Home is where you hang your comb

I was fortunate to be home when our hive Jupiter swarmed on April 25. I managed to wrestle the bees into a new top bar hive and set them up in my apiary. This weekend was nearly two weeks later, and I was anxious to take a close look to see how they were faring.

I built this hive with my father’s help in January, so it felt good to put some bees inside. A week ago I peeked just enough to make sure that the bees were busy building comb, and indeed they were. Yesterday, on May 8, I took a more thorough look to see if the queen was laying.

In the back of the hive was a pint of sugar syrup. The weather has been rather cold and rainy, and I didn’t want the bees to starve, so I placed this as emergency food. I was pleased to see the syrup was hardly touched, meaning the bees are happy with their external food choices.

In the front of the hive I found six bars with nice, straight comb. The number of bees seemed smaller than I recall in the original swarm. I wonder if some of the swarm returned to the original hive, especially after I moved the top bar hive from under the tree into its current spot in the apiary. Either way, given the bees stayed, there should be queen a present.

160508 Hive Comb

I looked over the combs and found nectar and a little pollen. No eggs that I could see, no larva, no brood. I had really expected to find a laying queen, as I assumed the original queen from Jupiter had moved with the swarm. If she had, then she would already be laying. Either she died somehow, and the hive has no queen, or the swarm had a virgin queen. I’m not sure where the original queen might be, perhaps still in Jupiter?

Assuming the swarm had a virgin queen, she would have to make one or more mating flights before she could start laying eggs. With our recent rain, this could have been difficult. That might explain the delay, or the queen could have been eaten or killed during her flights, you never know. At this point, nothing to do except wait another week and check again.

If the hive is still broodless after nearly three weeks, then it probably doesn’t have a viable queen. In that case I will have to intervene, though exactly how I am not sure. Stay tuned.

Home is where you hang your hat

Today’s proverb captures the idea that home is where you want it to be, and not bound to some sentimental location or purpose. Where you are at this moment, where you hang your coat or hat, is home. According to my Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs, this quote first appeared in the mystery novel The Green Rope by J. S. Fletcher, published in 1927.

Given that bees give up their old hive when they swarm, this seems especially appropriate. The colony’s home is where they build their comb. I just hope they have a queen to go with it.

6 thoughts on “Home is where you hang your comb

  1. Sometimes a colony can produce multiple swarms, so perhaps you didn’t catch the main swarm but a smaller ‘cast’ swarm with a virgin queen. Hope you find eggs soon.

    If Jupiter is strong enough you could take a frame with eggs/young larvae from it and put the frame in the swarm hive as a test to see if they try and make a queen from it. If they have a queen they won’t make queen cells, if they don’t they should draw out some emergency queen cells.


    • Thanks, I’m pretty sure this is the only swarm from the hive. Never know for certain I guess.

      The new top bar is the only hive of this size (one of the issues with top bar hives). My other top bar is 14″, while this one is 19″. My Langstroth hives are 19″, but different frames. Realized this week that I should have put a new 19″ top bar in the Lang, then the bees would likely build comb and lay brood. This would have let me do what you suggest. I’ve been away for a few days and just back tonight, so I may try to do this tomorrow if the weather holds.


  2. Congrats on catching the/a swarm from Jupiter! I think Emily is right on. If you take some brood from Jupiter, just brush the bees off first. Fingers crossed for you!


    • Yes, see above. Nice to catch the swarm, hoping by this weekend I’ll see some brood, or I will try to build out some brood on a top bar in another hive. Thanks for crossing your fingers for me!!!


  3. Hi. It does sound like a cast swarm. if you’re worried transfer a comb of eggs/young larva from your other top bar (without bees). If they’re queen less they can raise a queen if not sometimes the brood pheromones can get a new young queen laying. The brood will also suppress any laying worker development. best of luck


    • Thanks, as above :). I have a single deep Langstroth that had some queen cups this past weekend. So my other option might be to hope there are some queen cells this coming weekend and add them to the top bar hive. If there is a queen I assume (?) the bees will tear them apart, if not then they’ll be happy to have a queen cell. Or so I imagine. I’ll let you know how it works out 🙂


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