Honey bound hive: too late to intervene?

Discussion in 'General Beekeeping' started by pistolpete, Sep 14, 2013.

  1. pistolpete

    pistolpete New Member

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    I did an inspection on my weakest hive today. They have been somewhat lagging all year. Produced about 40 LBS of honey, but the population was always a bit low. I did an inspection on them today after removing the super last week. There are quite a few bees in the hive, bot it's not packed. I'd say enough bees to cover 10 frames both sides. If I add up all the cells that have brood in various stages it adds up to about 3 deep frames both sides. Everything else is plugged with honey and pollen. Cells where brood is emerging are being backfilled.

    The good news is I won't have to feed them, but I'm concerned that this hive will go into the winter with a small cluster. Should I intervene and provide an empty drawn frame for the queen to lay in? If so, should it go in the middle of the brood nest or right beside it? We are about a month away from first frost.
     
  2. Crofter

    Crofter New Member

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    I dont know Pete, but they might be on a good course; the bees in those frames of capped brood will sure swell up when they emerge and there should be another round of brood yet at least . You dont want all those grub eating foragers around soon anyway. Beyond a certain point i think cluster size starts to be a negative. Think life raft. Will the workers move honey up from lower frames to open brood space down below? I don't think there is much danger of swarm now but two weeks ago I had hives very much like what you describe and that was my worry then. Have fed nearly 250 lbs of sugar since. Dont know where they are putting it all or where they will get wax to cap it.

    I have lots to learn before the bees give me unlimited tranquility instead of angst!
     

  3. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    Remove the two outside frames and put one empty on each side of the brood nest. Save the frames of honey in the freezer until Jan. or Feb.when they need them.
     
  4. Barbarian

    Barbarian New Member

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    I agree with Crofter's attitude.

    In my situation, I don't want a very large brood nest/colony going into winter. The more bees in the cluster will mean a greater consumption of stores. This could lead to starvation or the need to try to do supplementary feeding. Supplementary feeding could stimulate brood rearing and lead to an expanded colony before the outside conditions are suitable.

    Local climates vary. It can take a little while to develop a suitable winter set-up.
     
  5. pistolpete

    pistolpete New Member

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    The hive I wintered last year had a cluster about the size of a basketball (nearly what you'd expect from a summer hive). And they did not manage to eat up all the stores they had. Not that I have a lot of experience here, but it seems to me a large cluster has many advantages in terms of early brood rearing and spring buildup. Looks like this year I'll have two big clusters and one small one, we'll see how they compare in the spring.

    Perhaps local conditions here make large clusters viable. I seem to recall reading somewhere that a cluster consumes the least amount of stores at -10 degrees Celsius. That describes the bulk of our winter. Also spring tends to hit hard and fast around here, so there is not this long interval of early brood rearing and nothing coming in.
     
  6. ApisBees

    ApisBees Active Member

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    Pete I would like to see another frame of brood at this time of year, but 3 frames is an acquitted to have a strong enough winter bee population to come thru the winter. the spring cluster will be a bit smaller and they will be a few weeks behind in building up but in some years that is not a bad thing. Some years the strong colonies get going to soon and run into problems a few weeks further along.
     
  7. pistolpete

    pistolpete New Member

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    I felt like I should do something, so I put in one nice drawn frame next to the brood nest. Then I looked into the next hive and they had about 8 frames of capped brood. I guess I should have just taken a brood frame from them and given it to the weaker hive. But the second hive was boiling over with bees from being reduced from 4 deeps to 2. I could not do anything without squishing some. They started to get a bit cranky with me so I had to close them up and get out of Dodge.

    I guess that's exactly the opposite dilemma. What to do with a hive that has 20 frames full of bees and many more yet to emerge? My idea is to let them be and make sure they don't run out of food in the spring.
     
  8. Daniel Y

    Daniel Y New Member

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    I would say that my impression is that this hive is not threatening to set any records by any means. But this opinion is based upon an article written by Randy Oliver in The American Bee Journal that I just received. Once you have waded through all his charts. graphs and explanation it comes down to basically this. the tipping point for a hive to survive winter seems to be right at 10 frames of bees. Not brood but bees. Going into winter. More than that it seems is a waste that will simply be lost through the winter months. Less will cause the timing of build up to be off. Randy did not make this observation so much as I did. it seems to me that the effort of build up is finite and it is critical that as the colony expends it's energy toward build up they must then have forage available to continue.

    One possible answer I saw is this. If you have a small colony going into December. Monitor it for the first indication they have actually commenced with build up. Once build up has started that colony must be fed for the remainder of the winter. Yes mid winter feeding of sugar water. Taking care with below freezing weather. but any time the bees are able to break cluster they must have access to replenished stores and revival of energy that is being expended in the attempt to build up prematurely. Yes feeding at this time goes counter to traditional advice. The hive will be lost anyway. what is there to loose?
     
  9. ApisBees

    ApisBees Active Member

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    By small colony I would assume light on stores. It is the large population hives that will start raising lots of brood early and consume their food reserves before the spring flows start. Smaller clusters will wait longer till the weather warms and they can increase and regulate the hive temp for brood rearing. So they wont get started on brood rearing until the first of the spring plants are about to bloom. It also depends on the race of bees as some will not start brood rearing until there in a flow and others will start to raise brood as soon as they can in the spring (early January technically still winter).
     
  10. pistolpete

    pistolpete New Member

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    with our winters, feeding is not really an option. When temperatures fluctuate between -10 and -20 celsius well into February opening the hives for any reason is a bad idea. That is not really my concern anyway. This small colony has about 90 to 100 Lbs of honey to get them through. The large colony actually has less stores, because they have way more brood, but every available cell is filled with honey. They are back filling all cells as brood emerge too.
     
  11. Daniel Y

    Daniel Y New Member

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    Actually what I mean by a small colony is anything less than 10 frames of bees. and 10 frames of stores.