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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Pamplin, VA, USA
    Posts
    31

    Question How to get through the 1st year successfully

    Greetings fellow beeks!
    We've been trying to keep bees here on our small homestead for about three years now with varying degrees of non-success Only ONE year did we have a colony survive through winter and begin the spring with anything resembling a 'hive' of bees We lost all three hives last fall (two Langs, one TBH) and weren't going to start bees again this year, but Providence intervened and we have a 3# package of small-cell bees in the TBH which we ARE feeding with cane-sugar syrup (IS there a 'natural' way to adjust the ph to be more like honey??)

    It is our desire to get to the treatment-free stage at some point, and recognize the very term means different things to different peeps (or beeks as the case may be ); for us, we'd like to NOT feed anything (syrup or pollen) unless absolutely necessary. It seems (to us) that starting a package could be one of those exceptions because, frankly, NO bees means treatment-free by default ... we'd like to HAVE some bees for long enough to make an informed decision on how to move forward. Hence the subject line and, after all this typing, THE question;
    How do we get this new start-up of bees through the first, critical year of build-up?

    Thanks in advance for your kind advice to some pretty new beeks

    Peace,
    Joseph (Pamplin VA zone 7b)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Fairfield County, Connecticut, USA
    Posts
    3,592

    Default Re: How to get through the 1st year successfully

    I would suggest that you start some 5-frame nucs with some local/regional queens (some of mine were three boxes high). If you want 3 colonies next Spring, have 5 or 6 going into Winter. I buy queens to play with but I haven't bought a package for my own use in three years. 7 of 8, of my colonies came through the winter without chemical treatments ... I don't know if small cell had any effect, I just use the frames/foundation.

    You can adjust the ph with ascorbic acid. Get the correct test paper and experiment on small batches. The ascorbic acid needs to be added to the water before adding the sugar to assure that it's uniformly dissolved.
    BeeCurious
    Trying to think inside the box...

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Perry, Florida, USA
    Posts
    226

    Default Re: How to get through the 1st year successfully

    You didnt say whether you took the honey from your first year hives. I like to leave a full medium on mine so I dont have to feed through winter. But you would best get the info from a local beek because yours may/probably will take more.

    psisk

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Pamplin, VA, USA
    Posts
    31

    Default Re: How to get through the 1st year successfully

    BeeCurious ... I'm confused ... I'm asking for the best management practices to get THIS colony through the winter and you're suggesting that I "start some 5-frame nucs"? This is a newly installed package in a TBH ... they've just begun drawing comb and I am (against my personal 'feelings' about the matter) feeding them cane sugar syrup.

    psisk ... I've only spent time & money on bees/equipment in the three or more years that I've had them ... I have yet to harvest a lick of honey . As near as I can tell, my lack of success has been a combination of factors, not the least of which is newbee mistakes. We were going to take this year off, as stated, and I was hoping to help a somewhat nearby fellow beek with his hives to get some practical experience/knowledge. Now we feel compelled to give this unexpected blessing the best possible chance to get through the winter. THAT is challenge for which we've come here to seek help!

    Peace,
    Joseph

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    missouri
    Posts
    151

    Default Re: How to get through the 1st year successfully

    do you know why you lost the bees in the fall of last year?
    getting a package through its first year shouldnt be very difficult, basics of feeding and letting them build up and making sure they have plenty of stores is usually enough, even mite load usually are not heavy enough the first year to lose them.
    obviously you are not in a position to make nucs with just 1 new package but maybe something to think about in the future when you do have more recources and a plan for replacing losses.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Pamplin, VA, USA
    Posts
    31

    Default Re: How to get through the 1st year successfully

    Quote Originally Posted by bejay View Post
    do you know why you lost the bees in the fall of last year?
    getting a package through its first year shouldnt be very difficult, basics of feeding and letting them build up and making sure they have plenty of stores is usually enough, even mite load usually are not heavy enough the first year to lose them.
    obviously you are not in a position to make nucs with just 1 new package but maybe something to think about in the future when you do have more recources and a plan for replacing losses.
    I installed two nucs in langs and one package in the TBH (all from a 'local' beek) as near as I can tell failure to re-queen resulted in absconding BEFORE the fall in both Langs and then, sometime in early spring, discovered laying worker(s) in the TBH

    I would LOVE to get to the place where nucs and splits are possible ... Not just to increase the number of colonies, but more importantly as a treatment-free form of Varroa control!

    Not looking for the silver bullet here (it's non-existent anyway) ... just any help giving this package the best possible chance

    Peace,
    Joseph

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Baker Oregon
    Posts
    2,290

    Default Re: How to get through the 1st year successfully

    Out of curiosity did you feed your previous colonies to start out? It seems to me that not feeding packages and nucs (to a lesser extent) is a risk when they first start. It takes a lot of resources for a colony to get established, which accounts for the high mortality rate of swarms. So far I have grown to 8 hives (lost one) and am in my 3rd seasons and am tx free, but I slam the feed to them in the beginning. We will see how they do this year. As I understand it the 2-4 year is the hardest to survive, mite wise.
    Dan Hayden 4 Years. 9 hives. Tx Free. USDA Zone 5b.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Evansville, IN
    Posts
    2,220

    Default Re: How to get through the 1st year successfully

    Getting a package through the first year is often a challange for new beeks -- not knowing by experience what you should see and what you should NOT see means you miss things like poor stores or disease problems, and therefore don't fix things soon enough.

    Feeding is almost always required to get the package built up into an overwintering hive. Even in areas with good forage, a 3 lbs package is marginal for establishment. Same goes for pollen (protein resources). Where I am, we miss a good part of the spring pollen surge, and even if we could get the bees sooner, they would have no comb to store pollen in anyway, so they tend to run short. It is a common mis-conception that bees will naturally establish a hive with no problems and take off roaring all by themselves. In reality, about 90% of swarms fail to survive the winter. I've got several friends who insisted the bees should be able to "take care of themselves" and refused to feed them. Five or six lost hives later, they quit. Feed them, they are like infants when you dump that package into a hive.

    Here's my advice -- note that I lost my hive from last year even though they made it through the winter:

    Keep feeding until they have the equivalent of two deeps of comb built. This is probably a bit more than you need, but that depends on your elevation. If the bees do not bring in enough pollen to keep a solid area around the brood packed with it, feed half a protein patty at a time until they do. Curiously, if they are short of stores, they will stop collecting pollen, only bringing in nectar. Brood needs lots of protein, and you are past the spring collection season already.

    Make sure they keep raising good brood and don't move the brood nest half way down the hive and abandon the earlier comb. Use a single entrance on one end -- if you have a center entrance, the bees can end up in two clusters in the winter and starve out.

    I'm cocerned that you have had two hives abscond from Langs. This is not typical behavior -- sometimes swarms pack up and leave after a couple days, but rarely will the bees just leave unless the hive is inhospitable for some reason. This can be too much light (get rid of plastic covers and use metal covered wood, bee do NOT like light coming in the top of the hive), make sure it is dry inside (no leaks -- old plastic covers also crack and leak, we've discovered), it's not too hot, etc.

    Make sure that you have good looking proper sized brood all summer, and if not find out why and fix it. I had EFB starting in the late summer, probably because I needed to feed more and they were short of protien, and they didn't make it this spring. I should have [edit] re-queened last summer when the problem started, I went into fall with only a box and a few frames of bees rather than a full hive.

    Finally, don't inspect too often. It's usually easy to tell what's going on inside the hive by the activity at the entrance, so unless there is a problem showing up in their activty, I don't go into the hives more than once a week, and even then I just take a quick peek, I dont' pull every frame or look for the queen, etc. Same goes for re-arranging the hive, don't unless there is a very good reason, they really don't like it.

    Last year wasn't a good year for beekeeping here, probably not there either -- long, dry dearth in the midsummer to early autumn. The year before was worse here, extremely dry. I'm not surprised you had some losses!
    Last edited by Solomon Parker; 06-01-2012 at 04:01 PM. Reason: Advocation of Treatments

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