Inspection of Hive #1

With the things that have gone on lately, I have focused on hive #2. It has been a couple of weeks at least since I checked out hive #1 at all, so this time I did a full inspection. I didn’t touch hive #2 at all, so hopefully they didn’t make any more mess of their comb.

Both hives have a good number of bees at their entrance. There are some washboarding, and a good number coming and going. I watched bees coming into both hives with pollen. The incoming bees do seem to have to push by bees to get in , but thats as big as I made the entrance. Hopefully its not causing them any difficulty.

When I opened up hive #1, they were still at 8 combs. Comb #8 is not too much larger than what I had seen before, but the remaining combs are completely filled out. The filled out combs make a very nice isosceles trapezoid. I didn’t have any combs attached at all on the sides or bottom, and none across multiple top-bars (like hive #2 had). There are some whose comb is not exactly centered on the top-bar, but at least they are not across multiple top-bars. Here are combs 8, 7, 6, and 5 (first picture) and 4, 3, and 2 (second picture).

Did you notice the lack of a picture of comb #1? There’s a reason for that. I’ll get to that later.

There are lots of bees, but I think that the queen has slowed laying (notice comb #6 is pretty empty). That would make some sense too, because I don’t think there is too much nectar available right now (and I haven’t been feeding them). You may also notice that there is very little if any nectar stored, and I didn’t see any capped nectar. Since we are likely in a dearth right now (and they lack supplies), I went ahead and gave some sugar syrup to both hives.

I find it interesting to see the progression of the top-bars, and what the bees are doing where. Toward the very back of the hive they have new comb and nectar (if they have any :p ). They keep their brood in front of that, and seem to keep their pollen stors at the very front of the hive. I ran into the queen (still the original one – no supersedure yet).

Moving forward, you see brood combs. Comb 6 had little capped brood, but had a patch of larva. I didn’t get picture of comb 5, but I did get them of 4, 3, and 2. Notice that 4 and 3 both have caped brood with some younger larva. You can see that in comb 3, you start to see some pollen packed into some of the cells. Once you get to comb 2, there is lots of stored. Here are combs 6, 4, 3, and 2.

Comb #1 was a different story. Like the others it was not attached to the sides, but it was curved toward the from of the hive. The bees had then attached it to the front wall of the hive. When I tried to remove it, the comb ripped. It was an interesting comb. On the back side, it had mostly pollen with some capped brood. The front side (the side that was attached to the front of the hive) was close enough to the front that it didn’t really have cells on the side that was bent forward.

This side of the comb shown here is what was surface directly facing the entrance of the hive. I kind of wonder if the bees didn’t want to have cells facing out the entrance and therefor had this facing it. It kind of ticked off the bees when I picked up the fallen comb (it was covered with bees). For the first time, I got a number of stings on my gloves. None of the stings made it through the gloves, but they tried. After I cleaned out the dropped comb, I closed up the hive.

I guess the one plus of the problem with comb #1 was that I had the chance to check for Varroa mites. The mites breed inside the cells of capped brood where they feed on the developing bee. Since there were some capped brood among the pollen in the part of comb #1 that gave way, I could open the cells and check for mites. This would give me some idea of the size of the current mite problem in the hive. I pulled out 25 pupa. To my surprise, I did not find a single mite. Some of the pupa had what looked almost like very fine sawdust on them though. I think it might be bits of the capping material, but I am not sure. It actually looks a lot like the crap that I found on the bottom board of the hive before I removes it. I plan on posting a picture on BeeSource to see if it means anything. I took a picture of the one with the most stuff on it. I think this particular one had actually already bee uncapped by the bees before I checked the comb (there were a few that had been uncapped, probably to be torn out for some reason).

Though I didn’t see any mites, while checking out the comb however I did spot a couple of larva that I thought might be small hive beetle, but the could also be wax moth, I’m not sure. The hive is still pretty strong, and I very rarely see adult beetles (only saw one today – I smashed it), so I was a little surprised to see the larva. I haven’t seen any signs of wax moths.  I’ll have to keep an eye on it to make sure they don’t become a problem. Here is what it looked like right before it was smashed.

Overall, the hive seemed to be doing well. It does need stores, so I did start feeding sugar syrup again. Hopefully we will have some good nectar flows before winter so they can build up store to hold them till spring.

10 Responses to “Inspection of Hive #1”

  1. another top bar hive enthusiast Says:

    Hey there. I see your hives are quite strong. Thank you for great inspiration! Yours and sites of some other top bar beekeepers inspired me to decide and make top bar hive instead of just buy some Lang equipment.

    Be good and good luck with your two hives…

  2. James Says:

    I first heard of top bar hives while reading Path to Freedom journal. I read more, and decided to build and keep bees. It is way too late this year, but spring is just next year!

    Anyway, I saw your clever design on top bar hives, and downloaded your sketchup model too. I had to be different, so I modified the Barefoot Beekeeper’s design, and modeled it in sketchup too. I shared it out on the 3D Warehouse.

    I hope I have as much luck with the bees next year as you have had this year. Thanks for posting.


  3. kawayanan Says:

    Good to hear from other interested in top-bar hives.

    James, I assume this is you model?

    Kenyan Top Bar Hive by James

    Its nice to see a few hive in the 3D warehouse. Someone also put a model of Michael Bush’s top-bar hive there too.

    Michael Bush’s Top-bar Hive

    After having designed and built hives, I really believe that doing a full 3D model is the best way to do it. I saved myself a number of problems and errors. A simple design may not have needed it, but I had trouble keeping mine simple :p

    I keep meaning to make an updated model. I have a couple of changes I think I would make to mine. It’s just that I have no plans to build any more and can’t get myself to make the model without actually wanting to build the hives. I may end up moving at some point though, and if its far enough I may not take the hive with me (depends). In that case I would make more, but other than that I don’t have plans to have more than 2 top-bar hives.

  4. James Says:

    Yep Kayawanan, that is mine!

    I know what you mean about getting up the drive to do something if you have no plans to build it yourself. But I would counsel to go ahead and do it, so that you have recorded your ideas. Things have a way of fading from your mind… What was I talking about?
    I know I wanted to keep it simple, but… I wanted a flat roof that wouldn’t blow off, and I wanted a top entrance, as Michael Bush suggested (and gave good reasons for), and, well, I wanted a landing board too, so that I could watch the flight operations of the girls when I get them.
    I may also put one more feature on it, and that will be a special entrance board between the landing board and the lid, to limit the size of the opening. I don’t know if you noticed, but I left that 3/8″ opening between the first top bar and the end as the entrance, and the lid covers it by an inch or so. I wanted to keep most of the rain out.

    May I introduce you to There you can make tiny those really long urls and post them easily. Just a tip.

    Thanks for the quick reply, and best of luck to you and the hives. I look forward to more posts through out the year.



  5. James Says:

    Sorry, I misspelled your name… Momentary dyslexia I guess.

  6. kawayanan Says:

    🙂 Yes, I have heard of tinyurl. I’ve even used it a few times, but I’m lazy I guess. Its easier to just link to the pages, but for whatever reason I didn’t even do that. I fixed them now though.

  7. Mel Rimmer Says:

    This is what I love about beekeeping – it’s like being a detective, trying to figure out what they’re doing from indirect observations and clues and deduction.

  8. Bug Girl Says:

    Your last photo is a wax worm. Lepidoptera, and I can’t remember how to spell the genus. Galleria? I think?

  9. kawayanan Says:

    People on BeeSource also seemed to think it was a wax moth larva. After I looked around on the web for photo’s, I also came to the conclusion it was a wax moth. I will be keeping my eye out for them.

  10. Bug Girl Says:

    And….bonus! I spelled it right from memory! 😀

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