We did another check of the hives over the weekend. All 8 were examined. All the colonies are strong, including the newly established hive created from the swarm we had at the start of August. In the older hives however there is still no honey crop. Three of the hives however we of particular interest to us. Each was a new colony that had been fed with fondant by us when we put them in their hives. Looking back, that was a mistake. To feed the fondant we had to add a super to the hives. That created a large space which the bees, in their wisdom, filled with wild comb. They were barely using the brood boxes. This was making the hives unmanagable and gathering a honey crop from them next year would be virtually impossible in that state.
What we should have done was feed them sugar syrup. This is given to them in a bucket with a small, fine nesh gauze over a hole in the middle of the lid. This is placed over the small hole in the centre of the crown board and a super then goes over it. The bees have access to the syrup but not the space. Therefore they build their comb in the frames in the brood box. We will not be making the same mistake again. In future, if we feed fondant in the warmer months when the bees are active and building lots of comb for brood and to store honey, we will put a thick blanket over it to prevent the bees getting access into the super.
Correcting the problem was going to be very difficult on hive 2 because we had not put a crown board on when the hive was established a couple of months ago. It was a time when we were not expecting a large number of swarms and so we had less spare kit. Hive 2 had built its comb from the inside of the roof instead. It meant that when we lifted off the roof from the hive, virtually the entire colony - bees, comb, brood and honey - came with it. Our solution was to move the super to the base of the hive. We then cut the comb from the roof and put it on the floor of the hive inside the super. This meant some brood was lost. It was a messy process but when we finished cutting the comb, we put the brood box with frames on top of the super. We expect the bees to repair the mess by moving everything up into the brood frames where it should be. We'll check again soon to see how they are getting on.