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  • Bailey comb exchange - reassurance/advice please!

  • Beginners forum, ask beekeeping related questions and get help from other experienced beekeepers. Please use the Search Feature please to avoid duplicated threads
Beginners forum, ask beekeeping related questions and get help from other experienced beekeepers. Please use the Search Feature please to avoid duplicated threads
 #8040  by DryRedFrog
 28 Jun 2020, 20:40
A couple of weeks ago I was given an old colony. There were 10 frames in a brood box which used castellations, mostly very old comb. Several frames were netted comb, several others had two layers of comb and some of these flaps were falling off. Some of the frames were themselves falling apart and one had no bottom bar. A couple of frames were empty old comb. I moved them into a new brood box and tried to get another frame or dummy board in but there was no room. Given the terrible nature of the frames I decided to do a bailey comb exchange and so a week ago put another brood box on top, with 11 fresh Hoffman frames and a dummy board, and started feeding. I know it is a little later than recommended but I've written off harvesting any honey this year and just want to get them through the winter on healthy, tidy frames. Last week's inspection showed very little brood, but there was BIAS.

The bees themselves are lovely and docile. There is plenty of pollen and nectar going into the hive. Today when I tried to inspect them, I see that they have started drawing out 3 of the upper frames, so far so good. Then I tried to look in the bottom brood box - unfortunately frames 1-4 are now one solid mass of comb and I can't get them out. Frame 5 did come out, and I saw eggs and larvae but couldn't find the queen. Frames 6-10 are also all stuck together and I can't get them out to look at what is there.

I'm at the stage where I can't see what is going on in the bottom box without removing/destroying a lot of comb. Am I right in thinking that I'm best off leaving them to it and waiting until the queen moves up to the top box? My thinking is that if I remove comb below then I'm giving them space and they'll just replace it, so delaying any move upwards. I would also inevitably end up removing brood and weakening the colony.
 #8044  by Chrisbarlow
 28 Jun 2020, 23:02
I would keep feeding

inspect each week

when you find the queen in the top box

Take the bottom box out and put top box on same floor (now with the queen inside)

I would shake all bees into the new bottom box and discard the top ( or process the wax anyhow, consider repairing said old box)

You'll lose brood but hey ho, that's life
 #8053  by Patrick
 29 Jun 2020, 09:47
Hi Dryredfrog

Glad to hear it’s not just me that often has issues with Bailey comb changes then. It all seems so simple when it’s written down. I too am often given things which need sorting out. Things with knackered two stroke engines usually.

Sometimes bees just seem determined to stick with terrible combs. You say there is not much brood at the moment - are there plenty of adult bees, how many frames are covered by bees? What sort of feeder do you have, they need a generous one to consider it necessary to make more comb, rather than just store it in the existing frames.

Do you have a nucleus box available to you? If you do, if there are already at least a few combs of bees it might be worth forcing the issue and shaking all the adult bees onto what they have drawn so far in a much smaller space they can keep warm and draw wax in. Still feed obviously. As Chris says they may lose a couple of weeks of brood but the gain will be worth it.

It sounds like they are using the feed you are giving them to simply reinforce the existing combs, which is wasted effort. They sound lovely bees. Maybe now not so important to have to inspect weekly but you are quite right you need them off by winter as it won’t magically be any better in the Spring! Good luck.
 #8054  by DryRedFrog
 29 Jun 2020, 10:22
Thanks for the replies :-)

When I was able to get into the frames on last week's inspection, there was only really one frame of brood/eggs, but at least the frame I could get at yesterday that was full of brood was a different one - so am hopeful that there's two frames of brood! I've not found the queen yet but yesterday there were eggs. There are a good number of adult bees and the hive is busy.

I'm using a 2l rapid feeder and they are getting through 500-1000ml of 1:1 syrup/day. I don't think there can be very much room left for new comb in the old brood box - it was utterly rammed yesterday, so they *have* to move up soon don't they ;-)

Having not been able to go through the bottom box yesterday, any future inspections are really just going to be the new brood, and if/when the queen moves up I'll wang in a QE with a sigh of relief!

What is the perceived wisdom on stores that remain in the old box? It's something I can't find mentioned anywhere - presumably I don't want to throw away frames and frames of stores?
 #8056  by AdamD
 29 Jun 2020, 12:04
When I do a Bailey comb exchange, once the queen is upstairs, I use a 1" entrance eke between the two boxes and close of the floor. Bees tend to move stores from underneath them so they can be quite good at emptying the lower brood box once the brood has gone. From bottom to top I would use:-

Closed floor.
Old brood box.
Queen excluder.
1" high eke with entrance.
New brood box and queen.
Crown board.
Feeder surrounded by a super.

If you can get an old frame out of the old brood box and put it in the new box, it might encourage the queen to move up. (But put a dummy board in it's place in the lower box or the space will be filled with unwanted new comb).

With a double brood hive, if you smoke the colony from the entrance before inspection, it's quite common to find that the queen has moved to the top brood box to get away from the smoke. This might work for you once you have brood in the top box. Smoke gently, allow a few moments for the queen to move up and then lift the top box off before you inspect. With luck she will be there.

Let us know how you get on!