Urban beekeeping in New Mexico's largest city.
My bees are about 3 weeks old. I put them in a top bar hive. But they started building multiple combs on every bar, so when I tried to spread them out today, some of the combs fell off. One of them definitely had a lot of brood in it. I propped up the four that fell with sticks so that the bees could reach both sides of the comb. Did I do this correctly?
Also, I think I saw some drones around and I am wondering what I should do to prevent them from swarming.
Any advice that anybody can offer would be greatly appreciated.
Was this a large swarm that you captured, package bees, nuc? The drones were probably included with your original bees. It takes 24 days to raise a drone so these guys aren't new to your hive, if you have only had your bees 3 weeks.
I don't think you need to worry about swarming this year, or at least this early in the season. If you are in your hive at least once a week, you will be able to catch whether the hive is making queen cups on the outside edges of the comb. Sometimes this will happen if they are feeling honey bound ie. their honey is blocking expansion of brood growth and they feel like they are running out of room. It appears that you have a very healthy, large hive (I think I count 10 bars). You can help prevent this feeling of running out of room by adding an empty bar inside the brood and and an empty bar before the honey combs when they are really rocking and rolling- gobs of bees and gobs of nectar coming in.
As for the cross combing, good job getting in there are trying to straighten things out before it becomes a real nightmare. Also, great move putting the comb with brood in the back, propped up with sticks. I would even suggest moving them back further in the hive so that the bees don't start building around the propped up comb. It's a headache, but looks like you are fixing it well. With enough tending, hopefully they will start straightening out.
Thank you Jessie. It was a swarm I captured. I'll keep you posted on how it progresses.
In regards to swarming.... you should not have a problem this year unless you allow over crowding or if this hive has a propensity to swarm (and this is not common).
It is difficult when a comb with brood falls off. If it were a comb with honey and pollen I would lay it in the bottom of the hive elevated so the bees could remove and relocate the honey and pollen or I would harvest it for my own use. If it is unripened nectar (not capped) and I decide to use it for myself I would refrigerate it and treat it like I would a vegetable and use it within a short time or it will decay (ferment). The bees will also reuse the bees wax at some point.
I would try to take the brood comb and tie it on to a top bar with something like fishing string until the bees attach it to the top bar. If the brood was allow to chill it will be worthless and the bees will remove the eggs, larva and pupa and discard them. Allowing the wind to blow across the combs is the easiest way to chill brood.
And as a last resort... your bees will recover from an event such as this.
What you have described with the top bars could be one of two things. You may have checked too early and the bees have not had time to finish drawing out the comb into one solit unit or it sounds as if your nectar flow is not sufficient for the bees to build rapidly and steadily. You will see many times where bees begin to draw comb on a frame and then stop. This can be because of a shortage of nectar or they cannot fly as much because of bad weather (wind, rain, cold etc) If I was concerned about a setback I would begin to feed sugar water at a 2 parts water to 1 part sugar. The way I make sugar water is to take 1 part hot water (1 quart) add to this 1 part sugar (a quart), stir until it dissolves then add 1 part more of cold water (a quart). I would then feed this to the bees. I prefer to feed inside the hive where the bees have easy access. I build a feeder that sits on the floor of the top bar hive in the position of the number 1 and 2 frames (I cover it with these two frames also). It sits low enough so that the bees can enter in at the top and crawl down the sides to drink up the feed. I will also give my bees a protien patty. Remember that the bees work 24 hours a day all year long. By giving them both a carbohydrate and protein they will work this during the time the sun is down and also on days of poor weather. You do not have any down when feeding and they will build up 4 times faster and put on a decent crop of honey in the first year.
I feed my bees as stated above continuously until they are ready to bring in nectar to make honey. If I am using top bar hives I feed until they draw out 12-15 bars then stop and let them put on honey. If it is a Langstroth hive I let them fill up 1 and 2/3 deeps then I stop and put on honey supers. Many beekeepers loose thier bees in the winter due to poor nutrition and not having enough young bees entering into the winter. It is especially important to feed after you take off the last bit of honey in the fall so that you have a large brood nest going into the winter with plenty of young bees.
Another factor could be the design of your top bars. If you do not have a way to encourage the bees to draw comb from a desired point they will draw down comb to suit thier instincts which would be cross comb. You need to make sure your top bars are the proper width (1 5/8 - the true width of a 2x4). In the middle of this top bar you need to have a guide such as a clete, bead of bees wax, strip of wax, or plasticell strip. Something to guide them. If you have any straight drawn comb you can use this as a starter by placing your new empty top bars next to it.
I wish you well.
Eddie and Victor, I'm having some friends over June 25 to look at my topbar hives. If you are interested in seeing many different hives of varying ages to compare your hives too, this might be helpful. We are meeting at my place at 10 am on Saturday. I live downtown and most of my hives are within a mile radius. Send me a message if you are interested in joining, and I will send you directions and contact info.