Bee Keeping here I come!


You were fortunate, bees too![quote=“thecityman, post:378, topic:4536”]
haven’t fed

They still have Feb., March, and April to get through. If you want to keep them, feed them.[quote=“thecityman, post:378, topic:4536”]
I looked in my hive when it was cold

The bees cluster tightly when it is cold. This cluster keeps the queen warm and the very slow circulation of bees from warm to cold seems like they are motionless or dead. Break that cluster and you will find live, warm, angry, bees.[quote=“thecityman, post:378, topic:4536”]
a swarm came along

No swarm, too cold, not enough population to trigger swarming instinct.


Nice to have someone on board with the extensive knowledge of bees that only comes with years of experience. If I had that kind of advice when I tried keeping bees I would have avoided some of the problems I had. There is only so much you can learn from a book.


AS always, your answers were incredible helpful and informative and I deeply appreciate your help. And Jason is right, it’s very nice having an expert “on call” when needed. I try not to abuse the privildge, and I am sure grateful for your and others help.

One last Q…you mentioned that I should be feeding if I want to keep them around. Can I just feed the sugar and water mix you taught me to make in the summer, or do I have to have some of those solid “cakes”? Thanks!



Sorry for the delay, in Socal. Mix 1/1 1part sugar 1part water by weight. no solid cakes of pollen.


I kept Welsh Harlequin ducks 4 1/2 years. Great eggs, and so many I sold the extra and the girls paid their way. Lost the lot of them to a family raccoon dinner. Varmints start eating without bothering to kill 'em.

Want to keep ducks again - did wonders for the weeds and soil - but must wait until I can build a chain link enclosure to lock the birds into at sundown. Raccoons can’t get in and ducks will be safe. Ancona next time.

I took the beekeeping course last year and hope to build two hives in the next month - top bar hives are far less expensive. I can build them with my rudimentary woodworking skills. Then, catch some swarms! Beekeeping on the cheap.


I built a top bar hive and a langstroth when I kept bees. The top bar was sure much easier to build. I put a really aggressive swarm I caught in it. Unfortunately they starved out that winter. I think it may be a little more difficult for them to keep warm.


Here in Spokane I have encountered at least six people keeping bees in top bar hives. None of them think bees have trouble with cold in them here. What they agree on is the necessity of leaving them plenty of food energy for the winter. The first year is the hardest for any colony. Therefore I do not plan to harvest any honey this first season. Partly that is because winter is so long in Spokane. This year the nectar dearth began in October and will continue through March.

Yes, six months. That’s a lot of honey.

So, one of my goals is to build the hives four feet long, or 36 bars. Come next April, I can check to see if any honey stores remain once the nectar flow begins and maybe harvest some honey and wax. If not, and the bees live through their first winter in my care, I consider that a success.
I am also considering a 4 1/2 foot hive, which is not economical in building (unless finding scrap wood for it), because I wonder if 40 bars might make the difference between bees self-perpetuating and the need for supplementary feeding.
I live in town, and hope to provide as much pollen and nectar as possible right here, replacing the grass strip by the street with wildflowers, clover a Japanese maple and three apple trees. That, in addition to nine other apples, a sour cherry, black currants, raspberries and allium spp. in the yard, along with plenty of other resources in a three mile radius, should maintain two colonies.
Hope you’ll do a split into your TBH and succeed!


I don’t have it any more, I took it apart and made a planter out of the top two sections. What will you use to get the bees building comb correctly on the bars?


I plan to cut the bars with a wedge down the center and shift bars once combs are a-building to keep those in the back from being built with a curve.
Have you seen that Michael Bush direct releases queens with packages? He also prefers nucs, so that is less a challenge, but still…!


No I have not seen that. When I built my top bar hive I had some really old dark comb that came out of a tree that had been dozed over. I took it and sliced it into sections an inch thick the length of the top bar and hot glued it in place. The bees got right on it and drew comb out.


Now that’s genius! Not likely to find a newly abandoned hive to scavenge comb, but what a find for you!

The experience of Phil Chandler, Les Crowder, Dennis Murrell, Megan Paska, and some local folks give me enough confidence - along with my experience keeping such gentle and subtle birds as ducks - to try beekeeping in this manner.
BTW, I came across the notion first by reading “Fruitless Fall,” by Rowan Jacobsen. Appendix A made me think of using the TBH here, as Murrell lives in windswept Wyoming.


You will have to post your progress here so we can see how it goes. One mistake I made was not having a good enough stand built. As the hive fills up it gets more top heavy and it also catches a lot more wind than a traditional hive. One thing i really liked about the top bar was when you opened the top the bars still kept the hive closed , if you wanted to peak in you could just remove one bar at the far end of the hive. The swarm I hived in it were the meanest bees I ever had. You don’t have to use old comb, I think you could even use cut strips of undrawn foundation just to give them a place to start


I’m planning on putting them both on a roof of moderate pitch, easily accessed with one of my orchard ladders and keeping bees flying above all neighbors. I’ll probably nail a sheet of plywood to the roof and bolt the legs of each hive onto that, cutting the legs so that each hive is level. I think it would be good to hinge each roof to the front of the hive, so I can open it and not have to put it down. Prevailing winds come from the other side of the house.
Part of my motivation in growing fruit and trying bees (and ducks) is to learn what I can do and pass on that information. If someone else benefits from my success and heartache, my reward in reaping the benefits of home husbandry is so much sweeter.


Sounds like a really well thought out plan.


Sure, will post as things develop. We finally got a cell phone so can add photos.


One more bee mystery to me. A couple weeks ago I noted here that I had TONS of bees flying in and out of my hive. Just a week before that I had looked inside and saw nothing but dead bees. Well, now its nothing but dead bees again now. I’m 85% sure they are dead. I took some and held them in my hand and they were 100% motionless. But when squeezed, they had “guts” and liquid inside so they haven’t been dead that long IF they are dead.

But here is the thing. There is stuff that looks like sawdust all over the dead bees and bottom of hive. Doesn’t that suggest robbing? Is it possible that the day I saw all the activity it was robber bees hitting my hive? Is that possible here in February??? Of course, it was 73 degrees that day. But there is still a few rows of capped honey in my hive! SO that is also confusing. If the bees in my hive are dead, how did they die with honey still available for food? It certainly hasn’t been cold enough to freeze them, though they look frozen in place. Also, if I got hit by robbers, I thought robbers would continue until all honey was gone, but there is no more activity and honey still exists inside.

I’ve never been so confused in my life. Bee keeping is HARD and complicated for me!


I would not worry about it at this point for several reasons. Robber bees do leave ripped off caps all over the hive. If they were flying around the hive frantically they may well have been robbers. Your bees may be dead. The winter has been mild so although Your hive may or may not be dead a bee swarm will move in shortly. Soon your hive will mysteriously be alive again when those robbers swarm and move in. They already picked out their home for this year at your house. Your bees likely died from varroa mites. I don’t recall seeing that you treated for them and you should apply apistan strips or something similar that’s a more natural control for varroa mites in the spring and fall. There are many diseases you need to be aware of.
I don’t think these hive beetles will be a problem yet since I’m a state away and not seen them but be aware they do exist and could become a problem anytime
There is nosema you should be aware of as well
American and European foul brood are also issues.
By the way if no-one has mentioned it drill a hole in your top box next year in case there is heavy snow so your bees have a way to get oxygen and get out in the winter. The snow blocks the door at the bottom and they get asphixiated. Don’t forget to apply a mouseguard to your hive. Dont underestimate the mites they are a problem in your area. The other diseases you may or may not see. Some bees like mine appear immune to foul brood but not all bees are. I raised pure Italian bees at one point that were infected with European foul brood. It was not a serious problem for them. My friend who died in his 80’s told me his dad’s bees were wiped out by American foul brood.


WOW! That was an awesome post but also proves what I said in my last one: BEE KEEPING IS HARD!!!

BTW…I’ve seen photos of hive beetles and I’ve most definitely seen some in my hive last year. I am planning to get those little trays that hang between frames filled with veggie oil to catch them (if you think thats a good idea). HOWEVER…when I opened my hive the other day I saw a different kind of beetle. They looked like a brown roach- so much that I think that is likely what they were. However, I only saw like 3-4 of them in the whole hive.

I didn’t treat for Mites last year so you may well be right. I somewhat understand them and how to look for them and treat them thanks to some great literature that @Chikn sent me last year and which I really need to re-read.

I was just about to order one or two new bee packages, but if there is much chance that those I saw flying in and out and around that day are likely to move back in, I’d sure like to save my $150 (w/postage). Heck…that is 6 FRUIT TREES!!! ha. I also have a better chance than most people of catching a swarm on someone elses property, because almost every year someone calls our Fire Dept to report a “Huge ball of bees” and they know to call me immediately if it happens this year so I can try to capture and move them into one of my 2 hives.

Anyway, thank-you so much for taking so much time to provide me so much detailed help. I really need it. It seems like the more time I spend reading about bees online, the more I realize how little I know and the more lost I become. This thread has been a Godsend thanks to you, @Auburn , @Chikn , @Derby42 and a few others. Thanks again…A LOT!!! I feel like I’ve finally got a fair grip on most things fruit tree related, but I’m just completely lost on bees.


The winter was mild so there will most definitely be swarms and lots of them. I would spend my $150 on more hives or scion wood. Swarms are a mixed bag some are wonderful and others are not. I caught a ton of them last year.


NuttingBumpus–I have a concern about a 4’ hive. If your wintering cluster moves to one end then it gets too cold for them to move to the other end they end up starving when there is actually plenty of honey. I have had it happen in regular hives. I am about 50 miles from you and I wouldn’t use the top bar hive. But if you do try it I hope it works for you. I think they would be great for warmer areas.
I presently have a hive with two deep supers and I hope they are still alive, I did put some rigid insulation around the hive to help keep them warmer.
I got them last spring just for pollination, but I ended up with about 4 gal. of honey too.
It’s been quite a few years since I kept bees.