Expansion and Contraction: Your tales of making increase and losing big

Discussion in 'General Beekeeping' started by Adam Foster Collins, Sep 13, 2012.

  1. Adam Foster Collins

    Adam Foster Collins New Member

    Messages:
    111
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    In reading the words of Brother Adam, in his "In Search of the Best Strains of Bees", I was struck by a particular passage in his section describing his travels to the Iberian Peninsula: Spain-Portugal in 1959. He writes:

    "...these old beekeepers have a saying: 'De cien uno y de una cien', meaning out of a hundred, one, and out of one, a hundred - an allusion to the transitory character of colonies in unfavorable years and their magic increase in good seasons..."

    I like this, as it is quite true. If you have a hundred colonies, you can suddenly lose great numbers, and if you have just one colony, you can use that colony to expand again.

    So I wonder:

    What in your experience, has been the time of your greatest loss, and what has been your greatest increase in your number of colonies?

    I have only gone from two hives to 13 this year, but I bought two nucs and caught a swarm. So nothing too amazing in my short career.

    What about the rest of you?

    What's been your greatest collapse? Why? And what has been your greatest expansion? How?


    Adam
     
  2. Bens-Bees

    Bens-Bees New Member

    Messages:
    978
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Greatest loss: when bears wiped out an entire outyard.

    Greatest increase: I'd have to say my first swarm catch... not because it was the most bees, but because I still to this day have several colonies that are direct decendants of that original swarm catch, and I get a few more each year after doing splits.
     

  3. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

    Messages:
    6,487
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    in regards to loss one is always tempting fate and the god when dealing with honeybees. my largest loss was some years ago when I killed off every hive I had when the rumors of africanized honey bees arrived. prior to this being employed by a fairly significant commercial bee keeping firm part of my duties was to kill a thousand plus hives at the end of the season in North Dakota. that was easy in the context of that particular location since all you need do was wait for the first significant cold front and then you removed the cover.

    greatest increase was a few years ago when I went from 12 hives to 40 in one season primarily by driving the existing hives with feed and splitting each of these when ever they showed signs (heavy bearding) of swarming. I call this process 'opportunistic queen rearing'.... in that you are using the opportunity of swarms cells to make increase.
     
  4. PerryBee

    PerryBee New Member

    Messages:
    5,829
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Greatest loss, this past winter. 22 down to 12 (and one of those was nothing to brag about :sad:)
    Biggest increase, this summer. Did some splits, made a few nucs (heading off swarms), a couple cut-outs and a swarm helped by moving into empty gear in the backyard :lol: and I just hit 30 yesterday! Now I may do a combine or two depending and like tecumseh, I hope I haven't just tempted the beekeeping gods! :???:
     
  5. DLMKA

    DLMKA New Member

    Messages:
    429
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    my first year beekeeping and went from 0 to 9 hives including one nuc. I think my favorite thing all season was catching my first swarm! I'd never even seen one in real life and that first one was a huge rush.
     
  6. heinleinfan

    heinleinfan New Member

    Messages:
    346
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I've not ever been able to go over 2 hives, just not enough space for it, though I was able to add a 3rd I care for in my community garden; it's not "mine" but feels like mine.

    This year was my "greatest" expansion, though. I had one hive in April and now have the 3. Heh.
     
  7. reef10

    reef10 New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    tecumseh

    part of my duties was to kill a thousand plus hives at the end of the season in North Dakota

    Why? Is this still a common practice? Seems like it would be easier to just let them be and you might get some for next year.
     
  8. PerryBee

    PerryBee New Member

    Messages:
    5,829
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    0
    reef10:

    Going back a ways it was common practice to euthanize bees rather than overwinter them. It was far cheaper to just buy new bees in the spring.
    As the price of bees increased, the practice of euthanizing them died as it then became cheaper to overwinter them. (this is going back quite a ways time wise)
     
  9. Daniel Y

    Daniel Y New Member

    Messages:
    742
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I have been aware of the killing off of the bees at the end of each season. I have heard several reasons for it including control of Africanized bees. But one of the most often heard reasons was that it was some sort of attempt to cleans the hive of diseases as well. This is actually consistant with methods of disease control in other areas of agriculture. But I believe it was being miss applied in regard to bees.
     
  10. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

    Messages:
    6,487
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I never heard anyone who used this practice suggest it was any form of control for either africanized bees or for disease. Could have happened but I certainly never heard any knowledgeable person suggest this as either primary or secondary cause. Truthfully I am not certain I could even understand how anyone might toss that out as a suspected reason.

    Is it still done? well I SUSPECT so but certainly not at the level it was employed from the 50's thru the 80's.

    This practice had several practical implication. For every 3 hive you had in North Dakota you only need 1 in the southern US early in the spring to get yourself back to 3 hives in total. Since you were only bringing one in three hives back south this allowed you to 1)pick out the youngest and most productive queens and 2) from the hives you killed have a good slug of honey in the comb that you could feed back to hives you brought back north come the following spring.

    This practices was of course highly pushed by economic forces with the primary variable being the difference in the price of honey vs the price of hfcs or sugar. The practice allowed you to 'strip' any salable honey from the hives late in the season.

    For an extended period of time the practice was done by tossing a tarp over the hives and placing a bucket of water somewhere in the center of the mass and then tossing in a cyanide cap. This of course was extremely dangerous and the tales told of dog and pets killed while doing this were quite common.
     
  11. Daniel Y

    Daniel Y New Member

    Messages:
    742
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    tecumseh, The crowed in which I gathered my impression was my Great Grandfather who was 100 years old in 1979. Having formed his beliefs and practices about bees at least 80 years Pryor and not inclined to change his methods much. He was still plowing his fields with draft horses in the 70's.

    I also suspect his claimed reasons for killing off the bees where majority justification for a true motive if taking every drop of honey. Bees where free and easy to come by. honey was worth money. He may have believed their was some benefit to the hive setting empty for a period of time or he had been taught so by his father. I really have no idea. But is was teh people surrounding hiim that I was shown to kill off the bees. not have to work the bees over winter. and capture or lure a new swarm the next spring.

    There was also very little concern for the quality of the bees. any production was free production. and better than an empty hive in the shed. You captured bees when the opportunity presented itself and yearly production of honey was largely a matter of luck. the bees where left to make it on their own. killed int eh late summer early fall and every drop of honey taken.

    Maybe there was some thought that bees could not survive in a hive over winter anyway. certainly no work was going to be wasted on them that is for certain. When you have to slaughter breakfast lunch and dinner before even cooking it. you don't spend much time concerned with feeding bees.

    I do know that in his last years Grandpa had to be moved to town. We visited his farm once and the bees that where in the hives where very mean. This has always made me think that there may be some other unknown reason that he never let bees "Evolve" in his hives. maybe they simply got meaner with time. I don't know. Far to much old old knowledge passed away when he did.
     
  12. riverrat

    riverrat New Member

    Messages:
    2,683
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    0
    the biggest lose I ever had was when I made my biggest increase and got to big to quick and had trouble managing the hive numbers when the weather didnt cooperate.
     
  13. lazy shooter

    lazy shooter New Member

    Messages:
    649
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Is it just me, or does it seem wrong to use bees all summer and kill them before winter.
     
  14. Gypsi

    Gypsi Super Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    2,754
    Likes Received:
    11
    Trophy Points:
    38
    It's not just you. But that's kinda like petsmart's fish in a box theory, or as one of my customers once said to me: fish are furniture. (In reply to my comment that his fish were stacked in his pond like sardines) When livestock hits bottom line it usually isn't good for the livestock UNLESS the livestock is so expensive to replace it suddenly acquires value.
     
  15. Gypsi

    Gypsi Super Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    2,754
    Likes Received:
    11
    Trophy Points:
    38
    My biggest loss - last year. when you only have one hive at a time and lose it, that is 100% loss. But I did lose a swarm before I lost the hive, and I think they came back this spring and are now my hot hive (whose queen I'm really hoping has mated and is laying)

    Biggest increase, this year, when I did one cutout, caught a good sized hot swarm, bought 2 nucs 1 queen and ended up with 5 hives plus a nuc on the roof at the moment. And a swarm for my neighbor a hive. And that's after the hot bunch killed the italian queen. Life is good. Luck Luck Luck. First winter coming up!
     
  16. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

    Messages:
    6,487
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    a lazyshooter snip...
    Is it just me, or does it seem wrong to use bees all summer and kill them before winter.

    tecumseh:
    wrong in what way? would it have been wrong of me to NOT do as the fellow who signed my check instructed for me to do?

    I do not get much joy in relaying how this was done not so long ago... but it is a part of beekeeping and my own history. Somewhat in defense of this practice it is pretty good way to cull stock and I would suggest that culling and selection are both valuable tools for improving the quality of almost any kind of population. We often times speak a lot about selection without one word about culling. Culling may be more powerful tool than selection.