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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Croswell, MI, USA
    Posts
    14

    Default Determining Bee Strength

    I am an apprentice beekeeper at an apiary in Michigan---I was wondering if someone could take me through their method of determining a hives strength. What are the most important aspects you look for besides a laying queen? Also, when I open a hive I sometimes see a dramatically different attitude in bees from different hives. For example, I will see lots of activity outside of one hive, with foragers coming and going and when I open the hive they are all rapidly working---Looking at another hive from the outside I see little activity coming and going and when I open the hive all the bees are moving really slow. I am curious to know what's going on because in the two hives I just mentioned as examples they both have about the same number of bees and they both have brood and a laying queen. Why is one so loud and busy while one is lethargic and quiet? Thanks

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Manitoba Canada
    Posts
    5,834

    Default

    Just your imagination, or type of day, or perhaps type of bees, who knows.

    I measure the hives basically from experience, and the only way your going to be able to properly asses your hives to the calender clock, is by experienceing your hives activities to your local flows.

    I expect the bees to be performing in different ways througout the year, all in relation to my management program. In time you will find methods of assessing your hives with minimal work.
    YOu have to watch your hives and observe how they react to your manipulations. Then your able to set bench markes on how stronge you want them, and then make decissions on a hive by hive basis to split off strength, and provide uniformity. Split too hard, and you miss the flow, split to soft, and miss the flow due to swarming.
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Tucson, Arizona, USA
    Posts
    5,320

    Default

    Deciding the strength of a colony of honeybees.

    What Ian said, were also some of my first thoughts when I read your question. But I decided to try to add a list of some of the specific things I am looking for and sometimes find, when I am inspecting colonies. While I am feeding to stimulate build-up I find I often need to rob brood from the strongest colonies and give it, either to somewhat weaker sister colonies, or use it to build Nucs. If I don't do this, or if I don't do it enough, it can lead to more of the strong colonies swarming as the flow begins instead of maintaining a nice level of strength and bringing in lots of honey.

    Just before the honeyflow, when the bees are still only in their brood supers, I want to see:
    1) A rapidly expanding brood nest.
    a) Many combs nearly solid with sealed brood.
    b) Several combs of open brood.
    c) Most empty cells (where there are bees to cover them) filled with eggs.
    d) Lots of bees, lots of young bees.
    2) When I add new frames, without drawn comb, between existing frames of brood, I want to see comb rapidly built and filled with brood - a little honey and pollen would be okay too.
    3) When the honeyflow starts, I want to see all of the above, plus honey supers of empty comb, filled with nectar almost as soon as I add them, and those without drawn comb, to have comb drawn and filled with nectar/honey very quickly - two to three days ideally.
    Last edited by Joseph Clemens; 06-22-2008 at 07:42 PM.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Beulah,Michigan,USA
    Posts
    117

    Default

    Joseph,

    When you say rapidly expanding broodnest, how fast do you mean? I would assume that you are talking about established hives with drawn comb. How much longer do you expect a colony to take filling their broodnest if they are working with mainly undrawn foundation?

    I suspect that buildup and comb building also has a lot to do with numbers. This was proven to me when I saw how fast a large swarm can draw and fill foundation (one deep and two mediums all foundation in around a month) as opposed to a four frame nuc that had two or so more weeks.

    When you move frames with foundation between ones with brood how long do you expect it to take for that to be drawn and filled? There was a dearth of nectar after the apple bloom coupled with day after day of rainy weather so it has taken some of my nucs longer to build up than I would like. I did end up feeding 1:1 syrup and it helped them draw more comb.

    Thanks

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Des Plaines, IL
    Posts
    229

    Question Hive Strength - Rule of Thumb

    So, how do you estimate the maximum (or average?) number of bees in a single 10 frame deep? ....and what percent of the total population would maximally be out foraging at any one time? I looked around on this forum but could not find a good algorithm.
    5-8 hives

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,802

    Default

    I think in terms of frames or boxes. Frames of bees (where they are thick, not just where I see a bee), frames of brood, frames of stores. You have to make adjustments for medium vs deep vs Dadant deep etc. I run all mediums. Two eight frame medium boxes (16 frames or so) packed with bees is the equivelent of one ten frame deep (ten frames) packed with bees.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Tucson, Arizona, USA
    Posts
    5,320

    Default

    Traditional 10-frame

    Above is a link to a rendition with my mental image of the "traditional" hive configuration for honey production without queen excluder, also called "unlimited brood nest".
    In this configuration the primary entrance is at the very bottom of the entire collection of supers that comprise the hive. This configuration depends on the queen's propensity to restrict her brood nest to comb area beneath a band of honey stored across the tops of brood combs. All the hives bees have unrestricted access to any place in the hives. Sometimes the queen will scatter her brood nest throughout the hive.


    Traditional 10-frame With Excluder

    Above is the "traditional" hive configuration, with queen excluder, why I believe queen excluders are sometimes called "honey excluders".
    In this configuration the primary entrance is still at the very bottom of the entire collection of supers that comprise the hive. This configuration no longer depends on the queen's propensity to restrict her brood nest to comb area beneath a band of honey stored across the tops of brood combs, but instead uses a physical barrier, the queen excluder. All the hives bees have restricted access to those supers above this queen excluder, which is positioned between the brood supers and potential honey supers. Drones are naturally excluded from the honey supers also. Frequently the bees will usurp the queens brood space, instead back-filling it with nectar and/or pollen rather than traverse the brood nest and then the excluder in order to install the incoming nectar in the honey supers, where the beekeeper would prefer them. Thus causing brood nest congestion which quickly inspires swarming.


    Non-traditional Configuration

    After reading an article describing some tests done to investigate variations on using queen excluders, I decided to try a configuration of my own that was a slight variation on the configuration found most efficacious from the experiments conducted and described in the article. My main tweak was to add a bottom board that was not just sealed to honeybee traffic, but was screened to facilitate ventilation, and included a slatted rack to give bees a place to cluster where they can better influence ventilation and an entrance rim above flat excluders, when those with wooden frames were not used. I also took to pushing each subsequent honey super back until there was an opening large enough to provide additional entrances and ventilation.

    This is my first season using this new configuration. It has been working very well, and has almost eliminated problems caused by attacks from insectivorous amphibians, made it easier to manage my hives, and provided a large boost in honey production.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Starkville,Ms,USA
    Posts
    516

    Default

    So, how do you estimate the maximum (or average?) number of bees in a single 10 frame deep? ....and what percent of the total population would maximally be out foraging at any one time?
    When you move frames with foundation between ones with brood how long do you expect it to take for that to be drawn and filled?
    Some great questions, folks!

    And ones that have been on my mind also for some time.
    Hopefully the replies will be worthy of the questions..

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Tucson, Arizona, USA
    Posts
    5,320

    Default

    So, how do you estimate the maximum (or average?) number of bees in a single 10 frame deep? ....and what percent of the total population would maximally be out foraging at any one time?
    I've never really bothered to do any of these things - especially since I don't use 10-frame deeps.

    When you move frames with foundation between ones with brood how long do you expect it to take for that to be drawn and filled?
    From April to June, this usually only takes a day or two. I've inserted some one morning and by the next morning they were drawn and the queen had filled the empty cells with eggs. But if there is no honeyflow, or a weak one, or you are not feeding, they may never be drawn. They could even be chewed on and their substance used elsewhere in the hive.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Blythewood, SC
    Posts
    149

    Default

    B/M x 30min. x .0005= number of deep frames of bees.


    B/M - bees per minute comming into hive.

    30min - assumes the average time for a bee to make one round trip.

    .0005 - assumes one deep frame with both sides covered contains 2000 bees.
    "To escape criticism-do nothing, say nothing, be nothing."

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