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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Versailles, KY, USA
    Posts
    8

    Default Feeding to stimulate drawn comb inventory

    Hi, I am a new beekeeper and I need some experienced beekeeper(s) to tell me if I am about to do something stupid.

    First, some background. It is my understanding that an inventory of drawn comb is very desirable in the spring. As a new beekeeper I have no surplus inventory, only what is currently in the hive. Here in Kentucky, the spring flow is ending; but, the hive still has lots of capped brood and presumably young bees capable of making wax.

    I was thinking about feeding sugar syrup to stimulate the drawing of comb and so providing an inventory. I haven’t seen anything, pro or con, in the literature about doing this. I can see two possible negatives:
    (1) it would extend the swarm season (since the bees would perceive a nectar flow)
    (2) it would extend the queens egg laying into summer resulting in a increased summer population (but there would be the sugar syrup stores to feed them).

    Please let me know why I should or shouldn’t do this. Also, let me know if some of my assumptions are wrong.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Covington, Ga, USA
    Posts
    1,549

    Default Re: Feeding to stimulate drawn comb inventory

    I have been feeding exactly for your reasons. To allow them to build up. If not,even though i hived them June 4th, probably would not make it as the nectar flow ended for the summer and who's to say we will get a fall flow of any sort. I wondered the same thing as you, but i do not let them get dependent on the sugar water either. I put out 2-3 gallons every couple of days to trick the swarms that have made hives close by(i can see the difference in the bees and the colors)that the flow is gone. I also wat to have a strong hive going into fall just in case we do have a good flow. I don't think your assumtions are wrong either way. I think you are right, it just depends on what you want to do. I have gotten lucky. I added my 2nd deep(waiting on my medium frames) less than a week ago and they have started to draw out comb in it already even though my bottom deep was only drawn at 85%. I did not force or trick them up, they did it themselves...
    "You laugh at me because I am different, but I laugh at you because you are all the same."

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    parker county, tx
    Posts
    7,923

    Default Re: Feeding to stimulate drawn comb inventory

    In my limited experience, I would say feed. I obtained two hives late in the season back in '02. One of them in June, the other in September. I fed them throughout the summer and fall because our heavy wildflower nectar source is pretty much dried up some time in June here in this area. It didn't cause any problems that I am aware of, and the populations/ food stores in those two hives was good going into winter.
    So many weeds.......so little time.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    roswell, georgia, USA
    Posts
    720

    Default Re: Feeding to stimulate drawn comb inventory

    my exact question. hived late april and boy are they slow to build. my double brood is sucking down about 1/2 gallon a day, and are just now building out comb in the second box.

    I got into this primarily for pollination, but a bit of honey would be nice - next year. I understand some of the issues of feeding, ie sugar-water honey and that it is more prone to not keeping well, but I would be interested if I/we are doing the wrong thing.

    My bees stopped feeding during the tulip tree bloom, so I stopped - now they can't get enough.
    EAS Georgia Certified. "Tradition - Even if you have done it the same way for years doesn't mean that it is not stupid."

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Elkton, Giles, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    1,356

    Default Re: Feeding to stimulate drawn comb inventory

    Valid question. There are so many variables, there is no general answer. Would need to know status of "the" hive and where you are headed in the way of wintering configuration. Will supply some general comments:
    Drawn comb inventory is worth its weight in aluminum in late winter.
    (1) Your swarm season ended more than two months ago.
    (2) Maybe. But your bees should already be reducing the brood volume by backfilling with nectar/honey. Your feed will likely be used initially to support that effort.

    When the bees get hive set up the way they want it, they generally don"t take feed - even ignore field sources that they do not need at that time. When they have met their survival requirements, they get quite complacent.

    Not trying to talk you out of it, but don't expect dramatic results.

    Walt
    Free advice is often overpriced.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    roswell, georgia, USA
    Posts
    720

    Default Re: Feeding to stimulate drawn comb inventory

    Thanks Walt for your advice. My short-lived hive has ebbed and flowed just over the last few months. Thinking that we can control, or get them addicted to anything we do seems to fly in the face of what the bees, as a unit, decide. The vegetables here are blooming, so I expect to see a fall-off in the amount of feed they consume for a while (one of these days soon?).

    I would be curious if anyone else feeding is also including pollen suplements? I haven't seen a pollen-laden worker enter the hive for weeks.
    EAS Georgia Certified. "Tradition - Even if you have done it the same way for years doesn't mean that it is not stupid."

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Versailles, KY, USA
    Posts
    8

    Default Re: Feeding to stimulate drawn comb inventory

    Thanks for the replies. I was torn when writing the original post between including a good background and trying to keep it brief. I think I erred on the too brief side. Let me fill in some of the holes. (I’ll probably err on the other side this time. Sorry.)

    This hive was started from a package in mid-April. I think the hive is on target for the winter. It currently consists of 4 mediums, the fourth only partially drawn/filled. (Side note: Why mediums instead of deeps? Saves the back and the wife can heft them.) The package was installed into a single medium. When additional space was needed two mediums were added, one above and one below. (The one below is an experiment to see if the bees fill it with pollen stores.) Finally, the fourth medium was added in early June. I was disappointed that it was largely ignored at first, I may have added it too soon. Considering that in this area it is typical to winter in two deeps and the space available in three mediums is about the same as two deeps, I feel comfortable with the current status. I will probably winter in the four mediums just to be sure.

    My goal is to build an inventory of empty drawn comb for use next spring. It is my understanding that it is much better to have empty drawn comb to add in the spring rather than adding frames of foundation. I think the reasons are:
    · comb can’t be produced in early spring because it’s a job for young bees and the hive population is mostly the older winter bees (there may be a temperature consideration too)
    · wax production requires a lot of honey and it’s a shame to use all that valuable spring honey to produce comb
    · swarm control is more effective if space is increased using empty drawn comb rather than frames of foundation

    I hoped that starting to feed right after the nectar flow might trick the bees into thinking the flow was still going. Additionally, the partially drawn/filled frames in the fourth medium should keep them from thinking their stores are full. I hoped that by continuing to feed sugar syrup and adding mediums with foundation I could get them to build a couple of boxes of comb, which I would then remove and extract the syrup, leaving empty drawn comb. Am I wrong in thinking that a nectar flow, empty space and warm weather would entice the queen to continue laying and the workers to continue building and filling comb?

    Walt, can you expand on the comment about the central Kentucky swarm season ending two months ago? How do I know when the swarm season is over? What is the reproduction cutoff date keyed to? “growing degree days”, hours of daylight, …

    I’m not seeing what I considered to be backfilling. As I understand it “backfilling” involves reducing the brood nest size from its upper limits by filling cells as the young bees emerge. I did notice some nectar in brood frames, but, it seemed to be mostly in the second medium. The third medium had several frames with lots of brood right to the bar. It looked to me more like the brood nest had moved from the second to third medium (and even a little into the fourth). (Note: I decided to “help” the bees and reorganized the frames in the second and third mediums to put most of the brood down in the second medium.) What is it that triggers the brood nest reduction, backfilling and complacency?


    Are the bees able to sense that they have enough stores?

    It’s been a while since I read Walt Wright’s articles on “Backfilling” and “Checkboarding”. Maybe I should do a review. In the mean time, Walt, feel free to outline how they apply to my goal of inducing my hives (one a first year and the other a second year) into producing drawn comb.

    Thanks everyone,

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Elkton, Giles, Tennessee, USA
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    1,356

    Default Re: Feeding to stimulate drawn comb inventory

    Well, I asked for it. Boy, did I get a dose. But now we can talk nuts and bolts. Signed up here to field questions about swarming as spring moved north. Almost to Canada now.

    Review of those old articles would be a good plan. They are just around the corner - Home, Point of View, bottom of the list, this site. The '03 series describe colony activities in the spring, with my local timeline. In central KY, you are about two weeks later in the spring.

    Those articles describe colony operations of the established colony. Still owe the readers a full description of the differences between first, second, and fully established in objectives, activities, and how they (bees) go about meeting their goals.

    You have first and second. Briefly:
    The first year goal of establishment is a separate mode of operations. Their mission is to fill the cavity with functional comb and provide sufficient stores for wintering. If they get that much done, that's more than enough. Generally, swarming is not on the agenda.

    Second year colonies can go either way. If they perceive that full establishment was not accomplished in the first year, they can come out of winter in the "establishment mode." (With wax-making capability), even if they survived the winter. If they are satisfied that establishment requirements were met in the first year, they behave that way. And don't have wax making ability until "main flow." Note that ALL overwintered colonies want to produce a reproductive swarm in the early season. The whole buildup season is oriented to that goal.

    As noted above, the established colony descriptions are provided in POV. Specific questions that can be answered briefly (without quotes) follow:

    The first year colony, with the objective of filling their cavity, might well continue to draw foundation and fill it with generous feeding. But yes, I believe they can sense when they have enough to meet survival requirements.

    The second year colony, depending on which route they took in late winter, may or may not grow with feeding. The established colony will add honey in the fall with drawn comb at the top, but are less inclined to draw foundation. Survival is in the bag.

    The forest creature that is our honey bee times it's survival format to woodland forage. It shows in many ways. Issue the reproductive swarm at, or near hardwood greenup to insure the offspring has a chance at establishment. Most trees bloom in the period of spring leafout. Whether or not they meet requirements for generating a repro swarm, at some point in the spring season, just before general leafout, They shift gears from swarm ambition to provisioning the colony for winter. We call that decision point " reproductive cut off". Repro c/o starts a full brood cycle of rearing the bees for restocking honey stores. Nectar driers, wax makers, and other support troops emerge from that brood cycle ready to store honey at max rates. Known in the literature as the "main flow." It has nothing to do with field nectar availability, but is function of colony survival format.

    Repro c/o also starts brood nest reduction to the maintenence level of just rearing replacement bees. With swarm motivation passed there is no longer a need for the large brood volume specifically created for colony division.

    Don't believe we have ever tried to condense the spring season to this level. It's oriented to the question about KY scheduling. In the wooded East, repro c/o is normally in the period of apple blossom, which slightly precedes hardwood greenup. Left alone to do it their way, that's normal. It should be noted that overcrowded swarms (beekeeper generated) can come somewhat later.

    Walt

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Elkton, Giles, Tennessee, USA
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    Default Re: Feeding to stimulate drawn comb inventory

    Didn't finish last night - very slow with the keyboard and choosing my words carefully makes it even slower.

    I see no reason why feeding shouldn't generate comb inventory. It's just not done normally at that point in the season. But your reasoning in the orignal post is valid.

    Brood nest reduction should be slowed by the available feed. In the natural setting, it's necessary to reduce population to limit erosion of stores
    being accumulated.

    The colony maintains wax making capability for the whole active season, once it's started.

    To improve motivation and offset complacency I would put the foundation immediately above the brood nest and below any nectar/honey accumulated. Leveling the top of the brood nest would help. They want honey above the brood nest to grow into in the winter. Separating the brood from their liquid feed is not a problem in warmer weather.

    Walt

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    avery county n.c.
    Posts
    240

    Default Re: Feeding to stimulate drawn comb inventory

    Walt's way practiced here.
    But...I have had a hive or two with a young queen that seemed to produce comb quickly and on into the fall with feed on. I will store 20 or so in a freezer for emergency winter feed and spin out the rest (before capped) for checkerboarding to replace old brood comb.
    Thanks for your time, Beehopper

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    avery county n.c.
    Posts
    240

    Default Re: Feeding to stimulate drawn comb inventory

    A bit more....the hive I use for this will end up so stocked going into winter that the brood nest doesn't move out of the bottom box by February. I like to replace 2 outside full frames in the bottom and middle box (3 medium box brood chamber) with empty so they move into position. Otherwise this hive will swarm quick...
    Thanks for your time, Beehopper

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    VENTURA, California, USA
    Posts
    3,604

    Default Re: Feeding to stimulate drawn comb inventory

    Here is some data provided by M. Bush's web site:
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesharvest.htm

    "Their degree of efficiency in wax production, that is how many pounds of honey or sugar syrup are required to produce one pound of wax, is not clear. It is difficult to demonstrate this experimentally because so many variables exist. The experiment most frequently cited is that by Whitcomb (1946). He fed four colonies a thin, dark, strong honey that he called unmarketable. The only fault that might be found with the test was that the bees had free flight, which was probably necessary so they could void fecal matter; it was stated that no honey flow was in progress. The production of a pound of beeswax required a mean of 8.4 pounds of honey (range 6.66 to 8.80). Whitcomb found a tendency for wax production to become more efficient as time progressed.
    cited is that by Whitcomb (1946).
    It would be interesting if we can duplicate the feeding of bees for wax production .
    But, substitute it with something like Type 55 syrup.
    I have some hives that are being fed heavy sugar syrup so that I can pull the drawn out combs and give them to nucs for summer feed and or weight for wintering.
    I think that the above conversion numbers are off for my area.
    Remember that their are a lot of variables in the % of conversion.
    Regards,
    Ernie
    Ernie
    My websitehttp://bees4u.com/

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