In the recent debate over production comparisons between TBH's and Lang's, another question came to mind.
For those of you with experience running both systems simultaneously, can you comment on over-wintering survival rates between the two production systems?
Dennis made excellent comments related to a concept that is all too often under-emphasized in most agricultural systems, and that is the idea of "economic" yield vs. total yield. In the recent posts regarding production differences, I seem to remember little said regarding losses, which would tend to have an impact of "economic" yield.
I appreciated your economic observations on the other forum.
I've run both tbhs and Langs side by side. I got mega hive-years overwintering Langs. But only double digit hive-years experience overwintering tbhs. So far, there hasn't been much difference, in survival, between the two.
Tbh bees seem to fly more during the winter than the Lang bees. I think the broader/shorter hive gets more effective solar heat than the thinner/taller Langs.
But there's another difference between the two that can impact overwintering. A tbh beekeeper might tend to harvest toward the end of the summer and leave the broodnest, ahead of any feed left for overwintering, uninspected. It's easier because handling the fragile, new feed comb is more difficult when it's heavy and fully attached. Any queen problems, that develop late in the year, would probably go undetected, as would a cluster that's not worth overwintering.
In contrast, when honey is pulled off a Lang hive at the same time of year, a quick glance at the broodnest is very easy and routinely done. After the honey is removed, the top box can quickly be rotated upward and conditions inspected from the bottom of the box. Queen problems are easily spotted and if a hive is not worth overwintering it can be shaken out.
[size="1"][ March 11, 2006, 03:01 PM: Message edited by: B Wrangler ][/size]
I've seen no difference in survival rates.
Winter survival isn't as big of an issue where I live, but we local TBH users (there are many of us here) seem to have better luck with Varroa etc than the corresponding conventional beekeepers- in short, I"ve had very little trouble with Varroa whereas the local beekeeping club talks about it all winter long.
I'm not sure if its the clean broodnest approach or natural comb size that gives us TBH'ers the advantage.
[size="1"][ March 11, 2006, 08:07 PM: Message edited by: girl Mark ][/size]
when you say "clean broodnest" what do you mean?
do you not treat at all for v-mites or do you use some "non-contaminating" treatment?
[size="1"][ March 11, 2006, 08:28 PM: Message edited by: drobbins ][/size]
Funny you should ask...we started our first hive last year, a TBH. I made sure to leave all of their comb and honey in place for the winter, I harvested only a teaspoon of honey last season. We had some warm weather in CT a few weeks ago and I saw some bees buzzing to and from the hive. They apparently had survived the winter. After the warm spell we had temps in the teens for a week. Today it was warm again, I was out clearing brush by the hive-no activity. I pulled the cover. It was like something out of the Twilight Zone. The bees were there, all frozen mid action. Some were uncapping honey, some were cleaning. All appear to be dead, but I didn't pull the hive apart to find out. I only took the farthest back bar out for inspection. Plenty of honey was still stored. I think they may have just been caught off guard by the sudden temp drop. I just got a Langstrom to try out, I guess I will have to repopulate the TBH and see how both do in the coming season. On the bright side all of the bees I inspected for mite free, I guess my inscesent oil applications did some good. The beekeeper I got the NUC from laughed at me when I said I wouldn't use chemicals. He told me I'd get one season out of them then they'd crash.
Whether I"ve used anything in the hive depends on how lazy I am that month (Ive only used homemade essential oils tracking strips at the entryway which may not be terribly effective, and am usually not consistent about replacing them when necessary, so much of the time I'm not using anything at all. Also, I was using trackig strips only when I saw evidence of a lot of Varroa and when Parasitic mite syndrome signs were present, and thats not really a good approach, I now realize).
I'm a hobbyist and I (and my several TBH friends) am not very consistent about maintaining the hives, and it still didnt' look like the mites caused much trouble. Compared to this, the local Langstroth urban beekeeper Marshall's Honey (they sell to the local health food stores, mostly non-organic beekeeping with a small organic line) claim that they lose half of the organic Lang hives that they run every year (I"ve lost to Varroa maybe two out of about 10 that I've had, and that was in the first year of beekeeping when my partner and I were just learning). The Marshall's guys are using foundation and for their 'organic' line of products they do the same practices as their checkmite-treated hives but just don't treat at all, and they apparently accept the very high losses as the 'normal' cost of organic (they're normally chemical-using beekeepers, and the organic is a sideline to their main business- I dont' think they know anything aobut more advanced organic/no-chemical-treatments approaches so they think we all lose half our hives every year).
As Stan posted somewhere recently, ants seem like a bigger factor in winter survival here than winter weather itself, or Varroa. Its been the observation of a lot of our local NorCal beekeepers that if you pay attention to ant harassment of the hive (I have the hive stand sitting in water cans and have to change the water periodically to keep the ants from walking over dead bee carcasses who've drowned in the cans), it seems to minimise problems with over wintering.
As for clean broodnest, I'm referring to Dennis' theory that since we cycle old comb out of the hive we dont have as much buildup of pollutants or other contaminants in the broodnest area , which should lead to healthier bees more able to resist parasitic mite syndrome and brood diseases etc.
My former hobby beekeeping partner has been doing tbh's now since we started our TBH's in 2001 (I took a break after several years and am now getting back into it this year), and says that in all that time he hasn't lost hives to Varroa despite no real treatments (some minimal drone comb culling when that;s present, and occasional use of essential oils tracking strips). He also observed that in our area it seems to be all about keeping the ants out and the stresses on the hive low.