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Author Topic: Bees Not Working Super  (Read 3715 times)
Two Bees
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« on: June 23, 2008, 06:37:11 PM »

I have two hives that are healthy and doing well.  I installed them from packages about 60 days ago.  Both hives have drawn out two full deeps and both have plenty of brood of various stages, pollen, and honey stores.  Everything looks really great!  Both hives are taking 1:1 syrup at a pretty good rate (about 1.5 gallons per week).

Three weeks ago, I placed a medium super on both hives without a queen excluder.  The bees have not started to do anything in the third box.  No drawn foundation or anything.

Any ideas as to why they are ignoring the medium super?

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« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2008, 07:27:20 PM »

Hopefully you are not feeding while trying to get honey.

If there isn't a flow, the bees won't draw comb to store nectar, since there isn't enough nectar coming in to warrant storage space.
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« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2008, 07:39:28 PM »

Probably a combination of not enough pollen and nectar coming in to require more space and the queen not yet needing more room for brood.

If the deeps are nearly full, it probably won't be too long before they move up.  My experience so far has been that the queen first moves up and lays some brood, then back down as the lower brood hatches, and then the bees finally re-use the super for honey as the brood hatches out.
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Two Bees
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« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2008, 07:18:29 AM »

Moonshae,

Since this is the first year, I'm just trying to get them to build up as much as possible going into the fall of the year. But I thought they would draw out the third box for honey storage or additional brood space.  That's the reason I'm not using a queen excluder.

But why do you say that I should not be feeding syrup if I'm trying to get honey?
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« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2008, 07:59:14 AM »


But why do you say that I should not be feeding syrup if I'm trying to get honey?

The bees will store syrup in the cells and cap it right along with honey, so if you go to harvest it, you'll have an adulterated product. You can feed, but once the honey supers go on, you have to stop.
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Two Bees
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« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2008, 09:53:18 AM »

Since George Imirie lived in my general area, I have been reading some of his research relative to feeding.  From George's March 2001 Pink Pages:

WHEN SHOULD YOU FEED?
There is no special time. You feed bees whenever it is beneficial for the bees and helpful for the beekeeper! Obviously, feeding is necessary when the bees are short of winter stores, so you either feed in cold January or February or let the bees starve to death. Bees absolutely will NOT build comb unless there is a nectar flow in progress, so if you are trying to get foundation drawn into comb, you feed 1:1 sugar syrup as an artificial nectar regardless of whether the time is spring, summer, or fall. One of the most important times to feed is when starting new colonies and trying to build up their population strength, their comb, and their winter stores. Many beekeepers don't bother to feed new colonies in June, July, or August figuring that nature will provide nectar. In Central Maryland, there is rarely any nectar for bees available in July and August; and what about those rainy days when bees can't fly? In almost any part of the U. S., there are some warm months that have very little nectar flow, and new colonies will suffer if not fed during this time.

WHEN DO YOU STOP FEEDING?
It is inherently natural for a honey bee to want to get outside and fly to gather odoriferous natural nectar and pollen rather than being cooped up in a hive eating artificial nectar (sugar syrup) and/or old stored honey. Hence, you can stop feeding when the bees won't take feed anymore. However, this is NOT true in the case of new colonies started in April or May with nothing but foundation. Please note that bees WILL NOT BUILD COMB (draw foundation) in the absence of a nectar flow! Quite often, and particularly in Central Maryland with its nectar flow limited to only April, May, and maybe 10 days of June, if this new colony is not continuously fed sugar syrup (artificial nectar) from the day it was started until September, there will be very little foundation drawn, and maybe not enough to hold 50-60 pounds of winter stores needed to get to next spring!

I know that everyone has their own ideas relative to feeding and feeders.  But with this many decades of scientific research in beekeeping, George has some good points.
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« Reply #6 on: June 24, 2008, 10:44:33 AM »

we are having the same thing going on in my area,my hives have two deep brood boxes filled up but are not working the supers.at first i thought it was the excluder,but i turned them sideways last week but that did not do anything either.my mentor checked yesterday and some bees were working some button bush around some water and some are still on late sumac but not much else going on.looks like they are getting just enough nector to get buy till cotton and beans start to bloom.i hope that starts them putting up some honey.
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Bill W.
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« Reply #7 on: June 24, 2008, 12:06:20 PM »

If you don't plan to harvest honey this year (which is probably a good idea for a first year hive) there is no reason not to keep feeding them.  Either they will take the syrup or they won't.
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Two Bees
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« Reply #8 on: June 24, 2008, 02:20:13 PM »

Bill W.,

They are taking syrup just fine.........about 1.5 gallons per week.  I just don't know why they are not doing anything in the medium super.  There are quite a few bees lounging in this super but the only thing that they have done is chew the foundation next to the frame end bars.
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« Reply #9 on: June 24, 2008, 02:36:27 PM »

If it really bothers you, you could swap positions between the upper brood box and the super.  They'll probably start working it sooner if they have to crawl through it to get to the upper brood box.  Or, you could put a shim under the edge of the super, making a top entrance, which will also put more bees up at the top.

But, I'll bet they get around to it pretty soon regardless.  If there is one thing I have learned so far, it is that the bees do what the bees feel is best and all you can do is try to gently encourage them to do what you want.
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« Reply #10 on: June 24, 2008, 04:04:45 PM »

TwoBees, I am near you, in Chapel Hill. I hived a package on April 20. The bees had filled probably 80% of two deeps, so 12 days ago I added a medium super. I inspected today and I saw what you are seeing. I was disappointed there was no comb in the super, just a few bees hanging out. And for the first time today I got pinged by some guard bees flying up from the open top! I've had the top propped open a bit with a stick for the last month so I assume there are some guards up there watching the top entrance.

I figured it couldn't hurt to put the super back on; who knows, maybe they will begin to use it, we should have at least a small goldenrod flow late summer and the corn is beginning to tassel on the farms around me. Just as I was about to put the top back on a row of half a dozen bees assembled on top of the super frames with their little butts in the air fanning like crazy -- even my wary friend watching from afar could see them. If was a fun inspection, and different from the others I've done.

They had slowed down on the sugar syrup a few weeks ago but now are taking a quart a day. The top brood box was so heavy I couldn't begin to lift it, but I saw lots of capped and uncapped honey on the all the outside frames (except one, which had only one side of comb) and what looked like newly vacated cells on the middle frame bottoms with honey on the top and sides. From what most everyone has said, it seems all this is normal, and the local beeks warned that the bees might be a bit testy now since there is no nectar flow.

Best of luck to you!
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« Reply #11 on: June 24, 2008, 07:02:41 PM »

Did you get package bees from Jack Tapp on April 20.  I did!
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« Reply #12 on: June 24, 2008, 07:09:35 PM »

Yes, got them that cool, cloudy, April morning at Busy Bee. I was so excited! Did you get the installation demo from the woman with the bruised and swollen lip (bee sting)? I guess that sight could have scared off newbees but actually it gave me so much confidence that I started the install without protective gear (I suited up after I got stung below the eye).

Our hives ARE twins!
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« Reply #13 on: June 24, 2008, 07:17:47 PM »

Since George Imirie lived in my general area, I have been reading some of his research relative to feeding.  From George's March 2001 Pink Pages:

WHEN SHOULD YOU FEED?
There is no special time. You feed bees whenever it is beneficial for the bees and helpful for the beekeeper! Obviously, feeding is necessary when the bees are short of winter stores, so you either feed in cold January or February or let the bees starve to death. Bees absolutely will NOT build comb unless there is a nectar flow in progress, so if you are trying to get foundation drawn into comb, you feed 1:1 sugar syrup as an artificial nectar regardless of whether the time is spring, summer, or fall. One of the most important times to feed is when starting new colonies and trying to build up their population strength, their comb, and their winter stores. Many beekeepers don't bother to feed new colonies in June, July, or August figuring that nature will provide nectar. In Central Maryland, there is rarely any nectar for bees available in July and August; and what about those rainy days when bees can't fly? In almost any part of the U. S., there are some warm months that have very little nectar flow, and new colonies will suffer if not fed during this time.

WHEN DO YOU STOP FEEDING?
It is inherently natural for a honey bee to want to get outside and fly to gather odoriferous natural nectar and pollen rather than being cooped up in a hive eating artificial nectar (sugar syrup) and/or old stored honey. Hence, you can stop feeding when the bees won't take feed anymore. However, this is NOT true in the case of new colonies started in April or May with nothing but foundation. Please note that bees WILL NOT BUILD COMB (draw foundation) in the absence of a nectar flow! Quite often, and particularly in Central Maryland with its nectar flow limited to only April, May, and maybe 10 days of June, if this new colony is not continuously fed sugar syrup (artificial nectar) from the day it was started until September, there will be very little foundation drawn, and maybe not enough to hold 50-60 pounds of winter stores needed to get to next spring!

I know that everyone has their own ideas relative to feeding and feeders.  But with this many decades of scientific research in beekeeping, George has some good points.

What George is talking about is the brood chamber, not honey supers.  You will need to deep brood chambers for winter at most.  It is OK to feed new package to get two brood chamber worth of foundation to be drawn.  I would not continue to feed once you put on honey supers, and you shouldn't be putting on honey supers until there is a flow and they need them.   If you are using wax foundation and there isn't a flow,  there is a good chance they will end up chewing the foundation up.

The reason they aren't using them is that they don't need them,  And once they do, you have fed enough.
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Two Bees
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« Reply #14 on: June 25, 2008, 07:59:52 AM »

Eri,

Betsy is the lady that gave the demos.  She is really good at queen rearing.  Jack says that she does a much better job at raising their Minnesota Hygienic queens.  Busy Bee sells queens all over the US.  She gave a talk about queen rearing at the Wake County Beek Meeting in February.

I'm trying to raise as large of a colony as possible this year which is why I am still feeding them.  The reason I put a medium super on top of the other two brood chambers is because I don't have any more deeps.  I purposely did not use an excluder is to make sure that the queen had enough room for laying.

I plan to split the hives next spring if they make it through the winter!
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« Reply #15 on: June 25, 2008, 08:33:42 AM »

I too, am trying to build up the population and split in the spring so I plan to continue to feed. I plan to buy/build some more mediums and switch to all mediums next year. I also put only 2 frames of foundation in the medium with the rest top bar. If they chew the foundation, that's OK, I have 8 more pieces and if the box is empty in October I can use it for a feeder.
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« Reply #16 on: June 25, 2008, 12:50:04 PM »

Thanks, Robo!  I'll just leave the medium super on the hive in case they need it later.

I think everything has bloomed out in my area.  Later this summer, we should get some nectar flow from aster, ragweed, and everyone's favorite sneeze..........golden rod!
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« Reply #17 on: June 27, 2008, 08:43:23 PM »

I just noticed that one of my two hives is suddenly empty.  The first hive was started with already built up foundation on 5 frames and is doing fine, although they are not working the super.  I understand from reading the latest posts that this may be normal for a beginning hive (Michigan) and perhaps I should feed more.  Does this explain, perhaps, the empty second hive that was started from a nuc?  Perhaps I should have fed more?  thanks for advice.  Jan
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« Reply #18 on: June 28, 2008, 05:12:22 PM »

Jan L.,

There has to be a strong nectar flow for new packages or nucs to draw out comb.  I don't know if you have a nectar flow in MI at this point but in NC, flows have pretty much ceased.  As a result, I am feeding 1:1 sugar syrup to keep my bees building comb.  I plan to feed them as long as they want it since I am not interesting in having them produce honey this year.
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« Reply #19 on: June 28, 2008, 08:45:46 PM »

Two Bees.....I think you are correct here.  I will start to feed them since it seems obvious I cannot and should not get honey this year...thanks
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« Reply #20 on: June 29, 2008, 09:16:14 PM »

 I had an empty third box since the first of April. End of the citrus bloom, no rain. Foundation was covered with bees, just chewed on it like Robo said. Now we have been getting some rain and yesterday there was five frames of comb (in one week)and they were working on more. Also had a bee population explosion this past month on that hive, probably due to a queen supercedure. Maybe the palmetto's started blooming and they like it. They never touched the dandylions I let grow in the back field. Like they said, No Flow, No Grow.
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« Reply #21 on: July 02, 2008, 03:35:24 PM »

Update: It's been almost 3 weeks since I added the medium super and haved checked twice since. Today there was a little comb being drawn on the center foundation frame but the deep underneath still had 3 sides of 2 frames undrawn. I moved 10 to the 1 position and flipped the worked side of 9 to the outside. (These bees have consistently built from the center to the left side and I've moved 10 to 1 four times, twice in the lower chamber and twice in the upper chamber, where they immediately build)

I took off the medium super today. I was concerned that

1) the extra 'attic' space was affecting their ability to effectivly ventilate (they continued to beard in spite of dramatically cooler night temps the past couple nights)

2) the bees guarding the space could have been doing somethiing else more productive

3) small hive beetles. When I opened up, a bee was chasing a SHB around the inner cover. I killed it for her, but then another beetle appeared. These are the first I've seen. With less space for the beetles to hang out and less space for the bees to guard I hope I'm avoiding a potential problem.

After almost 3 weeks with no rain we finally had about 1.5 inches Sunday night. The bees are still sucking down a quart of 2:1 sugar syrup daily. Lotsa bees.

I don't know what to expect, but I plan to check again next week and if they have built up the remaining frames in the top brood box then I'll add the super again. Wish I could see more of what is going on the the bottom brood box but those boxes are too heavy! I am 100% convinced to switch to smaller boxes, maybe even 8 frame mediums and maybe a top bar hive with NO lifting!


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« Reply #22 on: July 02, 2008, 07:36:35 PM »

Eri,

My situation is about the same (except I haven't seen any SHB yet).  I was planning on checking the medium super and top deep this weekend.  I'll give you some feedback with what I find.  I am planning on switching to SBB this weekend if the bottom hive bodies are not too heavy.

2:1 syrup is kind of heavy for this time of year, don't you think?

Going to the NCSBA meeting in Southern Pines next week?

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« Reply #23 on: July 02, 2008, 08:41:56 PM »

Two Bees --

I have SBB. BUT tonight they are bearding more than they have been, so I'm not at all sure my theory of too much attic holds. I rechecked the super after the bees left and the wax drawn is nil. Not sure what to do, just wait, I suppose.

I looked up the SHB after my inspection and I'm not sure that what I saw was it, but the bee was definitely chasing whatever it was -- looked a bit longer than the SHB pix I found -- but there are a gazillion wood beetle varieties and maybe it was something else?

I would love to go to Southern Pines and my partner is a golfer but the timing may not work out.

Two questions: are you going to golfer's paradise and did you remove the unused super? Ok, so 3 questions, are your bees still slurping syrup?



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On Pleasure
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« Reply #24 on: July 03, 2008, 08:05:40 AM »

Eri,

I am having some strange bearding as well.  I don't think the temps are the sole reason for it.  But my bees don't get on the front of the hives in the hottest time of the day.  They usually start to collect on the front about 6:00 and continue to accumulate til dark.  And they are not just "one bee deep" either........seems like they are piled up on the front porch of the hives!

It almost seems as if they are just hangin' for the fun of it because a lot of them are still on the front of the hives the following morning at 6:00 am when I go to work.  I have the hive vented in the back so I think I have the ventilation situation under control.

And those rain storms we had last weekend.................my bees just hung out on the hive fronts and enjoyed the bath!

The only "bug" that I have noticed on the top was a few roaches but I understand that they are looking for the sugar syrup.  My bees are still downing a gallon of 1:1 syrup every 2 - 2.5 days.  I picked up another 40 pounds of sugar yesterday at Walmart.  I wish I had kept records as to how much syrup they have used since I installed the packages on April 20 but I didn't.  I would estimate that I have "syruped" about 120-130 pounds of sugar so far for both of the hives. 

I don't think they are packing it away in the medium super but I will verify that this weekend when I open up the hives.  I have not removed the third (medium) super and will probably just leave it on the two deeps.  Based upon some of the discussion on this forum, I'm a little concerning about swarming!

Yep, going to Southern Pines next Thursday for the State meeting.  It lasts for three days and concludes on Saturday.

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« Reply #25 on: July 04, 2008, 04:34:13 PM »

Eri,

I am having some strange bearding as well.  I don't think the temps are the sole reason for it.  But my bees don't get on the front of the hives in the hottest time of the day.  They usually start to collect on the front about 6:00 and continue to accumulate til dark.  And they are not just "one bee deep" either........seems like they are piled up on the front porch of the hives!

It almost seems as if they are just hangin' for the fun of it because a lot of them are still on the front of the hives the following morning at 6:00 am when I go to work.  I have the hive vented in the back so I think I have the ventilation situation under control.

Crowding due to returning foragers.  The overcrowding is only happening when everybody is home, evening until early morning.  Super immediately to give room and check for queen cells, cells with eggs or capped, not cups.  If you find active queen cells split the hive moving the queen to the new hive.

Quote
And those rain storms we had last weekend.................my bees just hung out on the hive fronts and enjoyed the bath!

The only "bug" that I have noticed on the top was a few roaches but I understand that they are looking for the sugar syrup.  My bees are still downing a gallon of 1:1 syrup every 2 - 2.5 days.  I picked up another 40 pounds of sugar yesterday at Walmart.  I wish I had kept records as to how much syrup they have used since I installed the packages on April 20 but I didn't.  I would estimate that I have "syruped" about 120-130 pounds of sugar so far for both of the hives. 

It's July, quit feeding and let the bees be bees.  I'll bet an inspection will show backfilling in the brood chamber from feeding all that syrup.  Backfilling is one of the 1st noticeable signs of swarming, crowding is the second.  You now have 2 swarm indicators.  Super and/or split.

Quote
I don't think they are packing it away in the medium super but I will verify that this weekend when I open up the hives.  I have not removed the third (medium) super and will probably just leave it on the two deeps.  Based upon some of the discussion on this forum, I'm a little concerning about swarming!

You should be.  If you have 2 developed deeps you have a established hive.  Putting more supers than required is better than not putting on enough.  Leave off the excluder until the bees start to work the frames in the super.  If the brood chamber has been backfilled already expect the queen to begin laying in the super.  That is much better than letting her swarm so let her do it.

Quote
Yep, going to Southern Pines next Thursday for the State meeting.  It lasts for three days and concludes on Saturday.

Have fun and ask lots of questions.  Wear your newbeeness like a badge of honor.
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« Reply #26 on: July 04, 2008, 06:49:14 PM »

Brian,

Just to bring you up to speed with where I'm at............

I put a medium super on top of the two deeps about 3-4 weeks ago without an excluder.  I wanted to give the queen plenty of room to lay if she wanted (I'm not looking for honey this year).  My original question began with the bees not being interested in drawing the third box.

Since there are no nectar flows in my area now, I decided to keep feeding syrup to get them to draw in the medium super.

Tomorrow, I plan to open the hives and see if they have drawn the medium super and if the queen has been playing in the third box.     
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« Reply #27 on: July 04, 2008, 07:32:48 PM »

This has been fantastic information.

I too have had no super activity recently. New hives too.

I gather from the above that the queen excluder should be removed until they start drawing out comb in the super?

I plan on adding a hivetop feeder to both my 10 frame hives so they can get enough food to eat this winter..


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« Reply #28 on: July 04, 2008, 09:52:28 PM »

This has been fantastic information.

I too have had no super activity recently. New hives too.

Bees won't draw comb during a dearth or drought, all foraging goes to hive survival so the brood rearing drops dirastically also and can cease altogether.

I gather from the above that the queen excluder should be removed until they start drawing out comb in the super?[/quote]

That is correct.  Proper use of an excluder requires leaving it off until the bees are working the frames--drawing comb and storing nectar.  Most books that advise use of the excluder fail to mention the qualifiers.  To draw comb in supers for a harvestable crop the requirement is a nectar flow, good weather, and easy access to storage area (at least to begin with).  Once the bees have pretty well drawn out 3 frames the super has sufficient resources to the hive so the workers will pass through the excluder.  Another way is to take the 2 storage frames from the outside of the top brood chamber and move those up to bait the bees through the excluder--in this case the bees might draw out the frames the replaced those used as bait before moving up. 

Quote
I plan on adding a hivetop feeder to both my 10 frame hives so they can get enough food to eat this winter..


kyle

This is for post harvest to top off the stores of the hive and backfill much of the brood chamber (that's not going to used for brood anyway) for surviving the winter.  Doing it now, when the possibility still exists for 1 or more honey flows, will force the bees to backfill now which can result in a late August or September swarm, which can be real hard on the hive.  Backfilling is one of the earlier signs of swarming during the foraging season, the bees stock the stores so they have enough for every worker to gorge themselves on when they swarm.
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« Reply #29 on: July 06, 2008, 11:59:20 AM »

UPDATE.........

Did an inspection yesterday to see what's going on with the medium super not being drawn out into comb.  There was some activity in the third box (medium super) that sits on top of the two deeps.  Some drawn comb but not a lot; less than 10%.  A good number of bees in the medium super too but not like they were crowded.

Pulled frames from the top brood deep and found outer frames capped with honey.  So it looks like they are storing the syrup that I have been feeding them.  Even though the top brood deep could be somewhat honey bound, the queen appears to have sufficient room for laying.  I would think that she would move up to the medium super and lay in drawn comb in that box if she were fully honey bound in the two deeps. 

Separated the two brood deeps and checked frames for queen cells.  Did not find any queen cells along the bottoms of the frames on or the sides of the frames.  It does not appear that they are building swarm cells unless they are hiding one somewhere in the hive.  Found a few drone cells though.

Checked the bees on several frames for varroa and did not see any hitching a ride.  I plan to do a sugar roll in mid August and get a mite count.  Also in mid August, I will add the 50 grams of menthol to each hive to treat for trachea.

I pulled the syrup jars off of both hives and left the medium supers on top without a queen excluder.  I increased the rear entrance opening to a little less than 3/8 of an inch to give additional ventilation.  I plan to keep a check on the capped honey and see if they begin to consume it before the next nectar flow (goldenrod and ragweed in late August or early September).

What other things should I been doing?  Can I "loosen" up the storage of honey in the top brood deep?

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