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The Dog Kennel Hive | Capel Hive Rescue | Part 2

Here is the second installment to our Capel Hive Rescue.

If you haven't read Capel Hive Rescue Part 1, head over and check that out first.

The Masterpiece

It was fascinating to see the masterpiece of the dog kennel hive in daylight. The way they had propolised it shut was incredible. We were curious to see what was on the inside of this particular hive.

In preparation for transferring this hive into its new hardware we placed a new base down with a queen excluder on top. We suspected there would be a fairly serious intrusion done to this colony and we did not want the bees absconding. If the queen can’t leave, then the bees will stay. Or so the theory goes.

When we opened the hive they were definitely not happy. They were pretty angry bees. We had been told that they had not been opened in a while. Yep. That was certainly true. There was plenty of comb (with honey) under the lid (no hive mat) and it was impossible to lift the frames.

Wired Frames. No Foundation!

So we did the next best thing. We removed the sides of the super to see what we were dealing with. The hardware was only good for the bonfire, so breaking it apart was no issue. What we found surprised us. Although it is not the first time I’ve seen similar since then.

The beekeeper had inserted wired frames into the super. Ten of them. And when I say wired, I mean just that. Empty frames with wire. No foundation! So, with a large empty cavity of a super, the bees did what the bees do best. They built their comb in all directions with all that empty space. Just the way they like it. Not the way the beekeeper likes it!

I just want to say here that there is nothing wrong with using full supers of foundationless frames, providing the beek has good cross comb management plans in place (I’m thinking Kenyan top bar hive here). But when the bees are left to do their thing, Well, they will…

So we were faced with the rear half of the super being filled with comb built cross-wise through the frames. From one side of the box to the other. With mostly capped honey from what we could see. The front half of the super had comb built in the correct orientation. It was no wonder we could not lift the frames.

After transferring a few of the frames we decided to deal with the rest later. This super required a proper cutout. We had not left enough time to do this, and we did not have on hand what we needed, so it would have to wait. We were risking honey dripping all the way down into the brood box below. A sure way to have lots of drowned bees (possibly even the queen), and a potential trigger for a robbing frenzy. It was already getting messy. And the bees were angry.

Now it was time to get into the brood box. This box was also a bit of a mess. Not surprising after what we had encountered in the honey super. It was over congested. And the bees were still angry. Thankfully, we could transfer the brood frames into the new hardware as each frame was removable. The bees building these frames out had luckily read the same book as us. Unlike their sisters up top. Before transferring the frames, we placed a new box with empty frames on top of the base and queen excluder we had already set up. Our empty box was placed on top of this one which we used to transfer the brood frames into. There was a fair bit of cleaning up of all the burr comb as we went.

We then placed a new box on top of the brood box and transferred the honey frames (as one piece) into this new box. It was a good thing Dave was helping with this. There is no way I could have managed lifting that cumbersome block on my own. We then closed the hive up with a plan to come back another day.

The Plan

So essentially, we had a new base, a new queen excluder, a new box with new frames, a new brood box with the old brood frames, a new honey super with the old honey frames, a new hive mat, and a new lid.

The plan with this setup was to let the queen move down into the new box and frames below and, once she was down there, insert a queen excluder to allow the old brood (which would then be above the excluder) to develop and emerge without new brood being produced in that box. We could then remove the box entirely, without weakening the hive too much.

I know I have referred to the brood and honey supers as just that. However, in reality it was essentially double brood. There was no queen excluder present so the queen could have been in either box. Most likely she was down in the bottom box, but we didn’t want to take the chance. And given the bees were pretty narky we needed to close them back up fairly smartly.

Be Prepared for the Unexpected

There were a couple of lessons we can take away from this one hive alone. The main one is to always be prepared for the unexpected! We didn’t expect the bees to act like paper wasps and we didn’t expect the top box to be completely cross-combed. We also needed to allow for a lot more time than we did. It now meant we needed to get back into the hive and do the cutout job on that mess-of-a-top-box.

But we are farmers. And there is always a fair amount of improvisation that happens. On the bright side, when we do that cutout we can plan enough time do just that. Now that we know what we are dealing with. And we can couple it with making sure the queen is down where we want her to be (slight giggle here, because chances are she won't be!!) so we can insert that queen excluder. And when we find her, she will be marked to make her easier to find if we ever decide to requeen. Which, judging by the temperament we just experienced, is highly likely.

Watch this space!

Helen Humphreys Passionate Beekeeper Trainer | Mentor | Producer

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