Last edited by Barry; 04-05-2017 at 08:43 AM.
<Don't "split" your strong colonies in the spring, but instead, split up your non-productive colonies in mid-summer, and winter your nucs.>
Management is effected a lot by location. In my area it is really difficult to get a split made after the middle of June up to strength for winter. I don't start anything past the first of June anymore unless I can end up with ten frames of bees and 8 frames of brood in each split, because I will just end up having to combine it in Sept or I'll spend more time and money feeding than the colony will be worth. I could take them to one of my locations in valley but then they would be surrounded by large opperations with hundreds of hives close by and I would end up with a different set of problems and a bigger fuel bill to work them. With todays prices, can cost me more to fill the gas tank than a nuc of bees is worth.
Last edited by beemandan; 11-12-2008 at 09:16 AM.
Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. - Emerson
Maybe I shouldn't say "mid-summer", and I should say mid-mainflow.
It's just that if I split my good colonies in the spring, at say Dandelion, I never will see...in my short season...those split colonies reach their potential. I know that the book says a colony will rebuild to full strength in 4 weeks. Well, I think that's a myth...especially in the north.
So, what if you made nucs on the main flow, from colonies that weren't producing a crop. Use the bees and brood from them to make nucs. I can keep mine in 4 frame units, but maybe that's not possible in the south. Couldn't they be expanded into singles, and wintered as singles?
Southern beekeeping is foreign to me. You have such a mild winter, and such a long buildup time. Is there a way to take advantage of the bees and brood in non-productive colonies? Yes, you can requeen those non-producers, for next year, but that doesn't guarantee success with that colony. Up here, it makes more sense to make nucs and winter them.
First season management to obtain strong colonies for wintering. How often to inspect, seasonal timing, and things to be looking for. Will/should I get honey the first year?
"Blessed is the man who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed"--Alexander Pope
I think it’s important in every aspect of beekeeping to have realistic expectations. Not to say that those may not be exceeded at times, but also at times they will not be met as both failure and success are dependent on many related variables.
Typically people tell beginners not to expect a honey crop the first year. This is an attempt to set realistic expectations. However a good package with a good queen in a good year (appropriate amounts of well timed rainfall and flying weather) may far exceed this or may not even get well established. But generally it’s a realistic expectation that they should get established enough to get through the winter and maybe make a little honey.
a newbee runs the risk of either inspecting too much or too seldom. without experience (and information) it is a difficult thing to call.
the first step I would suggest is for the newbee to begin to recognize what signs outside the hive (most typically at the front entrance) means to the internal operation of the hive. signs here of something going amiss usually means internal inspection is essential.
at the front edge of the learning curve a newbee is well advised to inspect more than necessary.... I also think it is an excellent exercise to have some purpose in mind (small or large) for inspecting and to draw some boundaries on how extensive you want the inspection to be (ie will you simply remove one frame to look for signs of an active queen or will you be totally dismanteling the hive).
I seem to recall that getting ready for such adventure long ago created a bit of an anxious feeling... but it was such events that assulted the steep slope of the learning curve and was a goodly component of the joy of beekeeping where by you exercised the information you had accumulated (quite typically over some fairly long period of time).
good luck to ya' all...
Taking it nice and slow during an inspection is important. No, it's not necessary to look at every frame...front and back, for signs of "something". Nor is it necessary to find the queen. In fact, slow inspections without looking real hard for the queen may result in more queen sightings than a complete teardown. What is important is to get a general feel for the hive. Kind of a 3-D mental image of what the inside looked like before you opened it up. Where is most of the cluster? Where is the brood? How do the stores look...honey & pollen? Were there any queen cells? Were they swarm cells, supersedure cells or just cups? Any damaged comb? How does the brood pattern look? Is it time for a super?
While these few questions seem like a lot, they're nothing more than what a good observer would be able to notice by pulling and examining a few frames. As said above, you can try to tie your observations of the inside of a hive to what you're noticing by watching the outside. Much can be learned by watching bees at the entrance.
Finally, if you have more than one hive in the yard, look for differences between them. Some differences will exist between types of bees. Others will be based on the maturity of the colony, health, etc. It's often the differences that are informative. For instance, a colony that doesn't have much pollen stored compared to others that are winging pollen in all day could point to a failing or failed queen. Focus on the differences and your inspections will be more productive to you and the bees.
"My wife always wanted girls. Just not thousands and thousands of them......"
I tend to inspect weekly during the active season. It's too much really but I've learnt a lot about bees from doing so. I don't look for the queen unless I really need to find her. What I look for is eggs. If you find them, you've had a laying queen within the last three days and that's normally good enough.
Here's a post that I wrote to help me think through the parts of the inspection process. I wrote it because I couldn't find a specific guide for how to do it when I was confused at the beginning.
Note: Someone suggested that I should add to have an empty box and frames with you to cover what the hive might need and I haven't added that yet, but Michael Bush read this and gave it his stamp of approval back when I wrote it - he may have other thoughts now!
Linda T in Atlanta
"You never can tell with bees...." Winnie the Pooh
I read Tecumseh's response and I agree wholeheartedly. I particularily had a smile when I read his last paragraph. I have had bees for several years now and I still get anxious when I go out to inspect. Bathroom break and a big swig of air before I start everytime helps calm me down. Not afraid or anything, just apprehensive about what I may (or may not) find. I guess you could call it a Beeks rush
I am a new beek and wanted to look at the hive alot, so I did. Since I had never seen the things I saw, I wanted to see more. The good thing was that I saw all the things that the books show in pictures (except the mites, beetles, etc.), the bad thing is that I got stung alot. I have been stung (ashamed to say) 32times in the last 6 weeks, even though I have been quiet, slow and kind (I dropped a foundation of bees on my lap, which was not well liked by the bees or me).
But I have learned. I now know that bees don't like the cool weather, the smoker, my hair, looking at them when it is getting dark, rubber gloves, robber bees, slugs and caterpillars. My looking was invaluable.
There are so many factors that determine whether or not you'll have honey your first year, but as a general rule don't expect excess honey. IMHO, if you DO get surplus, it's a good idea to save it for spring feeding.
As far as how often to inspect, and what to look for that's where this board and reading/learning before you delve in comes in handy. As a new beekeeper, having a basic understanding of responsibilities during different times of the year is so important. I wish I had worked with a knowledgeable beekeeper for a season before I got bees.
The thing to remember is the world won't stop turning no matter what happens to the bees. There are many things that a colony can recover from including sloppy beekeeping. There is too much to write about what one should look for at different times of the year, etc. But a few very important issues that should always be monitored are:
varroa mites, and general health of the colony, ie diseases, pests, and any of the complications they cause.
the health and strength of the queen. Is she laying, if not why?
honey stores. Do they have enough to make it through winter? If not, why and how can you get them there?
going into winter, especially in the North it's important to have good ventilation in the hive. Setting the colony in a sunny location, painting boxes a dark color or wrapping in tar paper doesn't hurt. And make sure your bees have an entrance/exit to get in and out of for cleansing flights. This may mean propping them up off the ground a couple of feet or in my case shoveling every time it snows!
Hope this helps.
Let's BEE friends
Thank you for your imput. As a new beekeeper, I was going in much too infrequent....I did so hoping to stress them less. I had a BOOMING colony and every time I saw them with nothing to do, I'd check to see their progress and often would give them something more to do... i.e. adding honey soupers, ventillating more etc. They were busy drawing out comb, collecting nectar and pollen. Well all of a sudden it looked like my booming hive was a quarter of it's original size. On friday, after work (a 90 degree day) I went in to see what was going one.(had no choice, I needed to know and were they nasty!) I went through seven frames before I found a very small bit of larva. I was sure I rolled the queen! My mentor came over on Sunday....blessed blessed Mentors....to all you Master Beekeepers that have the time and patience to mentor people like me...THANK YOU..... Back to story, we saw more larva than two days before...so I've got someone laying and because of the pattern it looks like a queen, but is she a virgin? I'll find out next Saturday. Lesson learned: forget about not stressing the girls...GO IN OFTEN! I saw queen cells but I thought that was a natural pattern to excect when and if they decide to fly away! I kept giving them more room, and more things "to do"...I just guess it might be a little arrogant to think I can "control" their entire process.
As to you comment about shoveling out in the winter... might I suggest you invest in a good pair of snow shoes? That's what I always did for my dog. My snow shoes cleared the path for him to walk and sniff and potty, and I also created a path to the bird feeders. I easily tramped down all that snow without the back breaking task of shoveling. Plus it was fun! Treat yourself to a pair, it's like wearing flip flops over your boots in the winter. Again....THANK YOU MENTORS!
There are many beekeepers who do not use queen excluders in their hive management. I have found it to be a useful tool and I think many of the problems with it's use during the spring honey flow results from improper timing and improper placement.
The queen should be allowed free access to all of the boxes in the brood/food chambers until the time the supers of comb for surplus are added. When the queen excluder is added it should split the brood nest, not be placed above it.
When the brood nest is split, the worker bees do not hesitate to pass up through the excluder to tend to the brood or to place nectar in the honey supers. An upper exit for drones and workers should be made by using a shim with an opening above the excluder or by sliding one of the honey supers about 1/4 in to the rear. Bees like to store pollen near an entrance so the upper entrance works well when two medium supers are used for the brood/food chamber above the excluder.
Bees draw wax well during the spring flow and above brood is the place where they draw comb all the way down to the frames bottom bar. If there is no mid-summer nectar flow after the spring flow ends, the excluder can remain in place to limit the number of workers produced that would be "consumers and not producers". If there is a heavy fall flow the excluder would be removed to allow workers to laid for the fall flow. In all cases the excluder is removed before winter.
I am confused. I understand the timing of the excluder - I should put it on when I put on my honey supers. You made me think about using it as managing tool by limiting the number of bees being laid during a dry spell... good idea. But when you say split...
let's say the hive has two deeps and anything above them are the honey supers... you're suggesting putting the excluder between the two deeps? and leaving the queen in the bottom deep? and if I'm using mediums instead (which I plan to switch to next year)....three mediums = two deeps...are you saying to put the excluder above the second medium leaving her below?
Yes that is what I ment when I recommended splitting the brood nest. With brood above the excluder workers pass through it and once the traffic flow begins it continues.
In a 7 or 8 days you should check the brood above the excluder for queen cells. Often when a queen is kept from one of the brood chambers the bees start queen cells. All that is needed is to cut cells once and then no more will be started because they have no eggs/larvae of the proper age.
If this is a duplicate response forgive me.
I now get what you mean..and yes, without new larva to create another queen, there would be no queen making.... But what about the bottom brood box, wouldn't she prepare for succession if she thinks there is no more room for her colony? What would the fix be for that, or would one need to monitor her weekly?
Usually by the time the spring nectar flow is underway and you see white wax being placed on the combs the colony has gotten past the swarming period. If you use Walt Wright's method of swarm control (Checkerboarding) the colony usually will not swarm.
Let me describe my spring management. The first nectar flow (about the first week in March) is a minor flow and it starts when Henbit and Red Nettle starts to grow in the lawns and pastures. The bees use all the nectar in their build up and little is stored as surplus. It is at this point I checkerboard and add 1 super of drawn comb on top. My hive configuration is a deep, 2 mediums checkerboarded and a medium with ten frames of drawn comb. No excluders are used at this time.
The next good flow is from Red Bud trees (about the 23 of March). The colonies will store surplus on this flow if they are strong and the flow lasts longer than a week to ten days. If no swarm control is used the first swarms will issue in about 2 week after the trees are in full bloom. The queen still has the run of the hive and usually will have 8 frames of brood in the deep, 8 frames in the bottom medium and 6 in the next. Usually they use the top medium to store incomming nectar.
The spring darth starts after Red Bud stop producing. Little or no surplus is stored until the first or second week of May. This is when white wax is produced and the bees will start to draw foundations. This is when I add the mediums for surplus honey and place the queen excluder to keep the queen in the deep on the bottom. Little or no swarming occurs after the main nectar flow starts but you may have supersedure occur about the first week of June. You will have to learn the plants to look for in your area that signal the start of nectar flows and the swarming period in your location.
Last edited by AR Beekeeper; 10-02-2009 at 11:40 AM.