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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    rockford,mi
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    32

    Default Michigan first year TBH and big concerns about wintering.

    See and hear no activity in our TBH. I did make a viewing window that spans most of the hive but we can't totally see into bars 1-3. Also, the first 2 are not straight-when we hung the queen cage there they made thost first 2 bars angled across both...bars 3-21 they did properly...1&2 are stuck together. This week we took a heater out there and opened the hive. All the while as we removed bars starting at 24, I kept looking for bees in the other end. Got to bar 3 and still nothing. Cracked 2&3 and saw a small group of bees. Went no farther. Question-we got a regular size box of bees this spring-figure about 8,000 bees? How many would we have normally? And, who has a guess on how many we COULD have if they were all packed in bars 1&2?

    We heard them a few weeks ago buzzing. Now when we shake or tap on the hive,no sound.

    The other thing is that the major honey in the hive is in bars 8-15. Being that far away makes one wonder how/if they'd even get to it to eat it for winter?

    Also, are there 'hardier' bees we can get? Ones that are more used to winter? I'm in lower MI, around Grand Rapids area...Guys around here have Langstroth's and have had mixed success. I added a bunch of insulation weeks ago to mine...

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Hudson, WI USA
    Posts
    2,136

    Default Re: Michigan first year TBH and big concerns about wintering.

    Erik, it sounds like your bees have dwindled and died out. NWC's are pretty hardy - they overwinter in smaller clusters than italians. If you didn't put any treatments on the hive you can bring in some of that honey and eat it. I bet it tastes great.
    I overwintered a TBH my first year as a beekeeper, it was of the Michael Bush design. At it's smallest the bees still were clustered over about 4 combs and the cluster seemed to be about the size of two clenched fists if my memory serves. We are on similar latitudes.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    rockford,mi
    Posts
    32

    Default Re: Michigan first year TBH and big concerns about wintering.

    Hmm. Out of say 8,000 bees in April, how many would one expect to over winter? How many bees would congregate in bars 1&2? I can't imagine there'd be more than 1000? I guess I figured we'd have 1/2 of the original bees? No idea on what is typical given what we started with.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Hudson, WI USA
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    2,136

    Default Re: Michigan first year TBH and big concerns about wintering.

    Erik, I think the 8,000 bees in April is not as relevant as you may think. What matters is how many healthy bees you have going into fall. In the summer those bees can easily build up to 50-60,000; Yet I don't worry about numbers I worry about cluster size. The clustered ball of bees needs to be large enough to move through the hive touching comb (with honey on it) in as many places as possible to be able to warm it, consume it, and move through it.
    Here are a couple of photos of clusters in hives from March photos from last winter, which as you remember was very mild.
    http://s1110.beta.photobucket.com/us...ml?sort=6&o=87
    http://s1110.beta.photobucket.com/us...ml?sort=6&o=78
    http://s1110.beta.photobucket.com/us...ml?sort=6&o=83
    What I am looking for is a cluster of bees that is large enough to expand raise brood, and then expand more as you see the difference between February's cluster, and March's. I don't worry about exact numbers. In a 5 over 5 frame nuc I want to see the bottom box contain a cluster that is able to spread itself over about 4 combs, and the top box packed with honey to warm and move up on to.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    rockford,mi
    Posts
    32

    Default Re: Michigan first year TBH and big concerns about wintering.

    WVMJ-we just took out a space heater so we could inspect. I basically just wanted to see if they'd all died, and if not, figured we should keep heat on them as a safety precaution since ya normally don't open them in cold...It's buttoned up now and we won't do it again.

    Adrian-put it this way-I saw 50 or so bees. What we have in bars 1&2 is unknown, if any. If we have 50 total, they're doomed I figure-too small to make enuf heat. There's about 30# of honey and 20# of sugar fondant. If the bees are all hunkered into bar 1&2, then so be it and, maybe they'll find the honey/sugar...but the food doesn't start till bar 4, we even moved all the brood bars down and inserted the honey/sugar bars closer. I doubt there's much food in 1&2, as the honey was mainly beyond 8 or so...the biggest comb bar was about 13, and it was almost full. 9-14 had honey. We saw just minor honey in the brood chambers in Sept...this time when we opened it, no honey in any brood chambers except 3. Like I said, not sure about 1&2 because they're attached together and probably attached to the front wall and we'd destroy it if we took it out...I'm dubious that there are thousands of bees in there. Seems we'd see/hear more. Hive is clean, with no mites seen and only about 30 dead ones mostly by the far side.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Portland, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    222

    Default Re: Michigan first year TBH and big concerns about wintering.

    With all due respect, the question was concering a TBH. These photos are of Langs. It has been my experience, which is limited with TBHs, that they usually carry through winter with smaller clusters. Lots of similarities between beekeeping in langs & TBHs but also lots of differences. My first concern now would be to make sure they have food! Move 1 or 2 frames of honey next to the cluster, scratch open the cells on 1 so they can feed if they will. Also was suggested to me to move the bars with bees back enough to put a bar of honey on both sides, acting as insulation. Also if possible remove as many bars as possible with shorting them in stores and use a follower board to make their space more compact. Yes I know they only heat the cluster, but this will limit the amount of cold air around them and any heat loss of the cluster can better add to the temp in the hive.

    I would also suggest emailing M Bush or Sam Comfort. These guys have a wealth of knowledge with TBHs and are interested in helping folks be sucessful & do it right. Just a thought. As to your bees, try breeding some Russian into them. My bees have Russian in them. They are very gentle & the fly at 35 degrees if it's sunny with no wind.

    Note: If you try the above, it might help if you use some sort of temp wind break if you think it's necessary.
    Beeman
    All things may be lawful; but not all things are advantagous.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Hudson, WI USA
    Posts
    2,136

    Default Re: Michigan first year TBH and big concerns about wintering.

    Honey-4-all, for me my TBH was an entry point into beekeeping. It overwintered. However, having been bitten by the beekeeping bug I decided that I wanted to make larger quantities of honey and have moved to Langs, and 5 frame nucs. If I hadn't started with a TBH I never would have been able to justify the expense of Langs and wouldn't be keeping bees. As it was I got a lucky break. My first Lang equipment was donated to me from someone who posted it as free here on Beesource.
    It is true that my photos are of Lang equipment, but I wanted to illustrate to Erik what a decent cluster looked like. I hope that Erik is not too disheartened, it does sound like his hive has died.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Jefferson Co., WV, USA
    Posts
    154

    Default Re: Michigan first year TBH and big concerns about wintering.

    Why are you taking heater out to check your bees? WVMJ
    Meadmaking with WVMJ at Meads and Elderberry Winemaking

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Solano, California, USA
    Posts
    1,077

    Default Re: Michigan first year TBH and big concerns about wintering.

    With all the "activity" recently with TBHs I scratch my head and wonder what kind of homework people do before they jump into these things. IMO they are improperly designed for usage outside of either a Mediterranean or Tropical climate. Because of the way bees utilize the combs for honey and pollen storage I think the current designs are a waste of time for your location. If I was to do top bars ( ain't happening) in Michigan I would have a box that was at least 20 inches in depth for a very long comb. Bees have a hard time shifting horizontally into a pile of honey that is near them horizontally., They need a big source of food stored ABOVE them for your winters.

    There is a functional reason why 99% of the Skeps were used in Europe while 99% of the TBH occurred in Africa ( or other tropical areas) for a lot longer than you and I have been walking this earth. People have promoted these things as the "saviors" of Beekeeping when there is no logic used in considering all the permutations of their functionality in use for most of the US.

    I personally have seen these things in use by our package customers from San Diego to Fairbanks. Keeping them alive in colder climates involves a lot of sophisticated feeding techniques for this time of the year. If you insist on doing this style of beekeeping I would shift to a foundation-less system with 3 sided frames that allowed bees to build combs 2 feet long.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    rockford,mi
    Posts
    32

    Default Re: Michigan first year TBH and big concerns about wintering.

    (Reply to Honey-4-all)You may have said a mouthful. I did no research into TBH viability in MI. Guy up the road had one, they died first winter, but he said it was mold. Expert keeper near us didn't warn against TBH, so I went with it. I may have been wrong, sadly. I can take my lumps, but, will do more research. I'm not anti-Lang, just wanted a hive and a TBH can be made quickly...Course, we just made a Lang, and it wasn't too hard. So...lessons learned.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Canada BC Delta
    Posts
    393

    Default Re: Michigan first year TBH and big concerns about wintering.

    I don't know much about your location other than what I've read or heard. Mostly that it is a difficult area to winter bees. I will say that it is very possible to successfully over winter TBH's in any location where you see single deeps being wintered. Some outfits in places like Cut knife Saskatchewan or the Peace River in northern Alberta winter in this fashion. These are the people you want to talk with to learn how they prepare their colonies for winter.

    It doesn't sound like you have a viable cluster to survive your winter at this point and why it has dwindled in population could very well be from other reasons other than the cold. Varroa could have been one of many factors. If you continue with TBH's it may be wise to build them so that each comb is similar in size to the size that a deep frame holds or larger with a comb deep close to 12". Rearranging the combs when readying for winter may also be necessary by moving their honey in place of the unused brood combs plus insert a full honey comb in the #1 spot at the entrance. This will leave the active brood combs sandwiched between full combs of honey and should be helpful for late season population reduction. Feeding may be needed if the active brood combs are shy of honey. You want to see about 4" of over head capped honey on each of these combs. A nest that is well back filled is the goal before entering winter.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Denison, Texas
    Posts
    518

    Default Re: Michigan first year TBH and big concerns about wintering.

    I just looked for Dennis Murrel's website "bee natural", but it seems that he deleted it. He had a deeper TBH plan on there.
    He used them in Wyoming. Not the best in the heat of summer, but he said they overwintered.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Portland, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    222

    Default Re: Michigan first year TBH and big concerns about wintering.

    Steve,

    Dennis Murrel's website is beenaturalguy dot com. He does have several plans as well as good discussion on TBH management.

    Hope this helps.
    Beeman
    All things may be lawful; but not all things are advantagous.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Denison, Texas
    Posts
    518

    Default Re: Michigan first year TBH and big concerns about wintering.

    Quote Originally Posted by beeman2009 View Post
    Steve,

    Dennis Murrel's website is beenaturalguy dot com. He does have several plans as well as good discussion on TBH management.

    Hope this helps.
    Thanks. I had a shortcut saved to it. I guess he changed it from what I had.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    rockford,mi
    Posts
    32

    Default Re: Michigan first year TBH and big concerns about wintering.

    Reply to all-Thanks for all the input. Double deeps are used around here and make it. Makes sense to me to do Langs in the future. The TBH was fun but, due to angles and lack of standardization, I think we'll abandon it future. No problem going to Lang...novelty I guess to build the TBH myself...sad for our bees. Feel bad if they died of cold...I did move the honey bars down to 3-9 and put the brood after that. Maybe they find it and live, kinda doubt it...sad lesson. Loved spending time with my 16 yr old, who would check them daily with our viewing window...Lots to look fwd to in 2013...

    Built a Lang with 2x12 material and 2x8 material. No cold bees in our future! Everything is heavy duty from now on...and will put the hive in shade to stave off excess summer heat, but still allow winter sun. See no reason for them to sit in a 100 degree sun. Serves no purpose.

    Funny-I cut wood up the street. Apptly a keeper there stores his bees in a field there for summer. Unpainted hives. We had 104 degrees and drought this summer in MI. Brutal. Went there, bees seemed fine. Gotta believe that the dark wood made those hives ridiculously hot. No idea what his production was or how they were, but, wow, that was hot. Will go and check them next summer on a hot day just for fun. But, as I say, no need for that much heat...

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