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  1. #1
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    Default Managing hives for honey--common sense and beyond..

    So....Countryboy just told me,


    "According to the USDA, in 2008, the average in Ohio was 53 pounds. Virginia's average was 42 pounds. In 2009, 50 and 39 pounds respectively.

    While location does play a factor, I'm a firm believer that management is extremely important. Keep in mind that there are a lot of mismanaged hives bringing the state average down. Aspire to have the above average well managed hives."

    I aspire to have a well managed hive. Despite the 45 day nectar flow, I also aspire to get above the VA average...

    So, besides the topic we just had a war over, how do YOU manage your hives for honey?

    These are the basics I think I know:

    1) Have a good, strong queen who can build up numbers before the nectar flow
    2) Don't loose your good strong queen and half your hive to swarming! Move boxes, insert frames, remove brood, artificially swarm a split, etc to keep your bees.
    3) Keep them close, but not crowded--add boxes (only) when appropriate.

    Because our season is so short, I plan on trying the 'dequeening' method, so the hive is broodless and raising their virgin for most of our flow, and then declines in numbers as we enter the mid-summer dearth. Anyone do that regularly?

    I guess double queen colonies aren't really 'basics', but if you do that for honey, I'd like to hear about it: How the equipment is set up, how long it runs like that/when do you do the combine, double colony averages vs singles, etc.

    Any other methods?

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Managing hives for honey--common sense and beyond..

    There was recently a thread in the commercial forum about how to get 180-200 pounds per hive. There were many good tips in it.
    http://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?t=245924

    Using queen excluders properly can help you get 10%-15% more honey. Using queen excluders improperly can cost you the crop because the hive swarmed.

    For high honey production, it helps to run the hive like a comb honey hive. Run it as a single deep with an excluder. You can winter in a double deep, but run singles in summer.

    Take all the honey, and then feed the bees to prepare them for winter. The extra honey you get is worth more than the syrup you feed them.

    Don't split them too hard before the flow. This can cut your crop.

    Feed them in early spring to help them get built up to a large foraging force.

    You can dump two 3 or 4 pound packages in a box right before the flow hits (but only one queen.) You have all those foraging bees, and no brood to take care of. In a way, this is similar to the dequeening method - but for dequeening, you want to dequeen the strongest colonies, which have the largest foraging force. (But the strongest colonies are the queens you want to keep.)

    I trim my brood frames to 1 1/4 and run 11 frames. One of the limitations of spring buildup is how much brood a cluster can keep warm. Any given cluster can only maintain a certain volume. By running 11 frames, I have 10% more comb in a cluster than I would have if I ran 10 frames, and 22% more comb than if I ran 9 frames in my broodbox. This allows me to pack more brood in any given cluster, which allows me to build up faster.

    I run quite a few of Mann Lake's PF small cell frames. These have 8,000 cells per frame, whereas 5.4mm cell frames have 6,000 or so. This is another 25%-30% more brood I can raise in any given cluster volume.

    Small cell bees emerge about 5%-10% faster than 5.4 cell bees. A faster cycle time from egg lay to egg lay is like having a larger brood area.

    I am running my bees in singles this year, and adding a box of drawn comb below the broodbox after the last honey pull, and I am putting a frame feeder in both boxes and feeding to prepare for winter.

    We had a rainy day the other day, and I was delivering a honey payment to a farmer, so I stopped by my beeyard and lifted a few lids. I haven't done the last pull yet. I had hives in a single deep with an excluder, with 4 supers that were plugged out. After the first pull in late July, the box right above the excluder had a few frames of drawn comb, and the rest of the boxes were foundation or foundationless. These hives had bees hanging outside the box in the rain/drizzle. These hives were splits from 2 pound packages this spring.

    Drawn comb in your honey supers (and brood boxes) is extremely important. It isn't every year that bees will draw out combs and plug boxes.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Managing hives for honey--common sense and beyond..

    Despite the 45 day nectar flow, I also aspire to get above the VA average...

    How much honey have the bees eaten between the time the 45 day flow ends and the time the beekeeper pulls the honey. The longer you wait to pull the honey after the flow ends, the more honey the bees eat. Pull the honey and feed them.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Managing hives for honey--common sense and beyond..

    Wow... thanks! Lot of info here.

    I have a dealer who sells me 1 3/8 frames, so not as bad as the 1 1/2. But cutting down to 1 1/4 seems like a good idea. Any suggestions for how to do that on 'active' combs, or is it something I should just start doing with new frames?

    "You can dump two 3 or 4 pound packages in a box right before the flow hits (but only one queen.) You have all those foraging bees, and no brood to take care of. In a way, this is similar to the dequeening method - but for dequeening, you want to dequeen the strongest colonies, which have the largest foraging force. (But the strongest colonies are the queens you want to keep.)"

    Yup! When I remove her, she'll go into a nuc to keep laying for my mid-summer round of cells!

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Managing hives for honey--common sense and beyond..

    Any suggestions for how to do that on 'active' combs, or is it something I should just start doing with new frames?

    How ambitious are you, and are you comfortable running a table saw?

    I wouldn't mess with cutting down frames that have bees and brood in them. If you have empty combs, (deadouts, extracted, etc) you can trim them down.

    I set my table saw fence to 1 5/16. I stand the frame on end, and run it through to remove 1/16 from one side of the end bar. I flip the frame 180 degrees and trim the other end bar. Then I set my fence at 1 1/4 and trim off the uncut side of the endbars.

    If your comb used wired foundation, there will usually be a nail in the side of the endbars holding the end of the wire. I do NOT recommend trimming this side of the end bar. You will get sparks as you cut it, and the saw blade will throw tiny pieces of hot metal (nail pieces) at you. Don't ask me how I know. With frames like this, I only trim the side without a nail, and leave one end of the frame 1 5/16 wide.

    The other problem you run into is the top bar is usually about 1 1/16 inch wide. When you trim the end bars, it reduces the gap between the top bars, and bees often have difficulty getting through. It will act like a queen excluder.

    I prefer to make 1 1/4 frames before they are put together. I plane the top bar to 1 inch wide. Then I cut the end bars on my table saw, trimming 1/16 inch off each side. Then I assemble the frames.

    I made a jig for setting my fence out of a scrap piece of wood. One end of the piece is 1 5/16, and the other end is 1 1/4. I just set the jig between the saw blade and run the fence over to it. It's a lot faster than trying to measure from the blade to the fence.

    I really should make some YouTube videos on building narrow frames sometime.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Managing hives for honey--common sense and beyond..

    I think ambition is in the eye of the beholder.

    But I DO want to maximize honey production and dabble in other bee-arts to see how I like those too. (Considering quitting my day job in favor of bees--and sanity--so I'm trying all the aspects I can to see if I can 'make it work'.)

    I have a low grade borrowed table saw and will be upgrading by Christmas sales at the latest. Thanks for the tip about trimming the top bars--I hadn't really thought of how close they'd be.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Managing hives for honey--common sense and beyond..

    But I DO want to maximize honey production and dabble in other bee-arts to see how I like those too.

    It's difficult to make bees and make a honey crop both. (It's possible with the right management, but you have to split early.)

    Try leaving a few hives alone for honey production. Run them for honey production, and don't split them, etc. Just see what those hives will do for you.

    Why not raise and sell nucs? In another thread you mentioned doing 60 nucs, and selling 30 queens ($600 @$20) and sending 30 hives to almonds ($4500 @$150). That's a potential $5100 gross, not counting expenses. Selling 41 of those nucs @$125 is $5125, leaving you with 19 nucs/hives to take into next year. Ask yourself how much input costs you want, and how much risk you want, and what kind of rewards you are looking at.

    Bees don't care if their equipment is built with low grade table saws.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Managing hives for honey--common sense and beyond..

    Quote Originally Posted by Countryboy View Post
    [I]Bees don't care if their equipment is built with low grade table saws.
    very true, or what color boxes they live in, or whether they are stapled or glued, etc
    A government large enough to provide everything you need is strong enough to take everything you have. T. Jefferson

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Managing hives for honey--common sense and beyond..

    thank you so much for all the info its like talking w Ron

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Managing hives for honey--common sense and beyond..

    Quote Originally Posted by Countryboy View Post
    [I]Why not raise and sell nucs? In another thread you mentioned doing 60 nucs, and selling 30 queens ($600 @$20) and sending 30 hives to almonds ($4500 @$150). That's a potential $5100 gross, not counting expenses. Selling 41 of those nucs @$125 is $5125, leaving you with 19 nucs/hives to take into next year. Ask yourself how much input costs you want, and how much risk you want, and what kind of rewards you are looking at.
    Tara, I would think from VA it might not be cost effective to send 30-40 hives to almonds...i might be wrong...might be better off keepin those hives at home and managing them for honey/nuc production....just thinkin out loud
    A government large enough to provide everything you need is strong enough to take everything you have. T. Jefferson

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Managing hives for honey--common sense and beyond..

    Countryboy--"Selling 41 of those nucs @$125 is $5125, leaving you with 19 nucs/hives to take into next year."

    --Yes, but that final split is in June/July, when no one wants nucs anymore. Also, nucs around here sell for ~$75-100. If I can make some prior to that during the first 2 rounds of queen-rearing, I'll be selling those along with the queens. I want the post-solstice queens in my build-up nucs.

    Lol...yeah, I can afford 30 boxes, which divided in half give me 60 nucs. I don't have the time to build 60 boxes this early! And if I have 30 hives coming out of almonds strong in 2012, think of the early spring nuc possibilities!

    "Bees don't care if their equipment is built with low grade table saws."

    --Ah, but my fingers do! Seriously, this thing is scary. Its like the difference in driving a beater 120mph down a freeway vs driving a sportscar---one feels a LOT safer!

    "I would think from VA it might not be cost effective to send 30-40 hives to almonds..."

    --Ah, but that's the beauty (one of few) of having the government move me and my bees! If they move me to New Mexico next November, I only have to pay for ~4 tanks of gas there and back with the hives in my trailor! Once I get back to NM after the almonds, I can evaluate the sales potential and decide how many to split down for sale and how many to keep for local pollination and the April nectar flow.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Managing hives for honey--common sense and beyond..

    Quote Originally Posted by Tara View Post
    These are the basics I think I know:


    2) Don't loose your good strong queen and half your hive to swarming! Move boxes, insert frames, remove brood, artificially swarm a split, etc to keep your bees.
    3) Keep them close, but not crowded--add boxes (only) when appropriate.

    Because our season is so short, I plan on trying the 'dequeening' method,
    I don't know Tara...what you plan is exactly what limits the production in a honey bee colony. What is the difference in the eventual production if the colony swarms or you "artificially swarm" a colony? And by keeping them crowded by not adding sufficient comb space before they need it, you are asking for swarm preparations to start.

    If you want more honey, keep them as strong as possible, peaking in population at the main flow.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Managing hives for honey--common sense and beyond..

    Mike,

    It was my impression that with an artificial swarm, you could control the number of bees you removed--maybe a quarter instead of half--or you could do it a little early, so they have time to build back up. Or do it and then recombine in a week after some brood has hatched out leaving comb space. Obviously, trying other methods first to KEEP them from wanting to swarm would be the way to go, but I thought it was a better option than allowing a full-scale swarm if they were bound and determined...

    On the box thing, I thought bees produced better if they were slightly crowded--that you weren't supposed to add 3 supers at a time. The books I've read so far say to add a super when the last one is about 75-80% filled. Is that incorrect?

    Please correct me if I'm wrong--This is why I started this page!

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Managing hives for honey--common sense and beyond..

    Quote Originally Posted by Tara View Post
    --Yes, but that final split is in June/July, when no one wants nucs anymore. Also, nucs around here sell for ~$75-100. If I can make some prior to that during the first 2 rounds of queen-rearing, I'll be selling those along with the queens. I want the post-solstice queens in my build-up nucs.
    Here's something that I've been entertaining. And I must confess I'm still in the process of perfecting this plan.

    Here in SE Missouri, it's hard to make splits/nucs and have them do anything substantial. And believe me, I've had a host of issues with inclement shipping weather, bum queens, poor acceptance and I'm constantly fighting the mud every spring. Splitting in the spring is a challenge all to itself.

    I prefer to abstain from splitting, keeping my hives very strong. I work to prevent swarming and provide ample super space. I also start my harvest a little early and sort through the supers taking the capped frames and leaving the uncapped to mature.

    Then once our flow dries up around the 4th of July and I pull those last supers, I make my splits. This year I finally turned the corner on my queen rearing techniques. My plan is to split my hives in July, requeen with my home-raised queens, then take these hives through the rest of the summer and carry them over to the next spring. From these hives, I will have nucs to sell. I will also still have a lot of unsplit hives dedicated to honey production.

    I think of it as this way: If I had 20 hives in the spring, I work to maximize my honey production. Once harvested, I split those 20 into 40 hives. The following spring I dedicate 20 hives for honey production and sell nucs from the other 20 hives. Those nuc hives should have sufficient bees and brood where you could buy new queens and requeen the queenless remnant and still have your own source of replacement nucs. Or you could let them raise their own queens.

    The possibilities are endless. In my mind, I think it's a better deal to over-winter a single and sell the queen and some frames of brood as a nuc in the spring.

    All the best,

    Grant
    Jackson, MO
    Beekeeping With Twenty-five Hives: https://www.createspace.com/4152725

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Managing hives for honey--common sense and beyond..

    >It was my impression that with an artificial swarm, you could control the number of bees you removed--maybe a quarter instead of half--or you could do it a little early, so they have time to build back up.<

    I think it's the brood you remove, not the bees that has the greatest effect. That brood will be the honey gatherers in a month...which is when your honey flow is in Virginia. Right? You have a spring and early summer flow and then what?

    > Obviously, trying other methods first to KEEP them from wanting to swarm would be the way to go, but I thought it was a better option than allowing a full-scale swarm if they were bound and determined... The books I've read so far say to add a super when the last one is about 75-80% filled. Is that incorrect?<

    Don't believe everything you read. How much water is there in nectar? 80% or a little more. How much water is ther in honey? 18% or a little less. Where did all the water go? Realize that it takes two supers of nectar storage space to make one super of honey.

    So the fact that you wait until your super is 75% filled is asking...no, almost insuring that your best colonies will swarm. So the book also says to split them. And if you live in an area with an early flow? Or where the early flow fails and there's nothing for them to build up on? Or if the late flow fails and by the time they're built upo there's nothing there?

    I think splitting your bees should be the last resort in swarm control, not the first.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Managing hives for honey--common sense and beyond..

    Quote Originally Posted by Tara View Post
    --Yes, but that final split is in June/July, when no one wants nucs anymore. Also, nucs around here sell for ~$75-100.
    Not true at all ... June for sure you can sell nucs no problem. Many Spring made nucs are not even ready until June in fact. You can sell nucs even in July to folks who know what they want. Also, the price range is more like up to $125 which is what one outfit sold deep overwintered nucs for in the region for two years and sold out every year.

    I admire your enthusiasm... now your experience just has to catch up with it!
    Last edited by winevines; 10-07-2010 at 10:14 AM.
    karla

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Managing hives for honey--common sense and beyond..

    Thanks Mike! I'll remember that about the supers--I guess I need to read more variety of books. The beginner ones are more about keeping bees alive than honey production, I guess. So how many supers to you put on at once? 3, and keep adding as they fill?

    Yeah, from what I've picked up it seems like nectar flow here builds thru late April (that's usually when swarm season starts), is really going by the first of May, and continues to about mid-June if the moisture sticks around. This year, everything dried up in early June and we didn't get ANY rain for like a month solid. Late June-Aug are typically dearth, with a very small fall flow from the goldenrod in Sept, if it gets chilly enough at night.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Managing hives for honey--common sense and beyond..

    "June for sure you can sell nucs no problem. Many Spring made nucs are not even ready until June in fact. You can sell nucs even in July to folks who know what they want."

    Well, my last split will be made in June, so the queens won't be laying until July, and I'd like to evaluate and let them build for at least a week or so. I'll sell as many late July nucs as I can, but I didn't think there'd be much of a market at that point. If so, great!

    Guess I got my nucs cheap--Both of them were $70... one worked out great, the other is okay... Heh, overwintered early nucs, I'd charge more for those too!

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Managing hives for honey--common sense and beyond..

    Quote Originally Posted by Tara View Post

    Because our season is so short, I plan on trying the 'dequeening' method, so the hive is broodless and raising their virgin for most of our flow, and then declines in numbers as we enter the mid-summer dearth. Anyone do that regularly?
    Instead of dequeening and loosing 30 plus days of brood rearing, try requeening with your OW nucs. Pull the nuc off the parent hive and replace it with the queen from the OW nuc. This worked well for me for the most part. Read Mike's article in Feb (?) 2009 Bee Culture on this idea and bee bombs.

    One super on April 1st is a good rule of thumb for our area. Oh, and going through each hive every 14 days or less... I had mixed results with that, but better results than not doing it at all (that is to say not perfectd, but far fewer hives swarmed and I raised some nice queens from the cells I pulled out)
    karla

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Managing hives for honey--common sense and beyond..

    Winevines--I'm not pulling the queen out to get queens, I'm pulling her out so the bees arent' feeding a bunch of brood during most of the nectar flow. Since the season only lasts a little more than a month, if I pull her in late April, hive numbers will still grow until mid-May, and as the brood empties out, the supers will provide more space to dry nectar. It wouldn't work as well if we had a longer season, but since we don't I might as well get honey from my honey production hives, and leave the brood-rearing to the bee-factory hives. I figure I'll try it both ways (keeping queen in vs pulling her out) and see what happens.

    First super on 1 April...putting that on the calendar, thanks!

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