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Author Topic: Advice Please - Resurrecting a "salvage" hive  (Read 1352 times)
Pink Cow
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« on: March 11, 2010, 04:31:56 PM »

We just received a very old, neglected hive and could use advice about what is best for the bees at this point. Should it be pertinent, I should say these are our (daughter and myself) first bees so we have zero practical experience.

The hive consists of two deeps which appear to be jammed full with bees, and an empty medium (no frames) that the owner just put on three days ago in anticipation of getting rid of the hive. I'm guessing that space is being filled with comb as the days go by. I don't know for sure, but was told each deep should still have all ten frames inside. We just picked it up last night and have not opened it yet to see. Each of the deeps has a 3" diameter hole drilled in the front for entrances, and there is no gap at the bottom. In fact, right now the "bottom board" is actually an inverted migratory cover. All three boxes need to be replaced for sure as they are damaged and weak, and I'm betting the frames should probably go too. we do have a brand new hive (two deeps, two mediums) and frames for all ready to use.

I realize we may have several things to concern ourselves with as far as disease, pests, re-queening, etc., but right now I'm asking for advice on how to move this colony to the new hive. I'm thinking of treating it like a big split by choosing a number of the best looking, appropriate frames, hopefully including the queen if we can spot her, then install them into a new deep and shake everyone else in before filling with new frames. I may consider actually doing a split at the same time if there are enough resources as we do have a nuc we could use.

As far as direct questions:

Does the "split" idea sound workable?
If so, should we put both deeps on right away if there are enough bees to cover, or start with just one and watch to see when it's nearly filled out?
What other options do we have for this situation?
Does anyone want to come over and hold my hand through this?  Wink

Thanks very much for any help.
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kathyp
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« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2010, 05:13:02 PM »

wow.  way to jump right in!  why do the boxes need to be replaced?

assuming they do, try to keep it simple.  

are the frames ok?  if so, just move the frames into the new boxes.  if the hive is jammed with a full 20 frames of bees, a split would be a good idea.  even if the boxes are not jammed, two hives are better than one if you have enough bees to make two.  the simple way would be a walk away split.  make sure both new boxes have frames with eggs and some brood.  mark the frames with the eggs as you move them into the new boxes.  don't worry about where the queen is.

in a couple of days, check the frames with eggs.  you should find the start of queen cells in one of the hives.  that hive is the one that doesn't have the queen and they are making a new one.  in about 3 weeks, check that hive again for eggs.  if none, check again every few days.  if you don't find eggs over the next week, buy a queen.  

if, when you do the split, you have two pretty full hives, give them each another box under the one with the frames from the old hive.  you'll probably want to feed both hives unless you find enough honey in the old hive to give several frames to each new hive.

remove frames in the old hive from the outside in.  it is easier and you have less chance of killing your queen.  do the same when you check for queen cells.  remove a couple of outside frames first so that you can slide others free and not squish your queen cells.

if your frames are in bad shape you'll have to do a cutout.  in the honeybee removal section you'll find lots of info on doing cutouts.

if you don't want to wait for your hive to make a queen, you can order one.  in that case, you'll need to know where your queen is.

don't worry about disease, replacing queens, etc.  you can figure that stuff out after you get the hives the way you want them.

this is the KISS version.  what i missed others will fill in! grin
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.....The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved.....

 Alexis de Tocqueville
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« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2010, 05:44:21 PM »

Kathyp nailed it.  you have a lot on your hands but you seen to have your head in the game.  You may want to move forward (read faster w/ bees,..) if so make split, check for eggs,   if "neccessary"  order queen ASAP -may advance the hive two weeks,..   my thought, enjoy your daughter and the experience and let the bees make there own queen and check that out with your family as it goes.
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JP
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« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2010, 05:26:03 AM »

Well now, you certainly get a gold star for diving right in, bravo!

You have so many questions but until you go into the hives and examine them everything is speculation at this point.

First off, if the hives are packed with bees as you say, I'm guessing they are pretty darn healthy, so I would not worry about disease right now.

The empty medium could obviously present you with some difficulty so I would be itchin' to pull it and add some workable frames.

Without actually knowing what is going on in the hive I would not be so quick to make a split just yet.

If you go in and see they are busting out at the seams, drone brood and queen cups or even queen cells present you may need to do a split.

If they are really terrific bees I would use their genetics for other colonies. This is where an experienced mentor could really come in handy. They could help you set up nucleus hives, graft and create mating nucs, things you needn't concern yourself with at the very moment but to keep in mind.

My best advice to you right now is to try and find a mentor and join a local bee club.

Best of luck!


...JP  
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« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2010, 08:04:11 AM »

we do have a brand new hive (two deeps, two mediums) and frames for all ready to use.

Kathy is right on. If in fact this hive is jam packed with bees then before do anything else, take that empty medium off and put one of the new ones with frames you have on. This will buy you some time until you decide what to do and you can always move it on to a new hive if you move the frames from the deeps later. The deep frames are probably fine for now. Can you post some pics so we can see exactly what we are working with here?
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Pink Cow
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« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2010, 07:55:20 PM »

Thank you all so much for the help. Very much appreciated.

I decided to do a little "fiddling" yesterday after work since we still had light and it was warm, and from the responses it sounds like I did the right thing for now, until we get in and have a better look at the condition. I removed the empty super, which had no comb yet, and replaced it with one of our new deeps filled with frames to give them some room to roam, and as a first step toward getting them off of the cruddy old frames.

I'll quickly add a few details, then report back as soon as we learn more.

Bees:
I think we can safely call these things survivors. They had not been tended in any way for more than two years, and five weeks ago the hive was vandalized and left with one deep lying on its side on the ground, and the other sitting on the bottom board with no top. Don't think it was animals because the frames were not damaged and an entire medium super was missing. They spent the five weeks like that until the other day when we got it closed up and secured for transport. First day in our yard they were already out working hard and we could see lots of pollen being carried into both entrances. I like these girls already!

Hive:
One deep may be usable as a spare or frame holder, but the rest of it really has to go. The top was so soft that it still has an impression from the nylon strap we used to bind the boxes together for lifting. The other two boxes are just very weak and the top edges are in terrible condition. On top of the frames in the top box there is a blob of old wood, burr comb and propolis gluing everything together so we can only hope we can get it off and work with the frames. I had some visibility down into most of the frames and they do look to be quite full of bees. The lower box seems less populated, but still very active.

Us:
Fortunately, we do have experienced help we can draw upon. We had already joined our local association at the beginning of the year, and my daughter is in the beekeeping group in our local 4H club. We really didn't plan to rush into this and were planning on receiving bees next month through the association but this opportunity arose, and of course, we just jumped in. Free bees, and an adventure too!

The (quite experienced) leader of the 4H group is coming over tomorrow to lend help and as long as the weather allows we will open it up and try to determine the best method, and a timetable for getting the bugs into their new home.
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kathyp
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« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2010, 08:01:23 PM »

never pass up survivors!   grin

do keep us posted on the progress of this hive.  most of us look for hives like this, as those survivor genetics are usually so much easier (and cheaper) to work with.
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.....The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved.....

 Alexis de Tocqueville
JP
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« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2010, 09:50:29 PM »

Sounding real good! You write quite beautifully BTW, but I can't believe you called them "bugs" at the end of your post!

They are so much more than just mere bugs!  grin


Have fun!


...JP
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« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2010, 07:06:58 PM »

OK, we opened the hive on Saturday to see what we are facing. As soon as I saw the inside of this thing I was reminded how resilient wild creatures are. My spirits suffered an early jolt when our mentor commented as we approached the hive, "That's not many bees. It doesn't seem very active." We had just left his yard after going through one of his hives so I had just seen what a lot of bees actually is and I knew he as right.

We opened the top and removed the mass built up on the top of the frames and found that the top box was in very poor condition inside. Whatever foundation was originally installed on the frames is long-gone, so when it was knocked on its side and left to lay like that it really suffered do to the lack of support. Comb was everywhere, there was virtually no bee space and there were a couple of large blobs where two frames had basically become one when they knocked together. Our guide feared that in addition to the obvious problems that there was basically nowhere for air to move upward and the hive was not being properly ventilated. I was a bit afraid to do anything out of fear of just ripping everything apart, but he explained that he was quite worried about the lack of space and suggested the only thing we should do is remove a frame from the outside, then loosen the rest a bit to provide some room in there. We did that, pulled the box and found the frames in the bottom were in just as bad condition, but had not been knocked into a single mass since this box had remained flat on the bottom board. We cleaned it up, put everything back together and placed our new deep full of brand new frames and foundation on top.

Our mentor explained that with the relatively low number of bees and the damage we saw, that he is a bit worried for the colony, but doesn't feel the situation is hopeless by any means. My daughter and I are staying optimistic and hoping they decide they like the new top-floor condo and waste no time moving in and making it home. We'll give them a fourth story when they are ready and just keep hoping for the best. Of course, I'll update here when we have news.

In the worst case, I did put in an order for a package through our club so we won't go through the year beeless if we lose this first colony. Thanks once again to everyone who offered help and encouragement. Very kind of you.
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JP
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« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2010, 08:47:19 PM »

Sounds like y'all did what you could considering the lack of bees. Only thing I would have done differently is to place a shallow or a medium on top with drawn comb, hoping the queen would move up and start laying.
 
The deep may do the trick, its just that it'll take that much longer for them to get situated because of the larger space.

Best of luck.


...JP
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« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2010, 08:57:36 PM »

Just a question I had...... Would it be a bad thing to supplement feed the girls for a bit to help build up even if there is a flow going on?  Or would they just ignore the sugar water anyways?  That's what I would think about if I were in that situation.   
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« Reply #11 on: May 04, 2010, 02:03:47 AM »

Thought I'd pop back in for a quick update since quite a bit has happened with this hive since my last post.

About a month ago while checking to see if we could replace one or two more of the old frames to get rid of the problem comb we saw a supercedure cell on one of them and wondered if something had happened to the queen. We ended our inspection early to avoid disturbance or damage to other queen cells so we only saw the one cell. Within a couple of days, the hive became so nasty you couldn't go near it without getting a bunch of very aggressive bees in your face. Assuming we had lost the queen now, we waited two weeks to see if they'd successfully replace her, then opened it up for a good look to assess what might be going on. During this time the temperament had returned to normal. Sure enough, on the second frame we pulled there was a big, bright queen running around. We put that frame aside in an extra box and checked the remaining nineteen and found that there was not a single cell of brood, either drone or worker in the entire hive. We replaced the remaining old frames since they were now empty and hoped the queen was, or would soon be mated and viable. Decided to give it two more weeks, then check and hope for good news. We do have a very small swarm we picked up with a laying queen so we thought we could combine the two should we find the new queen was not laying, so even though we worried, we felt like we did have some insurance standing by. Now worries there! This last Saturday we had a look and were VERY pleased to find much brood of all ages and lots of eggs yet to hatch. Even the brand new frames with RiteCell foundation were well-drawn and heavily populated now. The brood was very dense on each frame we checked with few open cells so it looks like we've got a very good queen in there now. We only looked at the top deep to minimize the disturbance, and breathed a huge sigh of relief as we closed it and took care of our gear. Always nice to be reminded how awesome nature is.
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lenape13
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« Reply #12 on: May 04, 2010, 05:56:23 AM »

Sounds like you're doing well.  Congratulations!
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