over wintering with queen excluders may be a myth

Discussion in 'General Beekeeping' started by riverrat, Mar 22, 2012.

  1. riverrat

    riverrat New Member

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    I finally made it out to a couple bee yards for a quick look today. As most of you that have been around on the forum know. The Fall before last I could not get in and pull honey and left a medium super or 2 of honey and queen excluders on 30 of my hives. Having read that leaving a queen excluder on over winter is a death sentence for a hive. Due to the bees leaving the queen behind as they move up and her dying off. I went out last spring to pick up the dead outs. Much to my surprise I did not lose any of the 30 hives with a excluder. Not only did I not lose any they were thriving and ahead of my hives I fed or over wintered without the extra super and excluder. That had me curious so this year I took 10 hives into winter with excluders and a medium super of honey on the hive. To confirm if this could be done again. This year was perfect to set this up as it was a mild winter and the bees were active all winter. All 10 made it through the winter and again are ahead of the hives I did not do this with. I would like to find some others willing to give this a try over the next winter to see what results they get. My theory is I dont have to feed there is extra stores above the hive on warm days the bees will pull down honey from above the excluder into and near the brood nest. Most generally bees will not move off the brood nest so if the queen is confined by a excluder they will not leave her. What little brood they produce through the winter is enough to keep them from moving above the excluder. I am sure there will be exeptions where the bees will move up and leave the queen behind causing the loss of a hive, however, I have not seen it and my success of overwintering with excluders is far better than the average hive loss on the hives without an excluder. Hence less chance of early spring starvation. What little the bees use to over winter is quickly replaced during the spring flow and pulled for extraction along with the other supers I add before the flow starts. While the original theory makes since It makes me wonder how many things we are doing that are unnecessary. Simply because we read it in a book so it has to be correct. Huber, Miller, Langsthroth, Von Frisch etc didnt make major break throughs in beekeeping by following the book. They went out on a limb and experimented and they in turn wrote about there findings and we still follow their rules today. I believe we have become comfortable simply doing as the book says and not trying new things. While I made this discovery to begin with by having no choice but to overwinter due to weather. I still was able to gain knowlege that is unwritten. So do I have any takers on experimenting to see if the same results are confirmed with hives in a different part of the country. Please fire away with any questions. As I see this as a major break through and helping with winter losses. And, oh, did I mention none of the hives I have, have had any chemical treatments in over 5 years. :thumbsup:
     
  2. Bsweet

    Bsweet Member

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    Very interesting, I have been kicking around the idea of adding a med. super as part of the hive body setup with an Q-E after the spring/summer harvest to allow them to fill it for winter stores and then pull the Q-E in late fall. My thinking is to get away from feeding sugar,syrup,candy in the spring as that seems to be like fast food is for us, its tastey and filling but not the best for overall health. So what if you get some brood in the super as it will hatch out and be replaced in time with honey and pollen. Jim
     

  3. riverrat

    riverrat New Member

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    Without the excluder the bees will move up and the super will become part of the brood nest. I try to avoid using comb for honey production that has been part of the brood nest over time it will darken and darken the honey and may change the flavor.
     
  4. Bsweet

    Bsweet Member

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    The super used for winter stores would be used only for that and not honey production so the fact of brood comb would not matter in my case, however if it is a problem then a Q-E could/should be used. Jim
     
  5. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    1... How much honey was removed from the supers and taken down through the excluder?

    2... How many 90 day straight periods did the temp remain below freezing?

    The rule was made for cold winters where the bees would consume the available stores under the excluder and brood rearing was stopped completely. Under those circumstances the rule stands true.
     
  6. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    a couple other thoughts-
    Maybe the super of honey on top helped provide a thick air insulation area that prevented condensation dripping onto the hive, also maybe the bees were healthier over the winter eating honey than they would be if fed sugar.
     
  7. barry42001

    barry42001 New Member

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    for the most part, southern beekeeperes need not worry about the excluder, for seldom will the weather stay cold enough, for long enough to cause excessive consumption of stores, southern beeks, worry about the brood rearing that will take off with the first decent bloom, and see the honey stores evaporate. Up north where you can have close to 100 days of non flying weather or atleast scarcely nice enough for cleansing flights, and temps in the lower 30's a good deal of the time, I used the rule of 60lbs of honey for winter and spring build up and be prepared to feed with only 60 lbs ( one full depth super ) This assumes ( and you have checked on this a bit ) they have already stored about 20 more pounds in the brood chamber* when I am referencing full depth super I am actually refering to the upper brood chamber, with the additional poundage stored in lower brood nest.), so as there is no actual honey super, no need for excluders in either situation, as previously stated, usage of the excluder is to prevent the queen from travelling up there and laying eggs--as this complicates thinks a bit. My thinking on the issue for what it is worth.
    Barry
     
  8. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    I would be very cautious about formulating some idea or hypothesis based on the outcome of one winter which appears to be extremely unusual or atypical.

    to add to iddee question above...
    3) what was the distribution of stores above and below the queen excluder.

    it appears to me that iddee's question 1 and 2 are very closely related... there is an association going on here that suggest to me even one exception mean the hive will have perished from the lack of a queen.
     
  9. riverrat

    riverrat New Member

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    Omie good point I was thinking the same Idea. Iddee, one can safely say our winters here do not stay cold enough for bees to be clustered for 90 days at a time. Honey consumed was relatively small from the super since they was allowed to backfill around the brood nest during the fall. There was a farmer close by that had planted late sunflowers so the bees had plenty of time to fill around the brood nest and super at the end of the season. The thing I found interesting was, I had 10 other hives in the yards I removed honey and supers on and everyone was set back in spring build up compared to those that had the extra super and excluder. All hives had a good amount of stores left in them. If this will work in milder winters with no feeding and average losses cut to half the industry standard for the area. I see it as being a big plus. Tec I agree with your question on the one winter. This is the 2nd the first winter was much harsher and all survived that had excluders and supers on. This is why I gave it a shot with 10 hives this last winter. I now have kept excluders on in both extremes for South Central Kansas when it comes to wintering and both was sucessful. I am going to do it again next winter to see how they do for a 3rd year. I was just wanting to tell of what I have seen in the last 2 winters using excluders and supers. I would also be interested in what others find out that try it, although I wouldnt recommend someone with only a couple hives to experiement with this technique
     
  10. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    If you do it again, have one or two that you remove the excluder and leave the extra super of honey. I think that will show you the super, not the excluder, is doing the helping.
     
  11. riverrat

    riverrat New Member

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    Good iddeea will do that next winter
    :thumbsup:
     
  12. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    sounds like you have the making of an interesting little experiment? definitely add the variable iddee suggested... that would make any comparison a bit more like apples to apples.