what next?

My swarm was introduced into their top bar hive (horizontal) 8 weeks ago and, despite the bad weather, they seem to be happy, busy, taking pollen in and growing.  Two weeks ago I saw groups of about 40 bees hovering near the hive in what I think must have been orientation flights which suggests that the brood is hatching successfully.  I know the colony is growing because I have added a few more bars every few weeks and they are being used.  I sit and watch them most days and they are very purposeful but I havent opened the hive up to inspect each comb on the basis that they seem happy and are expanded the space they’re using – so they must be ok.  BUT should I be doing anything else at this stage? i ask because I don’t know what I don’t know if that makes sense….


About walthambees

I am a complete novice to bee keeping - eager to learn, willing to try, happy to acknowledge that I know little and prepared to write about that in the hope that others will share their wisdom and experiences!
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5 Responses to what next?

  1. pamglos says:

    We are in almost exactly the same position having hived our small swarm, brought by Gareth, 8 weeks ago. Curiosity got the better of me a couple of weekends ago and I felt we just had to check things out by opening the hive and inspecting the comb. We did this with the help of a local beekeeping friend – the bees were good tempered about it and carried on with what they were doing, seven combs had been built, (and an eighth has been started since) the queen was there laying away. There seemed to be brood and honey stores, but no evidence of drone comb or queen cells. We concluded they were happy and doing the right things and closed up the hive. We have a removable bottom board which we removed and found only one varroa mite on it (but it is a relatively small colony).

    Our beekeeping friend advised us to start getting ready for winter in August and said there was lots to be done, but we forgot to enquire what! Like Graham above we would welcome any advice on anything we should be doing now to ensure they get through the winter successfully.
    Pamglos, SE Gloucestershire.

  2. Ali Twigg says:

    Rather than ripping open your hive and destroying the carefully controlled atmosphere, why not look through your viewing window, if you are really curious as to what is going on inside your hive?
    Otherwise, if your bees are happy, you too should be happy. Bees have been living in colonies for longer than humans have been on the planet. They don’t need our ‘help’ to see what’s going on inside their home. I can’t understand this desire to interfere. It’s not natural!

  3. ruth talbot says:

    completely agree Ali – I want to let the bees do what they do best – my anxiety is born of inexperience – I just need a bit of reassurance that I’m not missing something which a more experienced beekeeper would know and, in doing so, put the colony under stress. I’m assuming that I have to open the top to add additional bars but havent done more than that. presumably, once the colony is established I wont even need to do that. Your advice and experience is invaluable.
    Ruth (Berkshire)

  4. johnmkubwa says:

    At this time of year I like to assess whether colonies have enough stores to over-winter. I weigh my Warré hives and subtract the weight of the hive, bees, brood and wax. Colonies use most of their stores keeping warm; in my experience, Warrés (VTBHs) need a minimum of 12 kg to overwinter in S. England. National hives need about 18kg: they usually have open floors, frames and a hole in the crown board. I cannot comment on HTBHs.
    Secondly, I ensure there is adequate ‘breathable’ insulation over the nest box; like the 13 TOG quilt on my bed.
    Thirdly, I rehearse the process of emergency feeding to prevent starvation. In a cold winter, a colony may consume its stores by February. Hefting and weighing will indicate a hive light on stores.
    Honey stores would normally be held in a dome above the winter cluster and a supplement is best given as honeycomb or fondant placed above the cluster without releasing nest heat. In a VTBH I cut a 3″ x 1″ slot in the topbar cloth, fold back the hessian tab and cover with a fondant bag. Which lies under the insulation. Unless the colony is a late swarm, or has had excessive honey removed there should be no need to feed.
    I check that the hive is protected against weather and predators. Is the roof likely to leak or blow off? On windy sites; I half wrap hive bodies with builders’ roofing felt to keep the cold wind out but allow the sun warmth in.
    By October mouse-guards should be in position; I use tin plate perforated with 10mm holes or reduce slot entrances to 7mm height. To deter woodpeckers, which will attack hives when the ground is frozen, I loosely wrap chicken wire around the hive bodies and hang glistening CDs from trees.
    At the moment we are managing some late swarms, taken largely from compost bins which have attracted bees because of the heat given off by decaying matter. Such swarms would benefit from the ready made nest of a summer die-out but could well die if not fed a little to help them build up for winter. A kg of sugar and a pound of honey made into 2 litres of syrup and fed in the evening, at the rate of 200cc per night, (using a shallow drawer feeder as shown in Beekeeping for All), will boost the swarm in its comb building without making the bees dependent. ( By the morning the syrup will have been consumed and the bees need to forage; if the feed is available all day bees may not venture out to forage.) Over the last 2 to 3 weeks two small swarms (small melon sized clusters) in VTBHs have each built 6 or 7 combs in a hive box; this is a good start as I have known several colonies over winter in a single Warré box. However, the bees do need to sort themselves out for winter over the next couple of months, balancing colony numbers with honey and pollen stores.

    In all of the above, I will not disrupt the nest structure

    John, Stockbridge, Hants

  5. simplebees says:

    I am giving steady small amounts of feed each evening to those late swarms that have not built up beyond a few bars: no more than 200ml of 2:1 syrup each evening. More than this they cannot take down overnight and, as John says, the bees are then diverted from foraging the next day. You can see which colonies have been overfed the previous night: they don’t fly! As I have mentioned elsewhere, I make my syrup with nettle tea. Again, as John says, a warm cover over the brood nest is essential, even in this mild weather. Other than that, leave the bees to be.

    On a horizontal, my preference is for the bees to go into winter with about 12 bars, but less than this may be doable. Just watch the weight come late winter.

    Good to hear that little swarm has built up, Pam. I was wondering.

    Gareth, West Oxfordshire

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