what next?

I housed a swarm in June in by HTB hive and, from observations of thier behaviour, all seems to be going well – busy, gathering pollen, orientation flights on warm afternoons, comb building progressed as seen through the observation window.
2 weeks ago i helped examine the hive the swarm came from which appeared to be queenless (no brood in the hive, no pollen going in and they were very listless). we harvested the honey and then brought the bees over to give them an opportunity to join my colony, emptying the bees out onto the grass and spraying them wiht some sugar water. during the afternoon they gathered at the right-hand end of the hive, away from the entrance used by the established colony. the following day there was no sign of the new arrived bees and my bees were busy doing their forraging. I assumed that the new bees had either gone elsewhere (thinking they had a queen) or that they had been accepted into my hive. i was then on holiday for a week and on my return, on a warm afternoon, there were bees flying round the right end of the hive. today I attempted to lift the lid to try and work out what was going on and found that the new bees have found a way under the roof and a large number of them are gathered in the roof space – they became very aggitated and I retreated. I dont think they have been using the space under the top bars on the right side of the follower board and there is no comb built in the roof space.
So, what, if anything should be done now? both graham and I were really confident that there was no brood in his hive before we did this. might we have made a mistake and evicted a viable colony? if so, wouldnt they try and find a bigger and more suitable space or at least be trying to build some comb? if they are queenless, what happens now? they dont seem to have been willing or able to get themselves adopted. will they stay in the roof space? can they survive for long? I would like to try and assess whether ot not I should give my colony some food before the winter having lost my last colony through starvation during the last few weeks before spring arrived this year but I am reluctant to disturb the ‘homeless’ bees again as they are so cross. or should I just leaeve things alone and wait? your advice would be really welcome at this stage.

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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2 Responses to what next?

  1. simplebees says:

    One of the problems I found with hTBH’s when I used them is that there are always gaps under the roofs. These gaps are not policed by the hive and so allow access for wasps and other bees. It seems that at least some of the bees you shook into the grass have found such a gap and, rather than joining the main hive, have found themselves a space of their own.

    It is the natural instinct of bees from the same hive to cluster and this is what they are doing. A queen does not need to be present for this to happen and nothing you say suggests to me that a queen is there. So there is no need to worry about having disrupted a viable colony; it almost certainly wasn’t.

    This leaves the question of what to do next. If things are left as they are, the cluster of bees will likely persist for some considerable time; well into the autumn, as there are few demands on the bees to shorten their lives.

    Which leaves the question of whether anything else can be done. I have thought about this and I have concluded that the options are limited. My own approach would be to open a small gap in the top bars next to the follower board. Such a gap will not be policed in the way the hive entrance is. The hope would be that the cluster bees will discover the gap and enter the main hive. However, the likelihood is that the cluster bees will return to ‘their’ entrance and the cluster will remain, even if somewhat diminished in size. After a week or so, one might try a little smoke on the cluster bees to encourage them to move toward the gap.

    Of course, the problem you have is that, if the bees are clustered on the roof, it will be difficult to access the top bars. One would need to gently remove the roof with the clustered bees attached, placing it some distance away before adjusting the top bars. If the bees are defensive, as you say, this operation itself will need smoke in the air to mask alarm scents and maintain control.

    None of this is without risk, of course, as the cluster bees might be defensive to both you and the bees in the hive. The last thing you want is to start a fight between the cluster bees and the main hive. So you might decide to leave matters as they are. This has been a good season for honey and the main hive should have stores sufficient for the winter. Last year, by contrast, was very poor for honey gathering.

    If anyone else has any other suggestions or comments, it would be interesting to hear them.

    Gareth, Cotswolds

  2. walthambees says:

    thanks Gareth. My instinct is to leave them but that’s partly because I’m not used to dealing with cross bees. I can see that the main colony is fine from thier behaviour and I can look at the comb through the inspection window. I plan to try and assess how much honey there is by lifting the corner of the hive and trying to judge its weight. when is the latest time to feed before the cold sets in? I can’t get to the feeder at present and would like to do what I can to ensure there’s enough stores for the winter given that the previous swarm starved right at the end of the winter. Ruth

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