fenced in to withstand the local wildlife
The hive actually faces an orchard which is starting to bloom, perfect timing for some pollination help. I intend on taking more pictures in a few days.