Setting the stage for wintering

Discussion in 'Beekeeping 101' started by Crofter, Jul 31, 2011.

  1. Crofter

    Crofter New Member

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    With our province seeing 30 to 50% winter bee losses commonplace even with long term beekeepers it makes me wonder how much is unavoidable, how much is skill and planning or is it all a crap shoot. Can we just let them bee?

    Specifically I am wondering how much strategy is involved with the final positioning and amounts of bees and the honey/pollen stores. Will a certain general pattern naturally develop or are there things we the beekeepers can inadvertently interfere with in our closing moves.

    I know that adequate supplies is a given but past summers experience shows that we can allow the queen to be forced into a non laying state by honey or nectar etc. Are there similar ways we can hurt their game going into winter?
     
  2. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    I would guess (more based on reading than experience) that 1)* a certain level of winter loss at the most northern latitudes is unavoidable and 2)** fall preparation in regards to stores and producing a goodly bunch of young bees to make the winter are two things you must do to limit these losses.

    *1) 30% might actually be a good target for most northern beekeepers. here with lots of attention some years my winter loss numbers have been as little as 1.5%.

    **2) the devil is in the detail here so direct advice from some northern beekeeper will always be more useful than anything I might suggest.
     

  3. Crofter

    Crofter New Member

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    Yes it is a long winter with dandelion bloom around or after middle of May and peak winter cold near minus 40. The length of time and the extra number of brood cycles could be a factor but the disease / pests the last 25 years have changed the picture from previous years.

    In more moderate locality the italian / carni breed difference supposedly has an effect on bee numbers and food stores needed. Hocus pocus or something to it?
     
  4. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    Crofter writes:
    Hocus pocus or something to it?

    tecumseh:
    I would suspect yes there is something to this question of carnolians vs italian at northern latitudes. first there is a direct evolutionary link between the carnolians and the italians with the latter being somewhat id by Brother Adams as having some resistance to trachael mites. also the carnolians having evolved in a bit harsher environmental niche should also be able to make the winter on less stores.

    at this point in time it would also be a good time to decide if you wish to remedy varroa and trachael mite levels since both of these should directly effect winter survival rates I would think.

    just as a casual question (but somewhat generated by your -40 degree statement) does anyone you know locally place bees in cellars? I met a small bee keeper in northern BC last summer who essentially placed his bees in a cellar for the winter time with good success. I seem to recall the same fellow used essentially 'totally destructive' nuc production coupled with brood interruption to combat varroa infestation. seems like mdasplitter (or slitter or something like that) was the reference that comes to mind.
     
  5. Crofter

    Crofter New Member

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    We havent been doing mite counts but will be getting onto that near the end of August. We have hives from at least 3 different sources plus 2 swarm captures so very little in the way of knowing what resistance the mites may have. Will be getting some advice from a local keeper with over a hundred hives. There is a fair bit of local commercial corn and soybean grown so we are not likely in a chemically pristine environment. Sure we would rather not have to use harsh chemicals or antibiotics but I think we are more pragmatic than emotional about the alternatives.

    We should get a good goldenrod flow but not sure whether that is the best honey to leave for the bees. Have heard that it is a bit along the lines of canola. Some people recommend it better to let them store heavy sugar syrup. For certain we have some recent small splits with new queens that we will have to feed and give some frames of honey and pollen to from some of our other hives.
     
  6. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    Crofter writes:
    Sure we would rather not have to use harsh chemicals or antibiotics but I think we are more pragmatic than emotional about the alternatives.

    tecumseh:
    there are choices that don't really require chemicals or antibiotics... which is to suggest to you directly there are now 'organic' alternatives. when you talk to the 'local keeper' I would ask about 1) varroa control 2) trachael mite control and 3) nosema.
     
  7. Crofter

    Crofter New Member

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    Thanks tecumseh; we are weighing some of the different strategys for the most common hazards. Dont want to get a thread going on the pros and cons of being technically organic or not. Some appear as hard on the bees, one as the other.

    There does seem to be some advantage to doing a lot of splitting and outrunning the beasties with prolific young queens.
     
  8. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    a Crofter snippet...
    There does seem to be some advantage to doing a lot of splitting and outrunning the beasties with prolific young queens.

    tecumseh:
    I do think you have it.

    there is nothing wrong with creating other threads to handle these other concerns.
     
  9. Bee n There

    Bee n There New Member

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    After starting to requeen two hive last night I can see that there is value in being able to read the early signs of trouble while there is still time to build up winter bees with a new queen.

    The two troubled hives were from nucs with queens at least in their second season. Reasonable amounts of honey in each, but one we noticed with very few eggs, lots of empty cells and not too many young bees and the queen was sluggish with one tattered wing. The other hive had gone crazy on drone laying. Neither hive looked to be making any effort to raise a new queen.

    I suspect if these hives wern't requeened within the next few weeks their chances for making it through winter would be slim.
     
  10. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    bee n there writes:
    The other hive had gone crazy on drone laying. Neither hive looked to be making any effort to raise a new queen.

    tecumseh:
    although the book may seem to suggest that all bees will generate queen cells under the proper conditions (swarm, emergency, or superscedure) this is not always the case. years of making up spring time nucs (when conditions are pretty optimal) suggest to me that 1) some hives just can't get it together to construct cells and 2) some old queens will hang on and hang on constantly tearing down cells until there is no viable fertilized larvae left to even make a proper queen.

    another bee n there snip:
    After starting to requeen two hive last night I can see that there is value in being able to read the early signs of trouble while there is still time to build up winter bees with a new queen.

    tecumseh:
    yes I do think you are getting 'there'. the kind of problem you describe also tend to be seasonally predicable so do mark it on your calendar.
     
  11. sqkcrk

    sqkcrk New Member

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    Modernday winterlosses have more to do w/ mites and nosema than preoper honey stores. 30 to 50% losses are the norm. I have had them, even w/ my bees in SC, for the last 5 years. Six years ago I had an 85% dieoff. So, last winter's losses of 15% was "enjoyable".

    Used to be, if one lost 10% over winter it was because one did something wrong. Now, if that's all you loose, you did something really right. Knocked your varroa down early, often and effectively. And you were fortunate enuf to have low nosema counts.
     
  12. Crofter

    Crofter New Member

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    Mark, how do you handle requeening. Do it when you see signs the queen actually has problems or do you have a planned schedule. There are probably many practices on the beekeepers part that could appear as genetic problems but do you think that there is a trend to earlier queen failure now, than there was in the past before mites and nosema treatment became common.

    When you have hives in the hundreds there is no way you could do the prying, peeping and micromanaging like with a handful; time must dictate some "one size fits all" actions and a good feel for what it should be.
     
  13. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    mark writes:
    30 to 50% losses are the norm.

    tecumseh:
    likely not bad numbers.

    the feed back I receive (very dated information mind you) in regards to my (now two years running) participation in the national (US of course) honey bee health survey suggest that varroa and nosema are the two problems that need my closest attention. I myself only address the varroa problem via a genetic improvement program.. so for me the primary attention getter here is nosema. information from the larger data set (ie all the individual samples taken) suggest to me that coast to coast nosema may be as large a problem as varroa.