New to beekeeping and have a question

Discussion in 'General Beekeeping' started by Oilman, Jun 21, 2017.

  1. Oilman

    Oilman New Member

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    I am new to beekeeping and visited some friends who also are rather new to the discipline.
    I noticed something that seems unusual and would like some feedback.
    What I noticed was 2 distinct bee types entering my friends hive. My suspicion is that there is some robbing going on. Both of their hives are weak. I am already thinking about some improvements and will make some suggestions to them. If my observations are correct then this might help them make some changes.

    I did take some photo's of the bee's, but the file is too large so I will skip that for now.

    Most of the bee's entering the hive seem "normal" in size and color. there are other bee's coming and going, maybe 20% that are half again bigger and have a mostly black abdomen. I think these might be Caucasian or Carniolan bees. I don't think these are drones. They are acting like worker bee's.

    I will clarify my knowledge to head off the perception of presumed ignorance. I am the son of an phd entomologist so there is no confusion on my part as to the observation. I am familiar with the difference between bee's, hornets, wasps etc.

    So one question I have is; is there this much size difference depending on the sub-species of bee?
    Also if we close up the hives and move them 1/4 mile and keep them shut up for 3 days or so, reduce the entrance to the hive, would this help? I may make some Miller type feeders for them so that the bee's will have something to help build comb, gain strength, and have food for the time they are closed.
     
  2. roadkillbobb

    roadkillbobb Member

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    with a new or weak hive I have closed off the entrance to only about an inch or 2..this will give a much smaller area to guard..
     

  3. Oilman

    Oilman New Member

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    That is one of the things I plan on doing. There was no fighting going on. The larger bees were coming and going as if they were part of the hive. I will talk to the owner hopefully tomorrow and have her pull the frames to see if it can be determined that the larger bees are robbing or not.
    They are sure easy to spot and I figure it might be possible to see if they are sucking up nectar from the comb.
     
  4. roadkillbobb

    roadkillbobb Member

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    2 years ago I lost my hive to mites and in the spring it was robbed( there were no bees to defend the hive), it looked like an explosion of bees and action going on all around the hive, the bigger bees you are seeing are most likely drones, but im still new at this, so its just a guess from when I saw hive get robbed..
     
  5. Oilman

    Oilman New Member

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    It is my understanding that drones don't come and go like the worker bees. These larger bees are leaving the hive and bee lining out in the same direction. From what I have learned, drones tend to be a bit fatter in the abdomen. These bees look proportional to worker bees just larger. Their color is much more toward black or dark brown.

    Hopefully, the hive will survive for a few more days. I am building 2 more miller feeders to install in them and we will relocate the hives and close them up for 3 days. They also have moth and ant problems. After the 3 days it will be obvious if the larger bees belong to the hive or not. I don't expect they would spend the night in a hive they are robbing. If they are not present when the hive is opened up then I think that will close the mystery. We may consider moving the frames to a new box the day before the move just to help clean out the ants and moths. The entrance needs to be no more than 2 inches.

    I just wish I had more time to deal with this. I have a business that takes up most of my time.
     
  6. roadkillbobb

    roadkillbobb Member

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    I spend some time just watching the bees come and go, and can say that I have drones or bees as you describe coming and going also, and know for fact the hive is not being robbed...I grease the legs of the hive stands and ( dont tell the epa or dec) but I pour a small amount of used motor oil around each leg and let it soak into the ground to stop hive beetles from getting to the legs to crawl up..I havent had any moth issues yet, I would guess in an active hive with enough bees, the bees would get ride of them, just a guess on that one..
     
  7. Oilman

    Oilman New Member

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    I may pay them a visit today to look at potential relocation spots. I think they have something like 120 acres. I am thinking about sinking some 4 x 4,s in the ground probably 4 of them and attaching 2 10ft. 4x4's horizontally to make a new permanent hive foundation. I will probably put some plant exclusion plastic down around the base with pea stone. just so one doesn't have to weed whack around the hives. Driving home last night I had an inspiration. I am going to get some Never Wet paint that some are using for hive beetle exclusion and paint a 6" strip of flashing that I will wrap and staple around the foundation 4x4's. Or I may test this out on some ants and see if they can climb over the painted surface first. I can always grease a section of the posts. Or maybe do both.

    Going to also make some banana peel wax moth traps and see if those work.

    So in addition to the miller style feeders, I will make new screened hive bases that allow for easier Winterization. I made one base and already see room for improvements. This first attempt has 2 routed dado's that allow the screen to be switched out with a solid plywood bottom. Screened side holes allow air circulation during the Summer while switching positions restrict air flow in the Winter. I may make the depth deeper to allow for a deeper catch pan and allow for a 2" thick Styrofoam insert for the winter. We do get real cold temperatures in the winter in Michigan and I see no reason to leave climate control up to chance.
     
  8. Oilman

    Oilman New Member

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    To update the situation. I had taken some pictures of the bee's depicting the different sizes of bee's entering the hive. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours with a phd bee specialist. Just my dumb luck to run into the guy and a great privilege. He had a quick answer. They are drones (Carniolan) and probably getting ready for supersedure. He also explained how a queen might mate with several different species of drones and how this explains the different looking bee's in one hive. So I will pass on the info to my friends and have them check the bottom of the brood box for supersedure cells to confirm. Might have to do a quick split. I also picked up a shallow box full of drawn comb to swap out with the very weak hive with moth problems. I got many questions answered, and far more information than my brain can absorb in a couple of hours.
    The best part of the whole thing is the fact that the bee specialist lives a few miles away and I have a mentor who is one of the most knowledgeable about bees in the country. I have skills that will help him and he offered to teach me anything bee related.

    Overall a very productive day, yesterday.
     
  9. ccjersey

    ccjersey New Member

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    Sounds like you really are set.

    If you want to make some permanent hive stands, might I suggest using 2X lumber for your stringers vs 4X4. Just lots easier to deal with and usually less prone to twist and bow as it cures out.
     
  10. Oilman

    Oilman New Member

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    You have a point. I may construct the top frame at home and bring it to the location.
    Thinking positively, if we should put 5 -6 hives on the stand, and they all do well, then it is conceivable that one could have 1500#'s on it. So taking the time to make a heavy load bearing hive base seems rather important. I have 2 reasons to not just sit them on a pallet on the ground. We get some heavy snows with drifting and there are lots of skunks and ants around. So I want to maybe use pipe driven into the ground.

    Going out to the location tomorrow to pick a new spot for the hives. I think I will wait for the fall/cold weather to move the existing hives. with the bees inside trying to keep warm would this be feasible to move them a few hundred yards without confusing them. I don't want them to go back to the original location and die.
     
  11. Gypsi

    Gypsi Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Drones come and go all the time. Part of my hives, from survivor feral colonies, have black and brown bees that are a bit larger than the other workers, they get along and work. If you see fighting on the front porch, it is being robbed. If you see a formation of bees aimed at the hive, it is possible that it is robbing, or an orientation flight where all the young bees form up and LOOK at the hive so they know where home is before they go foraging.