Limiting Hive Population

Discussion in 'General Beekeeping' started by Crofter, Mar 14, 2013.

  1. Crofter

    Crofter New Member

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    Is bigger always better?

    Could there be benefit in deliberately limiting hive population going into wintering! Apparently some strains of bees are more prone to building huge numbers as long as there is food in the hive even if nothing is coming in. I am thinking that a hive jam packed with soon to die foragers might not have the best conditions to do the fall brood rearing necessary for winter bees that will have the much longer potential life span. High overall population will also draw down stores quicker. As well as (or instead of) limiting overall numbers, could the demographics be skewed to some advantage?
     
  2. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    Many commercial keeps will gather their hives in the middle of the day when removing them from pollinating sites. The purpose is to reduce the number of older foragers as the flow ends, thus saving on stores.
     

  3. Crofter

    Crofter New Member

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    Thanks Iddee, I didn't know whether it is commonly or deliberately done or accomplished in the process of empirical beekeeping practices. Some things are politely not discussed!
    I could see the possibility of brood interruption being a more passive method however I look at survival of the whole as trumping individual rights in many situations.

    Just thinking of the significance of many of our deadouts following the statement that the hive was just booming in the fall. Thoughts, anyone?
     
  4. Daniel Y

    Daniel Y New Member

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    This question has a lto of factors. any one of which could scew the favor one way or another.

    Build up in fall and have bees that need to be fed all winter. means lots of stores will be used. This is by the way I did it leaving my bees 90 lbs of honey to over winter.

    Reducing bee populaiton in fall few bees les food required etc. but then you have to feed in the spring to maximize populaiton growth in the spring before the flow.

    1, I do not have to leave honey for the bes. I can get them thorugh witner on sugar if necessary. I left them honey last year becaseu I had them make it form sugar water for the pourpose of keeping them over winter. Natural honey is to be harvested beofre this. bees produce honey. honey is harvested. adn then teh rest of the year is spent helpign the ebes build up witner stores. int eh process I ended up with a large population of bees goign into winter as well as the food to keep them.

    Personally I cannot count on spring weather to get bees built up. so that makes some of the choice for me. But I consider what some beekeepers have to do in spring. if it works then. is what I did last fall. BTu what if the weather or other conditons makes it impossibel to do in the spring? IF fall is bad for me I have a second chance in the spring.

    I figure I can build my hives up in fall and leave them enough food to get through winter. or I can do the same in the spring. Teh differenve is. If I fail in the fall. I get a second chance in the spring. but the expense and effort is pretty much goign to be the same.

    Btu in all I see it as doing the exact same thing it is jsut a matter of when you are doingit. Yes it requires more food to keep more bees in late winter. early spring. More bees also produce a large colony in the spring. At least I hope it works that way. If I find out otherwise I will probably work to reduce my colonies in the fall.

    In large this is a matter of cost to benefit. and that issue is a bit fuzzy.
     
  5. Marbees

    Marbees Member

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    Interesting thinking Crofter, all of my deadouts are from the booming colonies.
    And all of my iffy hives survived??? If I used OA dribble in December??
    I'll never know...
     
  6. Noronajo

    Noronajo New Member

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    All I gotta say, being an older forager, is "Where the heck did the hive go while I was out working my butt off ?"
     
  7. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    The bees born in July and August are not going to be there for the spring. They are only going to eat until November at the latest, then die. The bees born in Sept. and later will be the live overs. All foragers at the end of the last flow are nothing but burdens on the hive.
     
  8. Crofter

    Crofter New Member

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    I think I did not think out the demographic implications of the brood interruption. That would be limiting younger age group rather than the nearing term age group that might be considered dispensable. That move might be counter productive from this aspect.

    I think there must be some approximate minimum critical mass of bees come spring; also an optimum number to support buildup, which of course is variable because of being weather dependent. Since bees may well have a maximum lifespan I am not sure that we can count on extra numbers in the fall being a hedge against spring unless we can skew towards them being younger bees.

    Cost benefit analysis! yes this sure is a bit fuzzy. I am definitely leaning toward leaving more stores on but once this cushion is built up it floats from year to year so is not a yearly cost.
    I need a lot more experience at assessing how the workers with the nectar and honey stores control the queens laying patterns as summer comes to an end. My thoughts flit to limiting foraging and throwing in some drawn out frames that the queen can lay in without being plugged with stores. Yet I read that if there is no forage coming in the queen will cut back laying!

    (throws up hands and shrugs)
     
  9. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    Having several five-frame nucs on hand is extremely handy, not only in the Spring, but in Summer, Fall, and Winter as well.
    I had two 5 frame nucs survivr the winter in fine shape the year before last, and I plan to do this again. I made those nucs up in the early Summer, and kept them to 5 frame size by pulling out a frame of capped brood every 2 or 3 weeks and giving tham a new frame to build up.
     
  10. efmesch

    efmesch Active Member

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    Frank, I think that your question is probably one of the big considerations that inspire some beeks to do their splits in the fall. Aside from reducing the population that has to be fed all winter in each hive, having raised new queens for at least half the hives, the liklihood to have to deal with swarms (because of young queens and smaller populations) is reduced.
     
  11. Gypsi

    Gypsi Super Moderator Staff Member

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    That is a really cool idea. What did you do with the frame of capped brood?
     
  12. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    It's great to have spare frames of capped brood- put them in a hive that you want to boost or grow. Or, if you have say 3 nucs that you want to keep but they are getting crowded and you don't want them to swarm- steal a frame of capped brood with nurse bees from each of them, add two frames of honey/pollen, and either install a caged queen or a queen cell from somewhere, or make sure they have fresh eggs on one of the frames. You can then sell that new nuc if you like, as soon as you make sure it has a laying queen. Some folks will even sell a frame with eggs or capped brood, with or without nurse bees. That frame has to be kept warm and protected and transferred to a new hive quickly and gently. I've heard of brood frames selling for anywhere from $15-25 each. Someone with a queenless or weak hive might want one quickly as an emergency fix. Or they might want half of your bees' genetics for a new queen.

    Nucs are also great 'comb building machines' in the Spring- just keep a nuc with a young laying queen and every two weeks you can remove a freshly drawn frame and give them an undrawn frame to draw for you.
    I like foundationless deeps for my brood boxes, and they build nice new comb on completely empty frames for me, if I place the empty frames between two fully drawn frames in the nuc. (without splitting up the brood nest- I place the empty in the next to last position away from the brood nest). Once Summer becomes dry, comb building slows down for most hives no matter what their size, so at that point I might give the nuc an empty frame of drawn comb when I remove a frame of brood. That way they don't have to build comb but can use the empty frame right away for either queen laying or for food storage.

    You just always need to be very sure when you remove frames that you are not unintentionally removing the queen.
     
  13. Crofter

    Crofter New Member

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    So, maybe some major reconfiguration at the end of summer. That is a time that pulling honey, treatments, fall feeding, frame count of bees etc., would be timely anyways. As Omie says about raising extra nucs they could be combined or augmented into the process to add weight or take up overflow. I was concerned with where all the bearded bees were going to go when I pulled supers last fall. (partially why I left one on top of the deep broods on several hives.)

    That would sure take some planning and defining what exactly your objectives were before you got under way. Food for thought!
     
  14. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    Another advantage of doing some late Summer splits is that any time a hive has to raise a new queen from an egg, that 30-odd days without small larvae causes a huge crash in the mite population, thus the hive will go into winter with a small mite load.
     
  15. ApisBees

    ApisBees Active Member

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    In the cooler climate with longer bloodless times our bees winter survival is dependent an many factors. Enough new bees to provide an adequate population to survive the winter. The latter bees are emerged into the fall the longer they will last in the spring. Depending on the year the hive will scale back brood rearing in the fall because of drought not providing adequate winter bee populations. unseasonably warm weather will cause the bees to be more active and flying to forage for crops that are producing little food. This increased activity can cost weeks off the bees life in the spring. Mites have a huge impact on the wintering success. Mites feeding on the larva may not show any visible signs that the bee was damaged but by being a host to the mite their life will be shortened. Loosing higher populations earlier on in the year. Spring build up needs to replace the dieing population of workers and if the weather doesn't cooperate the colony can dwindle faster than the replacement bees can emerge.

    The bees are resourceful and can survive one calamity but when you start having two or three different things impacting the bees it is harder for them to survive. In Canada dry weather and \ or early frost will kill any flows resulting in reduced brood rearing in the early fall. As Iddee stated the September 1st bees are your winter bees so to ensure they are as mite free as possible. Treatment for the mites need to be in place by the middle of August. I know people talk about the mite threshold as an indication of weather to treat or not. In the tundra region we can not afford to be loosing any bees prematurely because of the mites.
    We have no control over the weather but we can influence other aspects of over wintering, Control the mites. Consider stimulate feeding in the fall to build healthier winter populations. If you wrap don't wrap the hives to early as this can warm the hive causing the bees to be more active. Insulation over the cluster is a must in the cold climates to control the formation of hoarfrost over the cluster. If it melts and drips on the bees they can not defend against the cooling effect it creates.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2013
  16. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    Apis, I hope you don't mind a small correction- but in case folks ever go to look things up, it's hoarfrost, or hoar frost, not horror frost. The results however might be seen as a horror from the beekeeper's point of view. :wink:
     
  17. Crofter

    Crofter New Member

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    Our canadian philosopher Charlie Farqhuarson said his wife was going to write a gardening book. The title was going to be the Happy Hoer!

    I think Omie is correct but was ApisBees a tongue in cheek spelling or a Freudian slip? In unny case hive temperature and humidity control is important and sure different from one climate to another.
     
  18. Ray

    Ray Member

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    This thread raises some interesting(?) questions;
    Do honeybees purposely starve themselves? to death?
    I am thinking:eek: it may be possible. A honeybee martyrdom. I could see a Darwin-ian advantage.
    A colony evicting not only drones but unnecessary foragers? Is this the reason for the suicide
    missions in the late winter/ early spring? Is this the cause of small clusters in some breeds
    of bees?
    Are we deluding ourselves, as far as control over these creatures?
    We abandon the foragers. Wouldn't that cause some of the nurse bees to replace the
    foragers? If the specific breeds tendencies are geared to brood reduction (due to decreased
    forage), could a loss of foragers, cause an unwanted increase in egg laying?
    Thanks Frank! My head hasn't hurt this much since :shock:, I can't remember when.:thumbsup:

    I guess this is just expounding on the law of unintended consequences.
     
  19. Crofter

    Crofter New Member

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    I'm guessing that we might not be able to manipulate the numbers greatly without having the bees attempting to compensate. Apparently there are pheremones given off by brood and different age groups that can accellerate or delay maturation and role adaptation. Even reversion.

    The question about forager loss causing increase of egg laying I would identify as being desirable ( to reduce stale dated forager bees in the hive with newly hatched, juvenile bees which will have the potentially longer lifespans).

    Probably this notion of fall population control would apply more to Italian than Carni type bees. I think for some scenarios like getting ready for certain crop pollination it would be a plus to have bees that will breed with wild abandon as long as you give them food. That scenario might also include hive beetles or other pests that are controlled better by high numbers.
     
  20. ApisBees

    ApisBees Active Member

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    The bee inspector in our area Bill Stagg eluded to the quality of food, (Pollen Substitute patties). are a sub standard food that will result in bees that are not as good as ones raised on pure natural pollen. In the spring feeding to get the queen laying earlier to aid in the hive build up to advance the hive before natural pollen is gathered. These bees are better than if no bees were produced and will be replaces by bees fed natural pollen. I posted this video of his in another thread before but his comments between 1:17 to 4:05 in this video are interesting. Part one ihe tells how he makes them.
    [video=youtube;1O6-vp8IfzI]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1O6-vp8IfzI[/video]